Plumbers 911 - Annual Plumbing Maintenance
16 Jan

A Homeowners Guide: Tips to Maintaining a Septic System

Based on experience, we’ve discovered that the septic tank is the least plumbing priority in any household since it is underground (and we can’t really see what’s going on underneath).

However, what we all don’t know is that our septic tanks need attention too, and we mean serious attention. Why? Because you wouldn’t want to have an overflowing toilet, blockages in your sewage systems or water system contamination, would you?

Maintaining a Septic System

how does a septic system workSeptic tanks are usually not given the proper attention and maintenance in many households all over the world – but what most people don’t realize is the danger that this can actually impose towards our environment and even our families.

If our septic tank isn’t working properly, this can lead to backflows which can contaminate our drinking water.

All Chicago homeowners should be aware of the do’s and don’ts to protect and keep their septic tanks well-maintained. This can save you money and the stress of dealing with this nasty smelly problem.

How Septic Tanks Work

Many people ask, “how does a septic system work?” The septic tank on your property has an important task to do.  It allows solid waste to settle to the bottom of the tank, while the rising scum sits at the top.  

Wastewater from your bathrooms, kitchens and other drains go down the pipeline and right into the septic tank.  From there, the liquid is separated from the solid waste. On the surface of the waste are the all fat and oil deposits that form the crust.  

Fecal matter and other waste stay at the very bottom of the tank and become the sludge. Now, the waste water goes to the drain field and the baffles stops the crust from entering the opening of the septic tank.

Any excess liquid collected inside the tank is drained out and bacteria goes to work breaking down solids that stay behind.  It is a complex but useful system that does a lot for us.

Different Septic Systems

septic system tipsA personal septic tank is basically a system that are designed in order to allow a homeowner to deal with their own on-site sewage needs.

Such a system will be critically needed in areas where they may be no access to a proper municipal sewer system or where such a system are not practical or economical.

When properly installed and maintained, a sewer system is completely odorless and your guests will not even be aware that such an installation exists.

Septic Tank Installation

septic tank installation ChicagoWhen a septic system is properly installed by a professional plumbing outfit, such a system will require the minimum amount of maintenance. Likewise, a professionally installed septic system could be expected to last for a very long time.

Our experts in the area of septic systems who fully understand how such a system operates advise that the leach field, (that is the area underground where the drainpipes of such a system are located) will often require replacement or some other form of treatment and this should normally occur 20 years after the initial installation of such a septic system.

When installing such a septic system it is vitally important to obtain professional advice our professional plumbers. We have registered water systems professionals who will be more than happy and capable to assist you in all of your septic system needs.

Gravity Septic System

This is a very popular form of septic tank construction which requires such an installation to be on a downward slope in order to stimulate better drainage. Such a properly functioning gravitational system will not require any mechanical assistance in order to dispose with sewage.

Most gravitational septic systems may only require a concrete aerobic divided tank and then this system will require a perforated pipe which is embedded in gravel.

Septic Maintenance Tips

 Making sure that your septic tank is properly cared for and maintained is relatively simple and extends beyond just having it pumped annually.  Let’s see what you can do to extend the lifespan of your septic system at home.

tips to maintaining a septic system

  • For starters, make sure that here isn’t anything heavy over the area where your tank is buried.  Things like parked cars or trailers, cement or a swimming pool can damage the pipes and the septic tank itself.  Make sure that you keep the area above the septic system cleared.
  • Avoid flushing anything down the drain that doesn’t belong there.  These things include sanitary towels, diapers, cigarette butts and anything else can’t be broken down by bacteria.  
    You don’t need a garbage disposal unit when you have a septic tank, so if you use one don’t go overboard with it. Excessive use will clog up the drain field that will cause a blockage, meaning you’ll have to pump your tank sooner.
  • Try not to use huge amount of household chemicals.  You may also use some bleach and detergent, however, steer clear of drain cleaners and other harsh stuff that can stop the bacterial action in the tank.  
    One good example: dumping water used for washing paintbrush or paint cans of water into your sewer. Big No-No!
  • Help your septic tank operate at optimal level by pouring a litre of sour milk down the drain every few months to help promote the bacteria growth.  

