If you’re considering purchasing a home with a septic system, or already own one, it’s essential to understand how it works and the maintenance required to keep it functioning properly. Septic systems are commonly found in rural areas, lake houses, and cabins where access to public sewer systems is limited. Here we’ll outline the most important facts about owning a home with a septic system and address the additional considerations for properties that are closed-down for the winter.
What is a Septic System?
A septic system is an onsite sewage treatment and disposal system. It’s composed of two main components: a septic tank where solids settle and a drain field (also known as a leach field) where wastewater percolates into the ground. The septic tank holds wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle down as sludge, while oil and grease float to the surface as scum. Between these two layers, clarified liquid, or effluent, flows into the drain field and is treated by the soil.
Key Considerations for Homes with a Septic System On Or Near a Lake or Waterfront Access
Preform Regular Inspection and Maintenance: Based on many resources including the EPA, a septic system should be inspected by a professional at least every 3 years and pumped every 3-5 years or when the sludge and scum combined take up more than 25-30% of the septic tank’s volume. However, the exact timing can depend on the size of your tank, the number of people in the house, and the amount of wastewater generated. Regular maintenance can prevent system failure and extend the life of the system.
Mindful Water Use: Excessive concurrent water use can overload a septic system. In order to keep the flow limited throughout the system, you should repair any leaky faucets or toilets promptly. Also consider spreading out laundry loads throughout the week to avoid overwhelming the system with too much water at once.
Proper Waste Disposal: When living-in or renting a lake house or waterfront home with septic, remember everything that goes down your drains ends up in the septic system. Avoid flushing non-biodegradable items, chemicals, or grease that can clog the system or kill the beneficial bacteria that help break down waste.
Protect the Drain Field: Once installed, you should plant only grass above the drain field to avoid damage from the roots of trees and bushes. Never drive or park vehicles on the area covering the septic field. Also, keep rainwater drainage systems, like roof drains or sump pumps, away from the drain field area.
Special Considerations for Closing Lake House and Cabin Septic Systems For The Winter
For seasonal homes like lake houses and waterfront cabins, additional care should be taken when closing down for the winter and opening back up in the spring.
Winterization: If the home will be unoccupied for an extended period, consider having a professional “winterize” your septic system. This can involve pumping out the system, adding antifreeze to drains, or insulating the system to prevent freezing.
Start-up: When opening your home for the season, inspect the septic system for any damage. Check if there’s excessive standing water in the drain field, which could indicate a problem. Avoid overwhelming the system by gradually increasing water usage.
Seasonal Inspection and Pumping: If your property is only used seasonally, you may be able to extend the time between septic pumpings. However, it’s crucial to have it inspected regularly, especially at the start of the season, to ensure it’s functioning correctly.
Owning a home with a septic system involves certain responsibilities. As a homeowner you should always consult with a septic system professional if you’re unsure about anything. Lake house renters should contact the rental agency or owner as soon as anything seems unusual about the septic system, to prevent extensive damage from occurring. Remember, preventative maintenance is less costly and less inconvenient than dealing with a failed septic system.