3 Mistakes That Can Lead To A Septic System Backup

Septic systems are on-site sewage treatment facilities and are an alternative to municipal sewer systems. About one-quarter of the North American population has a septic system, mostly in small towns and rural areas, but some cities also rely on septic systems. Maintaining a septic system is the responsibility of the homeowner who uses it, and if you don't maintain it properly, you may experience a sewage backup. Here are three mistakes that can lead to this plumbing nightmare.

Forgetting to get your septic tank pumped

All of the water and waste that you put down your drains travels through your pipes and to the septic tank buried in your backyard. Water flows out of your septic tank and into the surrounding dirt, called the drain field, for further processing, but solids sink to the bottom of the tank. These solids are then slowly broken down by the bacteria inside the tank. Not all of the solid materials are broken down by bacteria, so over time, your tank will start to fill with solids. If the tank gets too full of solids, waste will spill out into the drain field and will also come bubbling up your drains.

Septic tanks are large, but that doesn't mean that they'll never reach capacity. How long it takes for your tank to get full depends on a lot of factors like how many people are living in your house, if you use a garbage disposal, and the size of your tank. The general guideline is to get your tank pumped every three to five years. Since this schedule is infrequent, it's easy to forget when you had your tank pumped and when you're supposed to get it done again, so remember to mark your calendar with this information.

Using too much water

When your house is connected to a municipal sewer system, you can use as much water as you want without damaging the system. You can take long showers, do multiple loads of laundry on the same day, and have guests over without worrying about extra water usage. When you use a septic system, the amount of water you use is something that you need to worry about. Minimizing your water usage and spreading your water usage out throughout the week is very important.

Your drain field can only accept so much water before the soil becomes saturated. When the soil is saturated, no more water can be accepted, and this means that it only has one place to go: back into your house. Anything you flush down the toilet or pour down your sink will come right back up your drains.

Flushing things that you shouldn't

Some people treat their toilet like a garbage can, and when you have a septic system, this is a very bad habit. These unflushable items can cause clogs in your septic system, and when you have a clog, your waste can't pass through the pipes and into the septic tank or into the drain field. This sends waste back into your house, leading to messy sewage backups.

As a general rule, you should only flush human waste and septic-safe toilet paper. Other items like feminine hygiene products, personal hygiene wipes, diapers, and cigarette butts can lead to clogs and should be put in the garbage, not down the drain.

If you're not careful to avoid making these three mistakes, you could end up with a costly and messy sewage backup on your hands. If it's too late and you've already discovered sewage bubbling up out of your drains, you need to call a plumber right away to get the problem fixed. 

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