Septic Tank Care and Maintenance

  • Learn the location of your septic tank and the drain field. This is not only for your benefit, but also can save you money when you call a professional tech to have to locate your system.
  • Keep maintenance records with a hand drawing of the exact location of the system on your property.
  • Have your tank inspected annually.
  • Keep the tank covered and easily accessible for service and inspection.
  • Be sure to have the system checked when having any signs of failure.
  • Keep water appliance free of leaks that drain into the system.
  • Divert other sources of excessive water drains away from the septic system and drain field.
  • The best step you can take to protect your septic system is keep maintenance records for yourself, but more importantly, our experts can also get a lot in insight with these records of history.
  • Use your water wisely and the bathroom is where a typical household uses the most water. When doing laundry, it is best not to wash all in the same day, this will allow the septic tank to adequately treat the waste water in a timely manner.
  • Taking care of your septic system can be a breeze if you let nature takes its course. With a properly installed system your waste issues should be at a minimum.

Septic System Care

  • Don’t park or even drive over any part of your septic system.
  • Don’t plant anything over or near the system other than grass to prevent clogs and drain line damage.
  • Don’t dig in the area or build over the areas as well.
  • Don’t cover the area with concrete or asphalt.
  • Don’t use septic tank additives.
  • Don’t poison your system with harsh chemicals through the toilet or other drains.
  • Don’t allow backwash from home water softeners to enter the system.
  • NEVER go down into your septic tank.

4 Common Septic Tank Problems in Your Home

The septic tank is the perfect breeding ground for all types of pathogens and knowledge about its problems will enable you to prevent them from adversely affecting your family.  
Here are the 4 most common problems that could develop in your septic tank:

Soakaway problem
You will know if you have a soakaway septic tank problem when:

  • Whenever you empty the sink, water comes back up through your bath tub or shower area
  • Your toilet overflows all the time
  • You notice a foul smell from your pipes
  • There is a stinky smell coming from the drain pipes
  • When you flush the toilet, it becomes too slow
  • You notice the presence of wet waste around you
  • You notice a presence of wet waste in your surroundingsStrange sounds
    Noises coming from the sink such as gurgling sounds indicate there is a problem in the system. It could mean a blocked or clogged drain field, or it could be the result of an intermittent increase in the water volume passing through the pipes.Slow draining
    A septic tank that takes too long to drain indicates a problem in the system. This can be caused by solid waste entering the tank’s drain field. When solid waste travels fast and does not have sufficient time to break down, it will clog the pipes and compromise the draining capability of the system.

    Leaking pipes
    Septic tank leaks are often unnoticed until the problem becomes too big. But you can observe its symptoms – green grass near the pipes which is greener than the surrounding grass and which grows faster. It could mean they are being ‘fertilized’ by the substance leaking from the pipe.

Septic Solutions and Septic Tank Help

  • When making use of a septic system, it is important to carefully control the amount of water which this system has to deal with and it should be remembered that no harmful material should be deposited into this system which may have a detrimental effect on the natural bacteria on which a septic system depend.
  • The natural materials which are present in such a septic system ensures that all the sewage material will be properly and naturally broken down and with proper care such as system could operate very effective with very little problems over a long period of time.
  • When it becomes clear that too many solids have built up in the septic system, it may become necessary to remove most of those solids.
  • Although a properly installed septic system is very durable, it will be necessary to take care about exactly what your family allowed to enter into that system.
  • When proper care is not taken, the delicate biological balance on which such a tank depend may be disturbed.
  • When too much water enters the septic system, it will interfere with the natural ability of bacteria in the septic system to properly break down the sewage in such a system.
  • Also, too much water in your septic system may lead to a situation where your septic system will overflow or back up into your home.
  • Avoid using household chemicals. Dumping of normal amounts of household detergents and things such as drain cleaners and other moderate household chemicals will not interfere with the bacteria in such a septic tank.
    But, when very harsh chemicals are used such as paint remover and other similar products, this could have a very negative impact on your septic system.

