Septic systems are a common sewage disposal method used in approximately 1 in 4 homes in the United States. They are prevalent among rural families who rely on them to manage their sewage disposal needs. A septic system pumps solid and liquid waste from homes into pipes that lead to an underground tank instead of sending it through sewer mains to a central sewage processing plant. Proper septic system maintenance, including how to prepare for septic tank pumping, is crucial for its longevity.
What is Septic Tank Pumping?
Septic pumping is the practice that helps in removing sludge from the bottom of the septic tank before it builds up and blocks the outlet pipe through which liquids flow. It typically falls in the sanitation services that must be carried out regularly. The frequency with which septic system cleaning needs to be done depends on several factors, including the household size, the amount of wastewater produced, solids in the wastewater, and the septic tank’s capacity.
The EPA recommends that a septic tank be inspected every two to three years, and the tank typically requires pumping every three to five years. However, more frequent local septic service may be required when the volume of wastewater increases. The importance of regular septic tank pumping includes maintaining the system’s functionality and avoiding costly repairs. If you need a local septic tank service, consider hiring experienced technicians to assess your situation and provide recommendations on what needs to be done before starting any work required on your property.
With that said, know the following ten pointers on how to prepare for septic tank pumping to get you started.
1. Know Your Septic System
How to prepare for septic tank pumping is essential in maintaining a healthy and functioning septic system. However, it’s important to understand how a septic system works and its components to prepare for septic tank pumping.
A septic system is a primary sedimentation tank with large detention periods ranging from 6 to 12 hours. The primary treatment of sewage passing through it is the anaerobic decomposition of organic matter and settling of remaining waste particles. Septic tanks can be constructed using concrete, steel, fiberglass, or plastic materials. Depending on the need, they can range in size from just 500 gallons to thousands of gallons. For residential purposes, the size of the septic tank adopted is usually 1000 to 1500 gallons.
Typically, the primary objectives of the septic tank are to create a storage space for sewage and break down organic waste present in the sewage through biological decomposition with the aid of bacteria. The settled solids are stored until they are removed or pumped out. When the sewage enters the septic tank, it gets separated into three distinct layers: sludge, clear zone, and scum. The solid particles in the sewage that are heavier than water settle at the bottom of the tank, referred to as sludge.
2. Determine the Frequency of Pumping
Periodic pumping of a septic tank is crucial to maintain its functionality and ensure the safety of the surrounding environment. The frequency of septic tank pumping depends on several factors, including household size, the amount of wastewater generated, the volume of solids in the wastewater, and the size of the septic tank. You must consider all these factors when it comes to how to prepare for septic tank pumping.
However, a local septic cleaning company should inspect an average household at least every three years to determine the septic tank pumping frequency. Household septic tanks should typically be pumped every three to five years. In contrast, alternative systems with electrical float switches, pumps, or mechanical components should be inspected more often, generally once a year.
Furthermore, if the septic tank needs to be pumped, it should be done when the bottom of the scum layer is within six inches of the bottom of the outlet, when the top of the sludge layer is within 12 inches of the outlet, or when more than 25% of the liquid depth is sludge and scum. A service contract is important for alternative systems with mechanized parts. If repairs are recommended, hire a plumbing repair person soon.
3. Identify Potential Issues
Identifying potential issues with a septic system is an inevitable part of how to prepare for septic tank pumping. Some of the most common septic system problems include clogged pipes, blocked inlet or outlet baffles, a failed drainfield, and issues related to the use of too much water. To prevent these problems, it’s important to have your septic system inspected annually and to pump your tank as needed, usually every three to five years.
If your septic system is failing, there are several signs you should watch for. These include water and sewage backing into your home, slow-draining sinks and showers, gurgling sounds in your plumbing unit, and standing water or damp spots near the septic tank or drainfield. Moreover, bad odors around the septic tank or drainfield, bright green, spongy lush grass over the septic tank or drainfield, algal blooms in nearby ponds or lakes, and high levels of nitrates or coliform bacteria in water wells can also be indicators of a failing septic system.
Ultimately, address any potential issues with your septic system before scheduling a septic tank pumping. That is because pump service for a tank that has existing issues can cause damage to the system or even result in a septic system failure.
Moreover, a failed or malfunctioning septic system is a health hazard to humans and animals and can contaminate the environment. Therefore, as a responsible septic owner, you should be alert to the signs of failure and respond quickly when any are discovered. A quick response may save you money in repairs and prevent illness and negative environmental impacts.
4. Locate Your Septic Tank
Knowing how to prepare for septic tank pumping services involves identifying the septic tank’s location. Septic tanks are typically buried underground to protect them from damage and to make the property more appealing. However, this can make locating them difficult.
Several methods can be used to locate your septic tank without digging. A soil probe, a thin piece of metal that pierces through the soil, can be used to find a septic tank by inserting it every two feet, starting from where the sewer line leaves home and following it straight out. Septic tank covers are generally below ground level and can be found using the soil probe method. Alternatively, the septic tank maps, part of new homeowner inspection paperwork, can also help locate the tank.
