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Septic Systems and Maintenance

Updated on February 20, 2013

Septic Systems and Maintenance

Septic Systems and Maintenance

The first thing to take into consideration when buying a piece of property is the soil consistency, and what type of septic system will be required by your state and local health department code. You should always contact your County Health Department and see what they require before considering buying property.

A common practice is to take the contractor who will be excavating and installing your septic system, to walk the site with you. They will look and see if the ground is rocky, which could be costly if blasting is required to dig. Another common practice is to look for woodchuck holes since they always make their homes in well drained soil.

If you are set on buying the piece of property, a percolation test is required to see how the soil drains. This will require three holes dug about 12-24 inches deep and filled with water. The holes are pre-soaked and then timed to see how well the water drains. The hole is filled three times until there is a consecutive reading. When the hole is filled and timed each reading is put down on the chart the health department provides and then submitted usually along with a county fee. The health department then uses their requirements per the final drainage reading to see what type of system is required.

The number of bedrooms in the house, and the percolation rate has to meet the state requirements. The slower the holes drain, the larger septic system will be needed. Slow percolation will mean larger leach fields will be needed in footage, or it could even mean a raised bed system will be required. Each alternative to the basic septic system becomes more costly. Raised bed systems are mounded above ground and dirt has to be purchased and brought in with trucks. This dirt is then bermed with clay soil to keep it contained.

There are several different options for a septic system. Below you will find them listed in categories from least expensive to the most expensive.

A. Regular Septic System in ground with a 1000 gallon concrete or plastic tank, drywell, leach field or infiltrators. The feet and gallons will be by the health department.

B. Pressure or terrain slope septic system, this will require the slope of terrain to flow naturally or an electric pump pit put in.

C. Sand Filter septic systems spread the septic effluent onto the sand and sometimes these sand beds are even disinfected as a final step before the waste is released into the environment.

D. Mound Septic Systems have a mound of dirt put in above ground and the leach field installed in this soil. To make sure these small mound systems (different than raised bed systems) there should be the proper soil required put in no foliage or tree waste included in the mound.

E. Raised Bed Systems are the most expensive systems.

Maintaining and Cleaning is very important or debris will saturate the leech field and then that will have to be replaced. For a family of four it is suggested to have your system cleaned every 3 years.

Keep a map of where your septic tank is so it can be cleaned regularly and make sure you mark the spot but never build over it with a deck or something permanent. If any repairs are needed it will make it near impossible.

Always make sure you hire someone with experience and if your state requires it someone who is licensed by the state.

Warning signs of septic system failures are slow draining sinks and toilets, wet areas on the lawn with black water pooling on top.

Do be careful on what you use for laundry, liquid detergents are much better since they don't clog drains.

Do not put wipes down the toilet they will clog lines and distribution boxes.

Make sure you don't have a toilet that keeps running, just the constant drip can saturate a leach field.

It is wise to have your system cleaned before winter when lines may freeze if they need repairing, and less costly.

Written by B. A. Williams

Copyright/All Rights Reserved B. A. Williams

Decorative marker for a septic tank
Decorative marker for a septic tank


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    • B. A. Williams profile image

      B. A. Williams 4 years ago from USA

      Thanks so much for commenting, and yes people need to realize their is maintenance to their septic systems. I had no idea I even had one when I moved into my home :)

    • profile image

      clarasmithh001 4 years ago

      Very interesting post. I think it is useful for many clients. Thank you for this information.