You have just purchased a new home and it has a septic tank.  You might have some questions about how to care for your septic system.  Household Septic tanks are typically pumped every three to five years.  What are the most common questions that come up about septic tank care for single family homeowners?

Septic Tank Care for Single Family Homeowners


How does a Septic Tank Work?

A septic tank works by using the natural power of gravity to separate out the household wastewater into three parts.  Solids, which is the sludge at the bottom of the tank, grease or scum at the top of the tank and a watery mix  which is the waster water in the middle.  The watery mix should flow into the drainage field freely.  The scum and sludge should be cleaned out from time to time to keep things flowing and not backing up into your home.   Remember that there is bacteria that lives in the septic tank that works to constantly break down solid waste.  The tank’s fittings hold the scum and sludge from flowing into the drain field.

Septic Tank Care for Single Family Homeowners

How Often to Pump Your Septic Tank

While there are some general guidelines about when your system may need to be pumped, you must also consider the specifics of your system.   You need to know how much usage the tank gets as over pumping can cause problems.  You need to maintain a good level of bacteria in the tank for the solids to break down for filtration into the drain field.

When you have your tank pumped out it takes between 1-3 weeks for the system to return to healthy bacteria levels again.  The bacteria enters the system every time your toilet is flushed with organic waste material.  That is what breaks down the waste material into sludge and a watery mix that goes into your drain field.

If you pump your tank too often, that bacteria will have no other place to go but into the drain field which can lead to clogs and costly repairs.

Septic Tank Care for Single Family Homeowners

How to know if Your Septic Tank is Full?

To assess the exact state of your septic tank you can call a professional septic service to inspect and diagnose the situation.  This involves them lifting the septic tank’s cover and measuring the scum and sludge levels in the tank.

How will you know when to call?  Look for the following signs that your tank is full.  Your toilets and drains aren’t flushing properly or very slowly, your lawn is randomly green and thick over the drainage field, your pipes and drains may make gurgling sounds, water may be pooling in your yard or you may smell some sulfuric odors in your yard.  This is the time to call a professional for an assessment.  Check for references and be sure to have a qualified technician do this work for you.