Septic tanks and septic systems are pretty common in rural areas of North America. There are many small cities and towns that don’t have sewer systems.
When you don’t have access to a sewer system, it’s going to be necessary to set up some type of septic tank. This will store waste and it’ll have to be pumped out after a certain period of time.
Overall, using a septic tank is pretty convenient and not that hard to manage. There are things that can go wrong, though.
Sometimes something will seem off with your septic tank. You’ll want to inspect it to see what’s going on so that you can tell if you need to call professionals to come out to fix things.
Keep reading to learn how to test a septic drain field. You’ll also learn some basics about checking your tank to see if anything is going on.
How to Visually Inspect Your Septic Tank
The first thing you’ll want to learn is how to visually inspect your septic tank. You might be able to recognize certain things before you uncover the tank.
If you don’t have to go to the effort of uncovering it, you’ll save yourself some time. If you can smell anything near the septic tank, that’s a sign that there’s a leak.
You shouldn’t be smelling anything near the site of the septic tank. Standing water near it is also a bad sign.
If you’re experiencing sewage issues in your house, that tells you that you need to call professionals. At this point, there’s no reason to inspect the tank because you know that something is wrong and you need help.
When none of these things are happening, it’s going to be necessary to uncover the tank and look at it. You’ll want to wear some protective clothing while doing this.
Wear goggles and protective clothes that cover your entire body. It’s also going to be best to wear steel-toed boots.
Uncovering and Checking the Tank
Uncover the tank so that you can lift the lid and see what’s going on. It might take some time for you to find the exact location of the septic tank if it isn’t marked, but it’d be a good idea to mark its location to make things easier moving forward.
Lift the lid on the tank and you’ll find the waste inlet port. Underneath this port, you’re going to find what’s referred to as the “scum layer.”
This is what floats on the surface of the water. It should be underneath the port and touching the bottom of the pipe.
If it’s going higher than the bottom of the pipe, that’s a sign that blockage is occurring. At this point, you’re going to need to call professionals to fix the problem.
It’s also possible that something else could be wrong. For example, you could have a lift pump that isn’t working properly.
Either way, you need septic workers to get to the bottom of things. They have the right equipment and expertise to handle this situation.
How to Measure Sludge and Scum Layers
It might also be useful to get more specific instruction on how to measure sludge and scum layers. To accomplish this, you’re going to need to create some tools.
Thankfully, none of these are going to be hard to make. You just need a half-inch PVC pipe that you can cut down to size.
You’re going to need a six-foot-long PVC pipe with a ninety-degree elbow. You then insert a six-inch pipe in the elbow to give it a proper “L” shape.
Next, you’ll need a ten-foot-long pipe that has three feet of masking tape stuck to one end. This tool is used to measure the sludge layer at the bottom while the first tool is going to be used to measure the scum layer at the top.
Get your scum tester and lower it down until it touches the top of the scum layer. After this, make a mark on the pipe where the ground level is located.
Go on and lower the pipe all the way until you start to feel resistance. Make a mark when you start to feel the resistance.
When the distance between the two marks that you made is greater than six inches, it’s an indication that the tank needs to be pumped. This is a simple, easy way to tell if it’s time to call in the septic company.
Checking the thickness of the sludge layer is also going to be simple. You just lower the sludge tester that you created to the bottom and allow it to rest for three minutes.
Once three minutes have passed, it’s going to be time to pull the pipe up. Lay the sludge tester down on a tarp so that it can dry.
Measure the length of the sludge stain that is present on the masking tape. When the mark is longer than six inches, it’s a sign that it’s time to pump the tank.
How to Check the Drain Field
You just need to walk over the drain field to make note of what’s going on. Check for areas where you can smell sewage, and also keep an eye out for spots where the ground is squishy.
These are signs that you have a septic tank leak of some sort. When a leak is present, it’s going to be imperative to call the septic tank company as soon as you can.
You should notice that there will be pipes coming out of the ground. These are called “risers,” and they’re meant to help you check the drain system easily.
Take the caps off of the pipes and then look inside. You’ll need a flashlight to see everything properly.
If you happen to see water in these pipes, it means that your drainage system isn’t working normally. Something is broken and it needs to be repaired as soon as possible.
Any of these things going wrong will be a sign that you need to make a phone call to the local septic company. They can come out to assess the damage, and you’ll be able to get your septic system working properly again fast.
This information should allow you to check the drain field and figure out if your septic tank needs to be repaired. Typically, it isn’t that hard to figure out if it’s time to call for help.
You don’t even necessarily have to check the drain field if you’re noticing other problems. If you’re experiencing sewage backup issues in your home, that’s a sure sign that something is not working as intended.
Never hesitate to make contact with the septic company in your area. It’s always going to be better to get the problem taken care of quickly.
Waiting around too long to address septic issues will only make things worse. It’s even possible that your sewage backup issues could become severe and ruin certain things in your home.
If the tank needs to be repaired, you’ll be able to work with the experts to get all of that dealt with. You’ll be able to get things back to normal.
Sometimes the problems are small and not that tough to deal with. For instance, it might simply be time for you to get your septic tank pumped.
Either way, you’re going to be able to get your tank working fine again. Make a phone call today if you think that you need to get some work done on your system.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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