As a homeowner, you are responsible for maintaining your septic system. Regular maintenance not only prevents costly plumbing disasters but also can help ensure that your septic tank lives a long life, protecting your investment. As part of your maintenance responsibilities, you should be checking your system on a regular basis and pumping it out. For some homeowners, however, that can be a challenge. Without any plumbing knowledge, it’s difficult to figure out how, exactly, these systems work. Luckily, we’re here to explain the basics of how your septic system works.
- Every septic system has four main parts. While septic systems come in a range of sizes and design specifications, all septic tanks have four main parts: a pipe from the house, a drain field, a septic tank, and the soil.
- All wastewater exits your home from a pipe. The pipe running from your house to your septic tank carries all of the wastewater that exits your home, whether that is wastewater from the toilet, the dishwasher, the shower, or the laundry machine. All of the wastewater leaves from the same pipe.
- The septic tank holds the wastewater. Once wastewater is transported via a pipe from the house, it is moved into the septic tank. The septic tank is buried below ground and typically sits in a watertight container of some kind, which is usually made from fiberglass or polyurethane. The water is held in the tank until the solids settle out into sludge and all of the oils and gasses rise to the surface as scum.
- Wastewater is discharged into the drain field from the septic tank. After a while, the wastewater leaves the septic tank via the drain field and is discharged gradually into the soil. Every time new wastewater enters the tank, wastewater in the drain field is pushed a bit farther along. If the drain field is overloaded for whatever reason, it will flood, causing sewage to seep back up through the soil.
- Wastewater ends up in the soil. Once the wastewater leaves the drain field, it ends up in the soil. The soil is responsible for the final phase of treatment, removing all of the bacteria and nutrients.
Hopefully, with a better understanding of how your septic system works, you are better able to do any required maintenance and be aware of any potential problems. But remember, if you need help resolving any kind of problem or issue with your septic system, your best bet is to call in a professional.