Septic Maintenance

septic tank care and maintenance ChicagoIn the event of poor construction, it is sometimes necessary to do emergency repairs to a septic system. However, in some cases, the original construction process was so poor that it may be simpler to start such a process from scratch.

This repair process, when possible, will require the opening of such a septic system and the old filtration system as well as the collected sewage will have to be removed and special attention will have to be paid to the drainage capabilities of the system.

Unless you absolutely know how this is done, it is always better to call us in order to ensure that the septic system is properly repaired in order to ensure effective operation of such a system for a very long time.

Septic Tank Pumping Frequency

To prevent all the waste from getting deeper (which can cause the solid waste to block the air spaces in the soil drainage system), your septic tank must be cleaned every year by sucking all the waste out and leaving the tank empty.

Otherwise, drainage problems might occur and the wastewater will not be washed away by the natural soil bacteria – that is where the problem will start.

Septic Tank Installation and Compliance with Federal Regulations

septic cleaning service ChicagoBefore a septic system can be installed it is necessary to determine exactly which regulations are in place in your specific state and how such regulations will affect the installation of your septic system.

It is possible that you will be required to have the target area tested in order to verify the specific type as well as the dimensions of the draining field which may be required to accommodate the septic system which you are considering.

In most cases, such a test will be conducted by the local health inspector or in the absence of such a professional it may have to be done by an independent testing lab. Only after you have obtained the required permit may you proceed with the installation of your septic system.

This is exactly why it simply makes sense to obtain the services of our professional plumbers in Chicago who knows exactly what has to be done and who also understand the legal processes which are involved.

Save Money with the Right Septic System Maintenance

The best solution to a healthy working septic system is a yearly inspection that can be easily scheduled with Plumbers 911.  We will send our professional Chicago plumbers to do a thorough inspection of your system.

Our Septic Tank Service Inspection Includes:

how septic tanks work ChicagoLocating your system if your system has not had any recent work and is buried. This will help in the future to know and uncover your septic system easier.

Our techs will then uncover the manhole and the inspection ports as well. They may need to do some digging if they are not accessible.

Checking the connection will done by flushing the toilets and running water in the sinks and tubs.

By inserting a special tool, the plumber can measure the scum layers and sludge buildup in the tank. This will tell the contractor the condition of your tank and whether a simple pump is needed or more maintenance.

The septic tech will be checking the condition of the baffles and tees, the tank walls for any cracks, and the drain field for any signs of failure.

Septic Cleaning Service

Always remember to prioritize your septic tanks and make it a point to have it cleaned at least once a year for safety measures. It does not hurt to spend a little if you know that you are keeping your environment clean and most especially if you are keeping your family out of danger.

For more convenient and surefire service, call our reputable and experienced Chicago plumbers today.


To all our friends and customers regarding COVID-19

We will get through this together To say we are living in “unprecedented” challenging times would be an understatement. We hope this finds you and your family safe and healthy. We would like to list a few pieces of information and websites that we think will be helpful for you during this time.

  • To get the most current information on the COVID-19 virus, please check the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) website at:
  • icon showing hand under faucet with large water droplets falling on hand Please wash your hands frequently. Washing with soap and water for twenty seconds is the preferred method, however when water is not available, please use an alcohol based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • icon of person covering mouth while coughing and a border separating from displeased person close by Practice social distancing by staying at least six feet away from another person.
  • For those of you with children that are looking for something fun to do, there are virtual field trips you can take with your kids that are fun and educational. Here is a link:

Plumbers are considered essential workers during this time and we will continue to work as our number one priority is to “protect the health of the nation.” Stay well, stay safe and we will get through this together.

Your Friends at Plumbers 911

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