Tips to keep septic tanks trouble-free
The Arizona Republic
Septic systems generally are trouble-free and last for decades. Still, a bit of maintenance every three to five years will keep yours running smoothly. So will some attention to what you toss down the drains and toilets that feed into them.
Here are some smart practices for anyone with a septic system, whether you installed it yourself or it came with the house:
1.Know where your septic system and drainfield—the place in your yard where the water leaches out of the system’s pipes and into the ground—are located. Keep a record of that on hand.
2.If you add a room to your house, don’t build it within 10 feet of your septic tank. If you really want to locate your new room on the same spot as your septic system, you’ll have to move the tank so it’s 10 feet away.
3.If you do that and your property also has a well that you use for drinking water, don’t relocate your septic tank within 100 feet of the well.
4.Call a pumping company to inspect your septic system every three to five years. Depending on how much sludge has built up in the tank, you may have to have it pumped, or you may have to have it pumped and cleaned. Pumping removes the liquid and the scum that floats on top of the water; cleaning removes the sludge that settles on the bottom. The process will cost you between $200 and $500.
5.Want to skip the maintenance? The water in the tank can become too greasy, and the grease can build up in the soil of your drainfield (also called a leachfield). Water won’t pass through grease, so eventually, your drainfield will overflow. That filthy water can wind up back in your house, where you’ll see it bubble up through sink and bathtub drains.
6.Don’t drive or park your car over the septic system. It’s buried—but not deep. The weight of a car can damage pipes or the tank. It can also compact the soil in your drainfield, which can prevent water from leaching deep into the ground. 7. Locate new patios, driveways, carports and concrete pads away from the tank and the drainfield.
8.It’s OK to plant grass over and near your septic system, but that’s it. Plants, shrubs and trees with deep root systems literally chase the septic water for nutrition and can grow right into the pipes and even through the seams of the tank. That can cause never-ending trouble.
9.Treat your system once a month with an enzyme bacteria treatment made specifically for septic tanks. The household cleaners we use can kill the beneficial bacteria in the tank that break down the waste. The enzyme treatment restores the bacteria.
10.Don’t pour cooking grease down the kitchen drain, and don’t flush any household or personal products down the toilet. Because they’re slow to biodegrade, they can clog your system’s pipes, take up space in the tank and cost you more money when it’s time to clean your system. Your septic system is out of sight, but it shouldn’t be out of mind. If you want to keep it trouble-free, think about it whenever you’re tempted to toss a baby wipe or paper towel into the toilet—and use the trash can instead.
For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. Rosie Romero is an Arizona contractor who has been in the Arizona home building and remodeling industry for 35 years. He has a radio program from 8-11 a.m. Saturdays on KTAR-FM (92.3) in Phoenix, KQNA-AM (1130) in Prescott and KAZM-AM (780) in Sedona, and KNST-AM (790) in Tucson.