Moving Into a Home With a Septic System: What to Do

BY Kristen Fowler | Wed Aug 30, 2017
Moving Into a Home With a Septic System: What to Do

Homes in rural areas often have a well and a septic system instead of city utilities. When moving to a home with a septic system, you may have many questions and concerns about this component of your home.

Before moving, you’ll want to have these questions answered, so you can properly care for your septic system at your new home.

How Do Septic Systems Work?

In rural areas, septic systems often take the place of centralized sewer systems, and it is the underground wastewater treatment for the home. The system uses a combination of nature and technology to treat wastewater coming from your kitchen, bathroom and laundry room.

The septic system includes a buried septic tank and a drain field. Each part has its purpose in the process:

  • Wastewater runs from the home via pipes to the septic tank.
  • The tank holds the liquid and allows the fats to separate from the sludge. Fats float on top, and sludge settles along the bottom.
  • The liquid water exits the tank into the drain field. It contains porous surfaces that allow the drain water to filter into the soil
  • Nature’s part is when the soil accepts, treats and disperses the water. It filters through the soil and ends up as groundwater.
  • While percolating through the soil, wastewater is filtered, removing bacteria, virus and other harmful components.

When buying a home with a septic system, you should always ask how to locate it. Ask about doing a visual inspection and maybe have a professional come in and look at the system.

It’s also a good idea to do a dye test to check for blocked pipes and make sure the system is working as it should.

Common Homeowner Questions

If this is your first home with a septic system, you may have questions, so it’s a good idea to go over some common questions many homeowners ask:

1. Are Drinking Water and Septic Separate Systems?

The septic system and the drinking water are entirely separate, so you don’t have to worry about drinking water contamination.

2. How Much Maintenance Is Required?

Septic systems that are properly set up don’t require a lot of attention. You should have it inspected annually, but if you do this, you should expect to find problems early and avoid big disasters later.

3. How Often Should It Be Pumped?

The answer to this question varies because you have to factor in family size and tank size. A 1,500-gallon tank used by a family of four needs to be pumped about once every four years. However, keep in mind that this is with light disposal use, so that it may be more depending on that factor.

4. What Are Signs of Problems?

You should keep an eye on the drain field as an indicator for possible problems. There are four signs that indicate your system needs immediate attention:

  • Odor
  • Lush vegetation
  • Surface sewage
  • Wet spots

If you notice on or more of these, do get someone out to look at your system before the problem escalates.

5. What Are Some Common Mistakes?
A common mistake by homeowners includes putting materials and liquids down the drain that shouldn’t end up in your septic system.

Paint thinners, varnishes and cleaning agents should never go down a toilet or drain. Other problems occur due to people flushing baby wipes, sanitary products, coffee grounds and other times that clog the system. Make sure you know what is not safe to flush or pour down the drain.

6. How Long Does a Septic System Last?

Generally speaking, with proper maintenance and care, a septic system made from concrete can last up to 40 years.

Having a septic system may sound intimidating and costly, but they are made to be long-term components of a home. You’ll quickly learn how to care for your septic system to keep everything flowing smoothly.

Guest Author Bio: Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer.

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