With a little bit of maintenance, you can keep your septic tank in good shape for years to come—and avoid expensive repairs.
You wouldn’t skip servicing on an expensive car, and neither should you ignore the maintenance of your septic system.
Replacing a septic system that has failed can cost as much as a new car, so its a good idea to keep your system in good shape.
Septic systems serve the same role as Council treatment plants, just on a smaller scale. Instead of council staff and engineers to keep everything from 'hitting the fan', there’s just you.
As the governor of your septic system, you face a few key jobs to keep everything running smoothly.
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Protect the components
Check the plans or service records for your house to find out where all of the vital elements of your septic system are located. It's a good idea to know where all of the pipes, tanks and soak-away areas are so you or your visitors don’t inadvertently ruin them.
Never drive over the soak-away area, a ride-on mower is fine, but avoid anything heavier. Besides possibly cracking a pipe, the weight of a vehicle compacts the soil in the soak-away bed and makes it less able to absorb water.
Keep trees and shrubs well away from both the septic tank and the soak-away area. Their roots can penetrate into the pipes and block them completely. But you should grow grass on the soak-away area because it is good at absorbing water and preventing erosion without filling the pipes with roots.
Keep it healthy, clean the pipes and pump it out now and again
With a standard septic system, you would need to be getting it pumped out typically every three to five years for a hose with 2-5 people and the pipes cleaned out every 1-2 years. If you’re mindful about what goes into your drains, you might be able to squeeze it a bit longer between calling the suck-truck, Enzymes can help keep the septic tank and soak-away areas healthy. Modern household sewerage treatment plants need to be pumped less often but do need to be serviced every 3 or 6 months, so ask your service agent for advice.
Pumping typically costs $250 to $500, depending on the size of the tank, and if the lid is easily accessible. When the tank is empty, also have the pipes cleaned with high-pressure water jetting and checked for obstructions such as tree roots or scale. Also, ask about the condition of the baffles, which keep the scum out of the inlet and outlet. If they’re missing or deteriorated, replace them as they will clog the drain pipes.
Be mindful about what goes into your septic system
Maybe you’ve heard that there are some chemicals that help septic systems and some harm them.
The truth about what’s good and what’s not so good to put down the drain is..
Avoid too much water, from any source. Too much water can overload your system, so fix leaking toilets and dripping taps and space out loads of laundry.
Make sure gutters and downpipes don't run onto the soak-away area. Install 5-star rated water-saving toilets and fixtures.
'Foreign Objects' are bad; they pile up in your septic tank. As a good rule of thumb, is if you haven't previously consumed it, don't flush it!! with the exception of toilet paper of course. Otherwise, you would need to have the tank pumped every year or two. so avoid things like sanitary napkins, baby wipes and tampons. Even the 'flushable' cleaning wipes cause problems, so just throw them in the bin.
Fats turn to thick sludge and scum in a septic tank or grease trap. Instead of dumping it down a drain, skim off any grease or fat and throw it in the bin too, or consider a compost pile for food waste.
Bleach in moderate amounts isn’t actually all that bad for a septic system, as most people think. But even a little drain cleaner or disinfect may be terrible. Research found that it took nearly 8 litres of bleach but only about a teaspoon of chemical drain cleaner to kill the beneficial bugs and bacteria that you need in your septic tank. If you think that you may have already harmed the bacteria in the septic tank, a good dose of enzymes should kick start everything again.
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Know your Kingdom
Walk across your soak-away area during the rainy season and make sure water runs off and doesn't pond either on or near the septic trench. If you smell sewage or your soak-away area is wet and boggy could be failing. If a particularly lush spot of grass is growing in one area could be a broken pipe and may be best checked out with a drain camera. Call in a septic drainage contractor for advice.