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Zebulon, NC 27597

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Septic systems: Five tips for keeping your septic system in peak condition

The beauty of a properly installed septic system is that it largely does what it does on its own, requiring little real maintenance.  But fail to maintain it and know that you will be faced with hefty repair bills. You could end up having to replace part or all of the system.

So here are five handy tips to make sure you don’t get stuck with those bills.

  • Have your septic tank inspected periodically for sludge buildup and have it cleaned regularly, perhaps every couple of years. Yes, you could go longer, but in the long run you will come out ahead, saving money. That’s because a freshly cleaned tank works more efficiently than a tank that has accumulated layers of sludge. It’s also less likely to malfunction.

An efficiently running septic system is also better for the environment.  You know when the waste is fully treated and percolated in the seepage field that it will free of harmful microbes such as coliform bacteria. You don’t want waste from your system polluting nearby bodies of water or making your neighbors ill.

  • Use water wisely. The more water your household uses, the more water that flows into the septic system and needs to be treated. Check for faucet drips and leaky toilet bowls.

Also, consider installing high efficiency shower heads and toilets. They can save many many gallons of water. Also, when washing clothes, choose the right load size.

  • Watch what you flush down your drains. Your system is designed to treat household waste, but that does not include sanitary pads, paper towels, dental floss and other non-degradable items.

All that junk end up in the tank’s sludge, and the more that lands there the more often you’ll need to have the tank pumped out.

Also, avoid using garbage disposals, which can overload a tank with food products that may not fully break down, ending up in the sludge. Compost food scraps instead.

Also on your ban list: household chemicals such as paint thinners and pesticides. They can mess with the anaerobic digestion that takes place in the tank and breaks down fecal matter and the like. Look for labels warning that a substance is hazardous.

  • Care for and protect you septic field. You want nothing to disturb the network of piping below the surface. So you want to keep heavy object off of it. Don’t park cars on it.

Also stick to growing grass over it, with maybe some flowers. Avoid trees and other plants that send sturdy roots deep into the ground. They can obstruct and even uproot the piping.

  • Keep an eye out for any signs of flooding of the field or muddy areas around the septic tank. Also keep an eye out for backed up toilets and flooded basements. Another sure sign of trouble: odors.

Any of these signs tells you you have a problem and need to call your septic service provider ASAP.





Septic systems: Do’s and don’ts


Do locate your septic system where it can be serviced easily. In picking a location, ask yourself: Will a truck be able to get into this space to drain the tank?

Do check with local authorities to make sure you are meeting all zoning requirements before installing your system.

Do keep a record of your system, tracking inspections, repairs and any other services over the years. It’s a good practice, and if you want to sell your home it

could well affect the price if you can show the system has been well cared for.

Do read labels of everything that will find its way into the system. If it looks as if it could disrupt the natural anaerobic digestion that takes place in the tank, it probably will. Don’t risk it. There are plenty of safe household cleansing products on the market. Use them instead.

Do keep an eye out for signs that your septic system Is not working properly, such as a soggy or flooded field or muddy water around your tank, indicating cracks or clogs somewhere in the system.

Do watch over and restrict the amount of water than goes into the septic system. You save on your water bills and you avoid the risk of overloading the system.

Do find and develop a relationship with a reliable local company to service your system. Finding the right service provider will pay off over time, saving you from having to make costly repairs because of neglect.


Don’t plant anything but grass and perhaps some flowers on your septic field and make sure roots from nearby trees are not invading your field. Roots can wreck the piping beneath.

Don’t park cars on your septic field or put anything heavy on it, like a work shed. You could damage the pipes below. Why risk it? 

Don’t allow rain runoff to flow into your septic field. You’ll overwhelm the natural percolation process, possibly allowing untreated effluent to seep into the groundwater.

Do not allow items that ought to go in the trash or be composted to end up in the septic system, and that means everything from food scraps to dental floss and sanitary napkins.

Do not add additives to your septic system to enhance the processing of wastes.  They can do more harm than good. You’re better off pumping out the tank if you want to improve performance.


Septic systems: How big should my drainage field be?

The big puzzle any homeowner installing a septic system deals with is how much yard space should be set aside for the septic field, where the liquid waste is released into the soil.

Yard space is always precious, even out in the country, and you don’t want to give it up to a field that’s too big for your needs.

This is especially so when you consider that once the field is in you can’t really use that space for anything else. You certainly can’t build on it, and you really can’t do much else on it, for fear of damaging the network of drainage pipes beneath.