Certain regulations specify where a septic tank cannot be installed to prevent serious damage to the tank and property. Your septic tank will not be located right next to your well, underneath your home, against your home, under a paved surface, near trees, or under structures such as a patio or deck.
5. Prepare Your Property for Pumping
Before your septic tank is pumped, it is essential to prepare your yard properly. Remove any landscaping or other objects around the tank to ensure the contractor has enough space to work. Also, mark the location of the tank with a stake or marker to make it easier to find in the future.
Trim trees and bushes or move any objects that could obstruct the pumping process if necessary. Protect your landscaping and property by covering any exposed pipes or electrical components with plywood or other protective material.
During septic tank pumping, the contractor must dig up the tank lid, which can damage your landscaping. Therefore, protect your yard by communicating with the contractor about the best location for the lid, and try to choose an area with fewer plants or other obstacles. Additionally, avoid parking or driving heavy equipment over the drain field, as this can damage your septic system.
6. Schedule Regular Pumping Service
Proper maintenance of a septic tank is vital for the longevity of a septic system, and planning how to prepare for septic tank pumping regularly should not be ignored. Regular septic tank cleaning service helps remove the accumulated waste and maintains the proper functioning of the septic system.
Various methods are available to determine the recommended frequency for septic tank cleaning services, including using a cleanout frequency table, objective measurements, and electronic tank monitors. The recommended septic tank pumping schedule should be based on basic septic system design concepts, requiring a minimum of 24 hours of wastewater retention, assuming 50 percent digestion of the retained solids.
It’s always recommended to consult a local septic cleaning company to give fixed rule-of-thumb advice, such as ‘pump your septic tank every year’ or ‘pump your septic tank every two years,’ in any case, they will help you determine the best schedule for regular pumping service.
7. Choose a Reputable Septic Tank Service
Septic pumping is an essential part of every home, but choosing the right septic service company is crucial to ensure that the job is done correctly and professionally—first, research septic tank service providers in your area. Start by looking at customer reviews online to see what other homeowners have to say about their services. Additionally, inquire about their availability and punctuality, especially during emergencies, and determine if they are licensed and insured. Ensure they have adequate and professional liability insurance to protect your home from accidental damage.
Your chosen company should handle everything, including septic tank installation, septic system cleaning, and emergency inspections/repairs. Finally, ask about service guarantees and product warranties and look for a reliable septic tank service. Hiring a reputable service provider guarantees quality services that will positively impact the well-being of your house.
8. Consider Installing a Riser Pipe, Measure the Distance to Your Tank
Consider installing a riser pipe if your septic tank lid is buried underground. A riser pipe brings the access port of your tank to ground level, eliminating the need for digging every time the tank needs to be pumped.
Septic tank pumping trucks typically have approximately 150 feet of hose. Therefore, ensure there is enough parking within that distance of your tank. Additional hose lengths might be needed if your tank is farther away from your driveway or a safe parking spot.
9. Understand Septic Tank Pumping Process
As you prepare for septic tank pumping, you should also know how the same process works. Generally, septic pumping is a relatively simple process that involves several steps. First, technicians need to uncover the access lid to your septic tank. After exposing both lids of the two compartments, the crew uses a high-power hose attached to a vacuum truck to remove all the liquid and solid waste from your tank.
The tank will be washed out with water to eliminate any remaining debris. Visual inspection of the interior and exterior of your tank is conducted to find out the septic tank’s condition. Once the inspection is complete, the lid is closed, and the tank is covered again.
After your septic tank has been pumped, it is normal to experience some wet spots in your yard, and you may also notice some foul odors for a short period. That is due to the disruption of the ecosystem inside the tank, which should return to normal in a few days. It is also important to note that regular pumping is essential to maintain the longevity and efficiency of your septic system.
10. Post-Pumping Maintenance
After the pumping process, keeping your system in top condition is essential. In that case, ensure you get regular septic tank service with your preferred company. It’s also important to take care of your system by flushing only waste and toilet paper and avoiding flushing things like feminine hygiene products, cotton balls, and ‘flushable’ wipes.
The life of your septic system can be extended through regular maintenance and being cautious of what you pour down your drains. Ensuring that your septic company checks your pipes and that water flows correctly to your leach field can prevent significant issues. Ultimately, discussing any questions and getting specific guidance and information from your septic company can help you maintain your septic system correctly.
Final Thoughts On How To Prepare For Septic Tank Pumping
Knowing how to prepare for septic tank pumping is crucial for properly maintaining your septic system. Regular septic tank cleaning, ideally every 1-3 years, prevents potential issues and ensures your system works efficiently. It is also important to pay attention to the telltale signs that your septic tank needs to be pumped, such as slow or gurgling drains and septic odors inside your home. Therefore, take the necessary steps to prepare for septic tank pumping to keep your septic system working efficiently and effectively.