A home septic tank is a piece of equipment that requires preventative maintenance. You may forget about your septic tank, as it's buried underground. Don't ignore it for too long, or you'll be dealing with a crisis situation.
The purpose of a septic tank is to allow gravity and time to separate solid waste from wastewater, also known as "dirty water." Tanks come in different shapes and sizes, as measured by their capacity in volume. Similarly, your household produces an average volume of liquid waste, in gallons. A bit of math done by your plumber tells you how often you need to have your tank pumped to avoid an overflow, or worse, a back-up into your home.
What Is a Septic Tank Inspection?
An inspection and a pumping are not the same thing. An inspection should only be conducted by a certified inspector. You may have one at your local health department, or they may refer you to a trusted list of independent contractors. A complete inspection involves a number of steps.
- Locating the tank
Locating the tank can be simple if the tank is marked well or if you have the original blueprints from the tank installation. It can also be a bit of a hassle if you don't have any idea where it is. A certified professional can locate your tank using a probe and a radio transmitter.
- Accessing the tank
As the homeowner, you may want to unearth the tank access yourself. This will save you an additional fee. A septic manhole can be as deep as four feet in older systems and as shallow as one foot in newer models.
- Open the tank
- Assess solids accumulation
- Identify the composite, shape, and size
- Test the watertight quality of the tank (both from within and outside the tank)
- Check water-slowing filters (also called baffles or tees)
- Test or install manhole risers to make future inspections easier
Is There a Cost for the Inspection?
The answer varies based on who is doing your inspection. If you need to hire an independent contractor, you'll probably incur a fee. If a member of your local health department comes out, perhaps not. What you need to ask yourself is if you would rather pay a small bill for preventative maintenance or find your bathroom literally covered in solid waste one morning, and then be told you need to pay upwards of $5,000 to have your septic system replaced.
How Often Do I Have to Get My Tank Inspected?
The plumbing guidelines say to "pump and inspect frequently." The average household with an average-volume tank capacity should have it inspected and pumped every three years. Water is a powerful force and the tanks only last so long before succumbing to a crack, which leads to a leak, resulting in a septic emergency.
Don't let your septic tank be out of sight and out of mind. Call a certified professional today to get your tank pumped and inspected. Then, mark your calendar to repeat the process in three years.