To the uninitiated, proper septic tank maintenance can seem like a nightmare. While it is true that septic systems require special care, the care doesn’t have to be daunting. The trick is to develop a different mindset. With the right amount of attention, caring for a septic system will eventually become just another household chore.
Many homeowners fail to lay down any ground rules about kitchen and bathroom use. Yes, it feels strange telling house guests what not to throw down the toilet, but it’s even more uncomfortable explaining that horrible smell emanating from your backyard. So educate your household on the proper uses of indoor plumbing; i.e. toilets aren’t trash compactors, and sinks aren’t grease pans. Some homeowners like to remind everyone of the rules by posting silly signs in their bathrooms about septic system etiquette.
Along the same lines, you should get into the habit of conserving water because septic systems are overwhelmed by large amounts of water. If there is too much water in the system, the soil becomes too saturated and it can’t filter waste. But little changes in water use will go a long way. For example, turning the water off while brushing your teeth can save 8 to 12 gallons of water just in one session. For an average family of four brushing their teeth two to three times a day, that’s a lot of water!
There are also things to do outside the house. Make sure that any surface runoff, such as that from rain gutters, is directed away from the drainfield. Because the drainfield is made of various pipes connected to the septic tank, you should do everything you can to keep tree roots from invading the domain of the septic system. You should also keep the drainfield clear of any heavy items, especially for long periods of time so as to avoid compacting the soil around the drainfield. Planting grass over the drainfield is another good idea because it prevents erosion.
Every several years (the amount will vary depending on usage) you will need to have the septic tank pumped. In many places professionals must do this sort of thing. In most maintenance situations, hiring a professional can end up being very expensive. But like all of the other proactive steps listed above, this one is affordable and to pump a septic tank costs under $200.
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