If you own a home with a septic tank, then you know you have to pump the tank on a regular schedule. What you may not know is that you should have the tank inspected regularly too, even if it isn't time to pump the tank yet. If you live in an area that gets frequent small earthquakes, or if your area unexpectedly has a quake, it's a good idea to get your tank inspected. While the tanks are durable and last for years under normal conditions, they aren't indestructible. Here are some things the inspector will look for.
Cracks And Holes
If your tank has a hole or cracks in it, then water can seep inside the tank from the ground or waste can leak out of the tank. Both are bad situations that can lead to problems with your tank and the drainfield. Holes are most common in old metal tanks. These tanks aren't used much any longer, but if your home is old, it's possible it still has a metal tank. These tanks can be dangerous since they rust and develop holes. That allows leaks to occur, but even worse, rust weakens the tank and that could cause it to collapse when someone walks on it. If you have an old metal tank, your contractor will probably recommend replacing it with concrete, fiberglass, or plastic so your family stays safe.
Concrete tanks are more durable, but these develop cracks when they age. Cracks may not even be a concern if they aren't deep or located in a spot where leaks are allowed to occur. An inspector will let you know if the cracks are a problem or not. If they are, it might be possible to patch them unless the tank is severely cracked, and then it may need to be replaced. If you ever notice a cracked lid on your tank, you should call for service right away so the lid can be changed. The lid must always be stable to prevent collapsing under the weight of a child, pet, or lawn mower.
Plastic tanks usually don't develop cracks unless they are crushed by a heavy vehicle driving over the lawn. Instead, they tend to move around if they aren't anchored securely. They are so lightweight they can pop out of the ground if the water table rises. This can cause all kinds of problems. You may not even be able to use your plumbing until your tank is serviced. If your property floods after a period of heavy rain, it's a good idea to check the position of the tank. Call a contractor to check it and tie it down if it looks like its position has moved.
Signs Of Drainfield Damage
Another thing the inspector will check is the drainfield. Your septic system has two parts. One is the tank and the other is the drainfield. Both have to be working properly for the waste to be processed from your house. When the drainfield goes bad, there may be wet soggy grass in the area above it. There could also be sewage in your yard. If sewage is leaking, the grass above the drainfield will be lush and darker green than the rest of the yard. Problems with the drainfield are costly to repair. Since drainfield problems often start in a tank that is too full or damaged, it is worth the effort and expense to keep your septic tank in good shape. If you have a large tank and you don't use much water, you may go a few years between cleaning and serving the tank. You may want to consider having an inspection more often than that just to make sure everything is working okay and no big problems are developing.
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