Within a septic system, the leach field performs a very important job, so it’s understandable that you would want to ensure it’s functioning properly well into the future. Fortunately, with proper service and maintenance, and some healthy septic habits, your leach field could last as long as 50 years!
Inspect and Pump Often
The leach field is only one part of the septic system. If you want to increase the lifespan of your leach field, you’ll need to make septic tank maintenance a high priority. Have your tank inspected regularly to detect potential issues early and to monitor sludge levels.
When the sludge level begins to rise, it could make its way into the outlet pipe that connects the tank to the drain field pipes, leading to slow drainage and potential clogs. To avoid this damage, the septic tank should also be pumped regularly. How often the septic tank needs to be pumped depends on a variety of factors, including the size of the tank, the number of people living in the home, and the total wastewater usage. On average, most septic tanks will need to be pumped every three to five years.
Keep Records of All Septic Tank Services
While you may notice some outward signs that there could be problems with your septic system (like foul smells or overly-saturated ground above), most potential issues are hidden in the tank itself. Be sure to keep detailed records of all service and maintenance, including sludge levels. You may even begin to see some patterns form that could help predict future pumpings.
Use Water Efficiently
Every household relies on water usage, but for homeowners with septic tanks, it’s important to be mindful of just how much water is used. On average, individuals use about 70 gallons of water a day, and septic tanks are actually sized based on the number of individuals that live in the home. However, when large amounts of water go down the drain too quickly, it can overload the tank, making it harder to process and drain in the leach field.
Fortunately, there are some easy ways to reduce water usage:
- High-efficiency showerheads and faucet aerators—These simple swaps can help reduce water usage during daily tasks like showering or washing the dishes.
- Washing machine usage—The load size you select determines the amount of water that is used. Adjust the load size on the machine for each load, and consider spreading out your clothes washing to multiple days to reduce wastewater overload in the septic tank.
- High-efficiency toilets—Older toilets use 3 to 5 gallons of water with every flush, while newer, high-efficiency toilets use only 1.6 gallons.
Properly Dispose of Waste
It may seem like everything that goes down the drain is gone forever, but if you have a septic tank, that isn’t the case. Whatever goes down your drains and toilets will quickly end up in your septic tank, and eventually your leach field. When solids and non-biodegradable products are flushed or poured down the drain, the lifespan of your leach field will shrink.
Nothing but wastewater and toilet paper should be flushed down the toilet. Even flushable wipes aren’t considered septic safe and could lead to clogged drain pipes later on. Other things that should be avoided include paper towels, coffee grounds, and cooking grease or oil.
Using harsh chemicals and drain cleaners can also throw off the natural balance of your septic tank. Swap those for a biological-based product containing live bacteria. Once introduced to the tank, the bacteria will begin to completely digest waste, including fats, oils, and greases (or FOG) in the sludge layer. Consistent use of biological-based products could even lengthen your time between pumpings.
Maintain Your Drain Field
When you are thinking about how to extend the lifespan of a drain field, it’s important to know that what happens above it matters just as much as what happens within it. When wastewater enters drain pipes in the leach field, it begins to slowly leach into the ground around it. If the ground is already saturated, however, it can slow or stop the leach field from working properly. Be sure to keep rainwater drainage systems like roof drains and sump pumps away from the leach field.
Avoid parking or driving over your leach field as well. Because the ground around the leach field tends to be softer, it could lead to crushed pipes. Roots can also wreak havoc on leach fields. Don’t plant trees or bushes near your drainage system, and if older trees have root systems that begin to stretch into the area, consider removing them to avoid damage to your pipes.
Getting Maximum Use from Your Leach Field
With proper maintenance and care, your leach field can last decades. Because everything that flows into your leach pipes comes from your septic tank, it’s important to inspect and pump the tank regularly. Keep detailed records of any service to your septic tank and leach field as well, paying close attention to sludge levels. Consider making simple changes to reduce water usage, and avoid putting anything other than wastewater and toilet paper down toilets and drains, though biological-based products can actually aid in septic maintenance. Rainwater drainage, cars, and root systems can also cause damage to your leach field and should be avoided. Following these tips should ensure that your leach field will function properly for years to come.