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SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
SEPTIC CARE INSTRUCTIONS
SEPTIC D-BOX INSPECTION
SEPTIC DRAINFIELD FAILURE DIAGNOSIS
SEPTIC DYE TEST PROCEDURE
SEPTIC FAILURE SIGNS
SEPTIC INSPECTION & TEST GUIDE
SEPTIC LIFE EXPECTANCY
SEPTIC SUPPLIES & PARTS
SEPTIC SYSTEM DESIGN ALTERNATIVES
SEPTIC SYSTEM DESIGN BASICS
SEPTIC SYSTEMS, HOME BUYERS GUIDE to
SEPTIC SYSTEM SAFETY WARNINGS
SEPTIC TREATMENTS & CHEMICALS
SEWAGE BACKUP PREVENTION
SEWAGE EJECTOR / GRINDER PUMPS
SEWER GAS ODORS
SEWER LINE REPLACEMENT
SINKHOLES, WARNING SIGNS
SOAKAWAY BED FAILURE DIAGNOSIS
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
TOILETS, INSPECT, INSTALL, REPAIR
TRAPS on PLUMBING FIXTURES
TREATMENTS & CHEMICALS, SEPTIC
VIDEO GUIDES: Septic Videos
WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING
WATER, WELLS, WATER TANKS: TESTING GUIDE
WASHING MACHINES & SEPTIC SYSTEMS
WASTEWATER TREATMENT BASICS
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Septic system life expectancy: this document describes the typical life expectancy of septic systems and various common septic system components. The life expectancy of a septic tank depends largely on its materials, while the life of septic system piping depends largely on the risk of damage from vehicle traffic, clogging by roots, or flooding by groundwater. The life expectancy of a drainfield varies widely by installation type (conventional soil absorption system versus a sand bed filter, for example), by soil conditions (clay or rock or sand), and importantly, by the frequency of maintenance and cleaning which has been performed on the septic system.
Understanding the proper procedures for septic tank care, septic tank cleaning frequency, and other septic tank maintenance chores, will permit the owner of a home with an onsite septic system to maximize the life of the system and to assure that it is working properly.
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How Quickly Does A Septic System Fail?
The life of the entire septic septic system depends on the following factors:
How Quickly Will the Septic System Fail if We Have One or More of the Problems Listed Above?
Septic systems (tank and absorption system, or onsite wastewater disposal systems) will not fail immediately if they are not pumped. However, an un-maintained septic tank is no longer protecting the soil absorption field from solids. Continued neglect shortens the drain field life and may result in system failure and even require complete replacement of the soil absorption field. In some cases, site limitations may make replacement of the absorption field impossible - at least impossible using a conventional drainfield design. Alternative designs are available to solve these problems.
So provided you've addressed these factors in septic system life, how long can you expect a septic system to last before costly repairs to the septic tank or septic drain field are required?
How Long do Individual Septic System Components like Tanks, Piping, D-Boxes, Filters or Pumps Last?
A steel septic tank will rust out on a schedule affected by soil acidity and tank steel quality and coating integrity. A steel septic tank more than 15 or 20 years old is likely to have already rusted to the point of having lost its baffles and perhaps having a rusted-out bottom - conditions that can be recognized during septic tank cleaning and inspection. A steel septic tank cover lasts until some fool drives over it or it rusts out.
A concrete septic tank can last 40 years to nearly indefinitely, though poor quality concrete or acidic ground water may result in deteriorated baffles or tank components.
A conventional septic drain field has a varying life as a function of the soil percolation rate, drainfield size, and usage level. I've seen a septic drainfield, a large one in good soil with a well maintained septic tank, last for more than 50 years. I've seen a conventional septic drainfield fail within 24 hours of first use on a new system when piping was poorly installed.
There is therefore a very wide range of life for this component. Experience of neighbors who have similar soils and similar systems can be helpful if you ask. In general, if I know nothing but that there is a conventional septic drainfield or a raised bed system and it's 20 years old, I consider its forward life not predictable and advise owners to budget for its replacement at any time.
The septic tank is only one part of an on-site wastewater system. It is designed to remove solids prior to the effluent entering the soil absorption field, provide for the filtration, digestion of a portion of those solids, and storage of the remaining solids. Taking care of the septic tank will, however, extend the life of the costly second half of the onsite wastewater treatment system - the absorption system, leach field, or drainfield.
What to Do if you have just moved into a home with a septic system
If you've just moved into a home with a septic tank you may not know the size of the septic tank, its maintenance history, or even where the septic tank is. In this case, you should have the tank pumped and inspected. The company pumping the tank will tell you its size, age, and condition.
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Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.
Design Manuals for Septic Systems
Onsite Wastewater Disposal Books