How do you tell if your septic is full?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by RiverPines, Apr 21, 2007.

  1. RiverPines

    RiverPines Well-Known Member

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    Our septic we know nothing about. When we bought this place this past December, it was a foreclosure, we had the septic tank inspected. Well, it was all good. 1000 gallon with a field drain. Good condition, baffles good, etc.

    But what we don't know is how do you tell when its full?
    We opened the cover outside and theres no gauges or anything that would say its full. So how do you know its full? :shrug:
     
  2. RiverPines

    RiverPines Well-Known Member

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    I'm bumping this because I didn't think to add that I have a backed up system here and I don't know if we have a clog somewhere in the main going out or if this is how you know the septic is full.
    And now the line going out through the basement wall has sprung a leak.

    I rigged rain gutters that we had laying around to detour the water outside till hubby gets home. The walkout basement was getting soaked!

    :help:
     

  3. The Paw

    The Paw Well-Known Member

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    If you have a field, your septic tank should always be full. It works on water displacement. It stays full, and as you flush 5 gallons into the tank, 5 gallons of the effluent gets pushed out to the field.

    If your system is backed up, there are several possible causes:

    (a) if the system pumps from the tank to the field, your pump might be inoperable. If it is a gravity system, this does not apply.

    (b) the drain lines in the field could be clogged, and you need a new field. If this were the case, you probably would have noticed the system being sluggish rather than suddenly backing up.

    (c) something is blocking the main stack/drain between the house and the tank. (It this were January, I might guess that it froze up). You probably already know this, but if someone has been flushing feminine hygiene products (or anything else other than crap and toilet paper), that can block up the system.

    (d) If you have a lot of sludge built up in the tank, it can build up to the point where it blocks the outlet. If you had it inspected in December, that is less likely, as a septic guy would have told you if it needed to be pumped.

    Hope this helps. I can sympathize, as my system froze up this year, and I had a backed up system for 2 -3 days.
     
  4. Spinner

    Spinner Well-Known Member

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    Some people claim a tank should be pumped out every 5 years. I've had mine for 12 years and never been pumped. I don't think the previous owners had it pumped either. I had a guy come out and check it and he said it only has a few inches of solids built up in the bottom and is in good condition. I flush sour milk down the toilet every now and then. I haven't done anything else to it. I'm also careful to buy only products that are safe for the septic, such as paper, soaps, toilet cleaners, etc.
     
  5. idahodave

    idahodave Well-Known Member

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    If it's been raining for forty days and nights, your soil could be so saturated the liquid from the tank has nowhere to go...

    Some tanks have a filter on the outlet that could clog. If yours does it would be found under a cap on the leech field side of the tank.

    I'd bet on a clog in the line from the house to the tank.
     
  6. Beeman

    Beeman Well-Known Member

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    Cabin Fever is the resident professor of poop and he should be by to answer this. Just don't ask if you should put yeast in. Search septic and the answer about how to check to see if your tank is full will be there. The sludge at the bottom is what you are checking. The water level should always be full and the water flows out thru the drain field. Heavy rains with saturated ground that doesn't perk well will cause the septic field not to drain out fast enough causing a back up. but so will clogged drain lines or a field that isn't installed correctly in ground that doesn't perk good.
     
  7. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    Checking your septic tank is like checking the oil in your car engine. You have to make yourself a "dipstick" by wrapping little colored material around a long stick. Use your staple gun to fasten the material to your dipsitick. Now, open an inspection pipe or manhole to your septic tank and insert your new dipstick. Pull out the dipstick and determine the thcikness of sludge show on the dipstick. The height of the sludge layer should not be within 12" on the bottom of your outlet baffle. In other words, if the distance between the sludge layer and the bottom of the outlet baffle is less than 12", get your tank pumped.

    If your septic system is causing a backup of wastewater into your basement, it could be due to any number of problems. The waste line could be plugged, the septic tank could be full, if you have a sewage pump it may not be functioning, or your drainfield could be saturated. Any of these can cause a back up of sewage into the home.
     
  8. farminghandyman

    farminghandyman Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Septic Tank Inspection and Trouble-shooting
    http://www.montana.edu/wwwpb/pubs/mt9403.html

    read this post and follow the links in it, good information,
    http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/showthread.php?t=176663&highlight=septic+tank

    yes most of the solids are ate up by bacteria, but at some point they can no further be reduced, and after time they will fill the tank and then solids will enter the drain field PLUGGING IT.

    the cost of a new drain field is much more than have a honest septic pumper pump it. Evey few years,

    frequency of pumping depends on number using and size of tank.

    Dumping additive down the septic tank, usually results to dumping your hard earned money down the drain, as nature will make the bacteria that it needs to do the job, (have yet to see a study made by a independent place give recommendation for septic additives for the bacterial action).
     