But build your field too small and you’ve got headaches galore. It will always be at risk of backing up, flooding the yard and emitting a foul odor.  Who needs that?

So here’s some handy guidelines for coming up with a ballpark estimate for how much yard to set aside.

But note, this is just for ballpark purposes.

The exact size, configuration and even the location you’ll want to leave to the company you hire to do the actual installation, and they will depend on a variety of factors.

The two most critical factors are, one, the amount of waste you plan to run through the system and, two, the condition of the soil in the drainage field.

The condition of the soil is a biggie.

If the soil has good percolation conditions—it’s comparatively sandy and waste water seeps down with little resistance—figure a seepage field of 4,500 square feet (say 100 feet long and 45 feet wide) for a three-bedroom house with normal waste output.

But if the soil has poor percolation—it’s full of clay, for example– you can double the size of the field needed for that same three-bedroom house. Figure 9,000 square feet, a big difference.

You also have to take weather into consideration.

Waste water percolates faster in warm climates. If your home is in an area where spring comes late and fall early, you may well need a larger field. How much larger will be up to your contractor to determine.

In any case, your contractor can do a percolation test to determine just how quickly water goes through the soil in your yard, and from that determine just how big your seepage field should be.

A factor to consider when determining where you want your septic system placed in your yard is your local zoning code.  It will dictate how far the tank and field must be from structures, power and water lines, property lines and bodies of water such as ponds. In some cases, it can be 100 feet or more.

Just where a field should go is a subject of much debate.

Some argue it ought to be as close to the house as possible. The shorter the distance, the less chance of blockages and other problems moving the waste from the house to the septic tank.

But others think the system should be as far away as possible, in an open area, making it easier to get to if problems arise.



Septic systems: How they work

Think of a septic system as a stomach buried in the ground. Its purpose is to digest and dispose of household wastes so they are no longer a threat to the environment.

Septic systems are really ingenious creations, doing the work of giant municipal waste disposal sites but in your backyard.

A well-designed system emits no odors, is safe and doesn’t require huge amounts of maintenance. It relies on processes in nature to do the work.

A septic system’s first task is to separate liquids from solids, and this process takes place in a giant tank buried in the ground and connected to the house. Tanks are typically made of cement, plastic or fiberglass and can hold several thousand gallons.

As the waste flows into the tank, the solids sink to the bottom and the liquids then flow to a second tank.

Task No. 1: Breaking down solids

The solids are broken down by anaerobic digestion, a process in which microorganisms contained in the waste naturally feed on the waste and convert it to carbon dioxide, hydrogen, ammonia and other non-toxic substances.

This process greatly reduced the volume of solid wastes, leaving behind a sludge composed of indigestible substances, much as a fire in a fireplace leaves behind ashes after a log is burned.

Over time this slug will build up, reducing the efficiency of the septic system. The owner then calls a septic maintenance company, which sends a specially equipped truck that sucks the waste from the tank.

That may be necessary only every few years, but if it’s not done the risk is that the wastes will overflow and contaminate the rest of the system, requiring extensive and costly repairs.

Task No. 2:  Disposing of liquids

When it comes to waste liquids, septic systems essentially rely on Mother Nature to process them.

The liquids are released from the second tank into a grid of pipes with holes in them laid out in a field some distance from the house. The liquids seep into the soil, which filters out or neutralizes most or all of any contaminants that remain, including coliform bacteria, the bacteria found in the human stomach that enables digestion.

Coliform bacteria can be a major health risk, and if untreated can lead to a raft of illnesses, so removing it especially critical.

The remaining liquid, now fully filtered, drains into ground water, where it feeds trees and plants.

For drainage field to do its job properly, it must be large enough to accommodate  the flow of waste water, and the soil must be porous enough to ensure proper filtration. Otherwise there’s a risk that the liquid will overwhelm the system, causing flooding, which can causes backups at the house.

Fields can run 100 feet or more in length, with the drainage pipes buried several feet below ground and typically spaced several feet apart.


April 18

Site in Wake Forest today:



We got some tricky sites coming this week but we are up for the job!

April 15

My laptop would crash before I could load all the pictures required to give the whole picture of the site in Pittsboro today but I will give you a peek!




April 11

Lots of driving today between the two sites. Thankfully, really easy flying once I got there.

Site off Ten Ten Rd.

Second site:


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