Things to Know About Septic Tanks and Septic Cleaning Before Buying a Home

Posted on: March 17, 2015

Septic Cleaning Septic cleaning is essential for keeping your system running smoothly.  If you are buying a house and are new to the concept of having a septic system, it is important to know what they entail, how they function, and how to care for them.  Depending on where exactly they are located, not all households in this country have access to a municipal sewer system and have to rely instead on a septic system.  This is a self-contained, and very efficient, underground wastewater treatment system.In areas where houses are at a considerable distance from each other and sit on large lots, a centralized sewer system would require miles of sewer lines which are not only expensive to install and maintain, but can be damaging to the environment. The simply designed septic system, which uses natural processes to treat waste on the householder’s own property, is often more economical.A septic system is made up of two primary parts… the septic tank itself and a drain field….The septic tank is a watertight box made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene, is usually buried underneath the ground, away from your house. All of the waste that exits your house flows into the septic tank through a sewer pipe, where it is held long enough for the solids and liquids to separate into three layers. The scum is the grease and oils which, being lighter than water, float to the top. The solids that are heavier than water, sink to the bottom forming a layer of sludge. What is left is a middle layer of effluent, called gray water. Bacteria that naturally occurs in wastewater breaks down some of the sludge and scum in the septic tank. What cannot be broken down remains in the tank and has to be pumped out at regular intervals – this is often referred to as septic cleaning.The Drain field: The middle layer of liquid waste flows from the septic tank to the drain field, which is a series of distribution pipes partially filled with washed gravel, stone or coarse sand, which acts as a filtering system. The water slowly trickles out of the pipes into the soil, where organic materials are catabolized by microbes in the soil.Maintenance Septic systems are designed and built to last many years, provided a few simple precautions are observed.Do not flush materials that do not degrade easily. The list includes, but is not limited to, paper towels, condoms, disposable diapers, cotton swabs, tissues, dental floss, coffee grounds, cigarette butts, cat litter, bones, cooking oil, etc.Because septic systems largely rely on naturally occurring bacteria to break down the organic waste, any bacteria-destroying products, such as drain cleaners, solvents, pesticides, etc. can disrupt the working of the system. In fact, try not to let any chemicals go down the drain, other than normal household soaps.As far as possible, avoid using a garbage disposal which increases the amount of solids.Last, but perhaps most importantly of all, have your septic system inspected and schedule a septic cleaning every one to three years, which is relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of replacing the entire system. This is where we come in.  We can inspect the septic system before you buy the house (and thereafter) to measure the levels of the sludge and scum, and inspect the drain field to make sure the liquid effluent is seeping into the ground as it should. We can then complete a septic cleaning and let you know if any additional repairs are necessary.