If you’re looking to live the country life, you’re going to need to get familiar with septic systems. This is essentially your sewer system.
Waste from bathrooms, kitchen sinks, and your washing machine are all distributed through pipes to a septic holding tank where solids are held and liquids are separated. Light solids float to the surface forming a scum layer while heavier solids sink to the bottom of the tank. These solids remain in the tank until it is cleaned.
The separated liquids are sent to a leaching field where they filter through the soil before the remaining “cleaned” water seeps into the ground.
In this article, we are going to go over the very basics of caring for your septic system. If you want more in-depth details on septic systems here is an excellent document and guide to understanding Septic Systems by Builders Ontario.
Caring for your septic system starts with knowing its condition prior to firming up on a rural home.
Septic systems can be difficult to inspect. The septic tank is more times than not buried underground as are the pipes leading to and from the tank to the leaching bed. Inspectors typically inspect the site where the tank is located to see if there are any signs of a failing system, like a sewage smell or pooling/overly damp areas in the yard.
They might also do a Septic Tank dye test. In fact, your lender might request one.
If the dye test shows signs of leaking or a failing septic system you might need to go to the extent of pumping out the tank to do a more thorough inspection. This will depend on how badly you want the house and if it is worth going through to this level of inspection, knowing there is likely an issue with the septic system.
To get more information about the septic dye test, please visit an experts’ site here.
In a perfect world, the current homeowner would already have an up to date septic inspection when the house is put on the market for sale. At the very least they should know when it was last pumped and inspected. But in a seller’s market, this may not happen. Also, you might want your own septic inspection done for peace of mind.
Maintaining your septic system once you own the home
Now to the main point of this article. Caring for your septic system once you own the country home.
1. Regular check-ups and inspections. Depending on your household size, age of the system and tank size, your septic system should be inspected every 3 – 5 years. During these inspections, the inspector can determine when the tank needs to be cleaned out.
2. Know the location of your tank. This may sound blatantly obvious but it is important you know where you septic tank is located so take note of it during your inspection. The current buyer may have a survey showing the location of the tank as well, if not one can be requested from the city municipality office.
3. Maintain and keep all records. Drawings, inspection reports, etc.
4. Controlled flush or more efficient toilets can be more gentle on the septic system and are recommended where possible.
5. Spread laundry days throughout the week rather than doing many large loads on one day to allow time for the system to treat the waste.
6. The most important is disposing of your waste correctly. To keep it simple, don’t put anything in your toilet that isn’t human waste or toilet paper. No exceptions.
7. Don’t put anything over your draining field. For example, don’t park cars over your draining field and no planting trees on the leaching bed or even too close to it.
8. Make sure any water is drained AWAY from the draining field. For example, if you install a sump pump the installer will want to make sure it drains away from the leaching field.
9. Know the warning signs. Some warning signs of a malfunctioning septic system include a sewage smell in the yard, backing up toilets, slow draining in sinks and tubs, bacteria in your well water, surface water pooling in the yard, amongst others … If you notice any of these signs, call an expert immediately.
By taking care of your septic system and staying on top of maintenance, the less chance you have of running into an issue. Replacing a septic system is not cheap.