Septic tanks have a lot of common misconceptions – bits of information that get passed around for no reason other than whoever told you heard it somewhere… but that’s not very reliable, is it?
In fact, one misconception we can check off the list right away is that not many homes have septic tanks. This is not true. MANY homes in America still have septic tanks, either because they were installed or the home already had it when bought and the homeowners kept it. Perhaps the reason septic tanks are surrounded by misinformation is because new homes tend to be built without them, making them seem like “outdated technology.
Despite that, septic tanks work quite well and last for decades if properly cared for, so there’s no reason to doubt them. Let’s just take a look at commo septic tank misconceptions to clear up some mysteries!
“We know what we are, but know not what we may be." – William Shakespeare
Misconception #1: Septic tanks last decades with little maintenance
This is a bit of a weird one, because there are two sides of this one misconception running around. One says that septic tanks can last for a long time without any maintenance, and the other says they need tons of maintenance (which discourages homeowners from keeping them). Which is true?
Well, the first part of this one is actually true: septic tanks are estimated to last up to 20 years.
The second part is somewhere in between: septic tanks do need regular maintenance. You won’t need to check on it every month, but at the same time, leaving it unchecked for years is just asking for trouble.
The general idea is that you should have your septic tank inspected at least once a year, or whenever there are any irregularities. And usually you only need to pump a septic tank every three years on average, unless you live in a home with 4 or more inhabitants, in which case you might have to do it more often (though not by much).
And that’s about it as far as maintenance goes.
Your only other tip for general well-being of your septic tank is to make sure you don’t throw solid materials down the drain or the toilet (such as nappies, toilet paper, hair, oil, any plastic, etc.), as these can clog your tank.
Misconception #2: Septic tanks smell bad
The only way you would ever smell a septic tank is if something has gone terribly wrong and you should hire a septic tank pro right away. It could be clogged or it might be time for pumping if it's been a while since last time.
Same goes for bad odor coming from the drains or your toilet flush. These are often seen as characteristics of a septic tank, but once again, these events only happen if there’s something wrong.
If you notice any of these signs, schedule a septic tank inspection right away.
Misconception #3: A full septic tank must be pumped
The septic tank always fills automatically after a while after it’s been pumped – that’s perfectly natural. There’s no need to redo the job once it’s filled, otherwise you’d be doing that every other week.
This is part of how a septic tank works: solid matter rests at the bottom and only the water is released. The pumping is done to remove the excess solid waste, not the water itself.
Misconception #4: You can build over a septic tank as long as it’s not permanent
It’s never a good idea to build on top of a septic tank. Though ideally problems with a septic tank are rare, you never know when they might happen. Since this influences your entire home, you need to get it checked immediately and having any structures on top of your septic tank is a huge obstacle.
Same goes for the manhole cover, usually accessible nearby. It should always be readily available, no matter the situation!
Misconception #5: Additives reduce the need for pumping
Not only is this false, but additives in general tend to only make things worse.
Firstly, depending on which material your tank is made, these additives can damage them irreversibly. And secondly, as mentioned before, the reason a tank needs to be pumped regularly is because of the solid waste – no amount of additive can change that.
And besides, you only need to have your septic tank pumped every three years on average. It’s not worth spending more on additives that can compromise your entire system when you can simply pay for a septic tank pump three or four times every decade!
Need to inspect your septic tank? Get free quotes from local septic tank companies today!