North Georgia Real Estate all about Septic Systems when Buying a Cabin

Published: 21st July 2010
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Buying a mountain cabin is unique in many ways. Septic systems, being one, can cost between $3,500 and $15,000 depending on the application. Unfortunately, nobody gives you a manual when you buy a home with a septic system, and most people have little idea of how to maintain a septic system. As a result, many septic systems fail unnecessarily. The price for failure can also be extremely expensive, with costs running from $1,500 to $5,000 or more. Fortunately, there are some simple effective, inexpensive steps you can take to costly repairs.

Let's look at why many septic systems fail. Septic system failure is actually pretty simple to understand. Think about this...There are very few mechanical or electrical components to septic system unless you have a pump system. The tank itself rarely fails. However, it can become filled with solids or invaded by roots.

We typically associate a system failure with a clogged drain field. It is really the soil that fails...and the soil fails because it won't allow liquid to pass through it. In most cases the soil fails when it gets plugged with solids and oils. With proper usage your septic systems rarely if ever fail.

Washing machines can be one of the leading causes of septic system failure? The primary culprit is lint generated by washing machines, which clogs the soil in drain fields. A typical family washing machine produces a substantial amount of lint every year! Lint screens typically trap less than 5 percent of these contaminates. These tiny lint particles, because they are so small and light, do not settle in the septic tank. Instead, they stay in suspension and are flushed out to the drain field where they plug-up the pores of the soil bed.

Tiny particles of lint can be prevented from entering the septic system through the use of inline filter which attaches to your washing machine discharge hose.

In your typical septic systems, solid materials settle to the bottom of the tank, while effluent flows out into the ground. Allowing more water into the septic system than it is built to handle can cause problems, causing your system to flood, and can also flush solids out of the tank into the drain field. A typical washing machine can use upward of 50 gallons of water per wash load. The solution is to spread out your water use. Do 1 or 2 loads of laundry per day, rather than 5 - 10 loads in one day.

Limit the amount of solids you put in the Tank. Build-up solids displace the amount of liquid the system is capable of handling in a given time period. The more solids you put into the tank the more often you should have your tank pumped. Under normal conditions, you should have the tank pumped and inspected every 3-5 years. Tanks should be pumped and inspected through the manhole cover, not the inspection pipe.

Filters which typically cost less than $100, can be installed to stop the larger solids from making their way out to the drainfield. These filters should be cleaned every few years when you have your tank pumped. They are cheap insurance and along with a washing machine filter, are two of the best things you can do to protect your system.

Over use of household cleaning products like laundry detergents, bleaches and fabric softeners can kill some of the useful bacteria in your septic system, causing it to fail. Under normal usage the use of these products should not effect the operation of your septic system. Products are commonly available in most stores that you can add to flush down your toilet to replace the bacteria and keep your system working in top condition.


• Only discharge human wastes into system.

• Divert surface runoff water from roofs, patios, driveways, and other areas away from your drainfield.

• Keep your septic tank cover accessible.

• Have your septic tank pumped every 3 - 5 years and inspected for leaks, cracks, and to make sure the exit baffle is in place.

• Compost your garbage or put it in the trash rather than using a garbage disposal.


• Avoid using a garbage disposal which can double the amount of solids added to the tank!

• Never flush sanitary napkins, tampons, disposable diapers, condoms and other non biodegradable products down the toilet!

• Placing solvents, oils, paints, thinners, disinfectants, pesticides or poisons down the drain can kill beneficial bacteria.

• Never plant trees or shrubs over your drainfield or build anything over it . Grass is the only thing that should be planted on or near a drainfield.

• Avoid driving over your tank or drainfield which may cause the soil to compact.

• Never cover the absorption field with hard surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt.

If Your System Fails. Some failed systems can be rejuvenated by fracturing the soil. This process utilizes a hollow tube inserted into the soil, then a 300 pound blast of air is injected into the soil creating thousands of tiny fissures. These fissures allow the drainfield to drain, creating an oxygen atmosphere and allowing the aerobic bacterial colonies to re-populate. This process can be performed in a matter of hours with no digging or damage to the yard. The cost will range from $1,000-$2,000, which is a lot cheaper than a replacement septic system.

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