  9. farminghandyman

    farminghandyman Well-Known Member Supporter

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  10. arabian knight

    arabian knight Miniature Horse lover Supporter

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    You would not be doing that in WI. It is LAW to have a septic tank pumped every Three Years~!
     
  11. logbuilder

    logbuilder Well-Known Member

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    I totally agree with this. I have learned much from him in terms of septic.

    So Cabin, how does it feel to be the anointed, proclaimed, recognized and duly elected Head Professor of Poop for HT? :wizard: Getting a big head? I fully support and respect your position in this community hierarchy and applaud your wisdom.

    But... something just doesn't smell right about this lofty position you hold.
     
  12. Country Lady

    Country Lady Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Cabin Fever, Professor of Poop, this question is for you. What is your opinion of pouring the soured milk down your drain. I have a half gallon sitting on my counter that got too old before we could use it. I'd like your opinion too before I do something drastic. Thanks.
     
  13. suzfromWi

    suzfromWi Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Why is it then, that our septic pumpers always say to add Rid X? They have said its use it or get a new septic system in a few years....
     
  14. slfisher

    slfisher Well-Known Member

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    Coincidentally, I was just coming here to post this question. I've been here 4 1/2 years and the tank was pumped just before I bought the place. Occasionally when we flush the toilet with poop in it, it doesn't flush exactly right but fills all the way up and then drains. Occasionally it overflows and I need to plunge it once or twice then it's fine. Frankly, I don't even know where the septic tank is so I'm not sure how to check it. How much does emptying it cost and would that take care of my problem?
     
  15. coup

    coup Well-Known Member

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    take the top off the tank and watch when someone flushes the mode for you,,,if it comes out fast into the tank,,then trouble is in the leach but if it doesn't come or slow to come then you have trouble between there and the house.may be able to run snake up through.
    look under the house for trouble and then dig up half way and cut hole,you can patch over.. if in the leach field,pumping tank will give some relief.....
     
  16. Macybaby

    Macybaby I love South Dakota Supporter

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    slfisher, your post made me chuckle. I grew up in a house that had one toilet in the house, and it never flushed right. Plumbing had been added after the house was built, toilet was on main floor and then had a 9' drop pipe to the floor in the basement, and went to the septic from there.

    The little kids were not allowed to flush the toilet, as they didn't have the strength or quickness to use the plunger, and the toilet would overflow (many new ones have features to keep that from happening).

    Folks had never had the septic pumped, probably not from when it was installed (we lived in the house my grandparents had built in about 1930).

    We grew up (all 11 of us) and then one sister married a guy who knew about plumbing. He looked the situation over, and like most older houses, it had settled away from the chimney in the center of the house. The toilet drain went from the toilet, about 3' horizontal and then dropped down right along the chimney. Over time, this caused the lead drain pipe from the toilet to actually sloped uphill towards the chimney. He cut the pipes out and replaced them with a correct slope, and the toilet has worked fine for the last 25 years!

    I always figured if you have to occasionally plunge the toilet if it get loaded and it's more than will easily go down, that was normal. As a youngster, I got nervous using bathrooms at friends houses if they didn't have a plunger next to the toilet.

    Cathy
     
  17. RiverPines

    RiverPines Well-Known Member

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    Thank you all for such wonderful help and links. :)

    We found our problem after hubby got home, a clog in the main going outside.
    And we found a second prob, inadequate breathers. We were having a vapor lock prob. All are fixed now and everything runs like a champ. :)

    I was hoping it wasn't full yet since it was emptied and inspected before we bought the place this past December. That was our conditions for purchase...we hired and paid for complete inspections of the well and septic. If either wasn't fine we wouldn't of bought the place or negotiated more. And both passed inspections with flying colors.

    Thanks to the links here, I see a 1k tank shouldn't have to be emptied every 4 months, :) which is the amount of time its been in use since the last empty. (This place was vacant)
     
  18. Micahn

    Micahn Well-Known Member

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    I can tell you just how a law like that was passed. Someone was paid off or they own a septic pumping company or something.
    A system that was installed right and working right meaning people do not put a lot of bad things in it like bleach and stuff should never have to be pumped. I have seen systems over 50 years old that have never been pumped and still working great.
     
  19. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    It is my understanding that in Wisconsin a person must have his tank "inspected" every years. The results of the inspection will determine whether or not it has to be pumped.
     
  20. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    And I have seen systems that were never pumped in 10 years and the drainfield was completely plugged with sludge.

    So, my rhetorical question for you all is this. What would the cost be of replacing your septic system and what is your cost "per year" of having your septic tank pumped every five years? In our area, the highest pumping cost is around $200. If we had our tank pumped every five years, the cost of "preserving the integrity of our septic system" is only $40 per year, cheap insurance if you ask me.