Your leach field performs a critical function for your septic system, so it’s important to make sure it works properly now and for many years in the future. Fortunately, your leach field can last decades if it’s maintained properly. In fact, there are some things you can start today that can ensure your leach field does its job for years to come.
What’s the Average Lifespan of a Leach Field?
Your septic system is comprised of many different parts, and each can have its own lifespan. For instance, a steel septic tank can be expected to last between 15 and 20 years, while a concrete tank could last up to 40 years under the right conditions. A leach field, however, can easily last up to 50 years if properly maintained and protected.
What can Contribute to a Leach Field’s Failure?
While getting 50 years out of a leach field is definitely possible, certain habits and actions can drastically lower its lifespan. Harsh chemicals, for example, can create multiple problems for your entire septic system. Bacteria is needed inside your septic tank to break down waste, including fats, oils, and greases, or FOG. When harsh chemicals are used to clean sinks, toilets, and showers, or when toxic drain cleaners are used, the bacteria inside the tank are killed off. Not only will the tank fill more quickly, it’s more likely that larger particles will float into the leach field, leading to clogged lines. In addition, harsh chemicals can cause corrosion of parts over time.
Another contributing factor to the failure of a leach field is what goes down the drain. We often think that when it comes to waste, it’s “out of sight, out of mind,” but that’s not the case when you have a septic tank. When anything other than waste, toilet paper, and water is flushed or dumped down the drain, it can clog your leach field. This includes things like plastics, diapers, and paper towels, but even wipes that are advertised as flushable are most likely not septic-safe.
Leach fields are usually buried in shallow trenches. Unfortunately, visitors, contractors, and even some homeowners don’t always know where exactly a leach field is located. If vehicles are parked on top of the leach field, or if heavy machinery is used, leach pipes and drainage lines may rupture. Root systems can also wreak havoc on existing leach fields. Often, small trees are planted in the vicinity of the leach field with the assumption that it won’t interfere with the system. Over time, however, the tree and its roots begin to grow and extend throughout the yard, eventually wrapping around drain lines or puncturing pipes.
How to Properly Maintain Your Septic System
Maybe you installed your septic system years ago, or you’ve recently bought a home with an existing septic system. Regardless, there are things you can begin doing now to lengthen the lifespan of your leach field. First, be sure to have your septic system pumped regularly. The average home system should be pumped completely every few years. Doing this will drastically reduce the likelihood that solid waste will enter your leach field piping. Conduct regular inspections, as well, to detect issues early, before major damage occurs.
When too much water enters your septic system at once, it can overload the tank and place added pressure on your leach field. Instead, be mindful of the amount of water your household is using at one time. Rather than running the washing machine, dishwasher, and shower in the same general timeframe, consider spacing out your usage. This will allow your system a chance to dissipate wastewater through your leach field more effectively.
Consider what goes down your drains as well. Instead of using harsh chemicals that can throw off the natural balance of your tank and potentially corrode its parts, use a biological-based product that actually introduces bacteria to the septic tank. The bacteria will completely digest waste, including FOG. Avoid flushing anything down the toilet that isn’t waste, water, and septic-safe toilet paper, as well. Doing this will allow water to move more freely throughout the leach field and reduce the risk of clogging.
Finally, remember that what happens outside the septic system can impact it just as much as what’s happening inside. Don’t drive or park cars and heavy machinery on top of the leach field. Avoid planting trees and shrubs near the leach field as well. If something is already planted there, you may want to consider safely relocating it to keep the root system from invading your leach field’s pipes and drain lines to avoid future problems.
Extending the Lifespan of your Leach Field
Few things inside your home will last as long as your leach field, as long as the leach field and the entire septic system are maintained. Be sure to pump and inspect your system regularly, and spread out water usage to allow the leach field to drain properly. Avoid putting anything down drains and toilets that can cause a clogged line, and use biological-based cleaners to introduce helpful bacteria to the system. Ensure that the field itself is also free of heavy vehicles and expansive root systems. These healthy septic habits will keep your leach field working effectively for up to 50 years!