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When you’re getting ready to have a septic tank installed, you’ll need the help of pros to move forward with the project. We’ve written an extensive guide to help prepare you for the project, since we want to make sure your project turns out a success and

We can also help you get quotes from local septic tank installation contractors near you by simply filling out the form at the top of the page, and we’ll match you with the most relevant contractors in your area too to make sure you don’t end up overspending.

How do septic tanks work?

We do a lot of things inside the home that involves water. We shower, wash the dishes, do the laundry, and flush the toilet. All that water and waste has to go somewhere, right? Thankfully, you can have a septic system installed near your home to ensure that they do.

We all know what septic tanks are. However, not many of us know exactly how they work. In this article, we discuss in detail how septic tanks manage or get rid of the wastewater that exits our homes’ drainpipes.

A septic system doesn’t only help us with waste management, it also keeps us safe from contaminants and bacteria that would compromise our health. So, how exactly does a septic system manage to become such an integral part of our daily lives?

Simply put, a septic system treats the wastewater that leaves our homes via drainage pipes and a septic tank so that the liquid material can be reintegrated into the ecosystem. The system’s main component, the septic tank, is a buried, watertight container that separates the solids from the liquids before the resulting effluent is reintroduced into the groundwater system.

What the septic tank does initially is hold the wastewater long enough until the solid waste settles at the bottom, turning into sludge. Meanwhile, light solids (including oil and grease) float to the top, forming scum.

Septic tanks have compartments or a T-shaped outlet that prevents the sludge and the scum from exiting the tank. Meanwhile, the effluent or liquid wastewater exits the tank and goes into a network of trenches made of saturated soil. The wastewater then goes through a pretreatment process where it gets discharged via pipes and then goes through porous feeders, allowing it to seep through the soil. The soil then treats and filters the wastewater until it’s dumped down the drain and becomes groundwater.

Common septic problems

A problematic septic system is a stinky situation waiting to happen… literally speaking. As such, you’d do well to keep tabs on the most common septic issues and have them addressed quickly to extend your septic system’s lifespan.

Build-up of solids

As mentioned earlier, the hard solids settle at the bottom of the tank while the scum rises to the top, right? But what happens if those solids build up in such a way that the inlet pipe from the house gets clogged? This causes your drainage fixtures and appliances to drain slowly or intermittently. At this stage, it’s imperative that you hire a professional to look into your septic tank so it can be pumped until it’s empty.

Damage from tree roots

Trees are good for us, but their roots can wreak havoc on our septic tanks without us noticing it. These tree roots can creep their way towards our tank’s walls, soakaway, or even the pipes connecting the tank to your house. The results, of course, are pretty self-explanatory. If worse comes to worst, tree roots can cause your plumbing system to stop working altogether.

Broken or collapsed pipe

Your plumbing fixtures are not draining properly, so you inspect your septic tank and notice that the water level is normal? What gives? A broken drain line or a collapsed pipe, that’s what. In such cases, a pipe replacement might be in order. You’d need to hire a specialist to find the broken pipe or pipes and have them replaced.

Wear and tear

How long can a septic tank last? That depends, but if your tank is experiencing too many issues, then it has definitely overstayed its welcome. By this point, it’s probably for the best that you invest in a new septic tank.  Besides, modern septic tanks are much better. They have more sophisticated filters that process bacteria. They also decompose plumbing waste more efficiently.

Poor maintenance

Septic tanks require regular maintenance to ensure that it’s always in good working order and can last longer. Ideally, you should perform an inspection on your septic tank at least once a year — either you do it yourself or hire a professional to do the inspection. Either way, it’s recommended that you check the drain field for odors, surfacing sewage, vegetation growth, or other irregularities.

Damaged dip pipes

Dip pipes (otherwise known as T-pipes) serve to filter out solids and prevent them from getting to the soakaway system or outlet pipe. By that definition alone, you can already tell what’s going to happen if your system’s dip pipes become damaged. You don’t want the wrong stuff to go through the system.

Non-biodegradable waste entering the system

The system can get clogged when non-biodegradable waste such as tampons, cigarette butts, and sanitary napkins enter the tank. These solids are difficult to break down, causing liquid levels in the tank to rise up. This explains why only toilet paper and human waste should be entered into the system.

Choosing the Right Septic Tank

If you’re looking to install a septic tank for your residential home, there are essential factors you need to keep in mind before choosing one.

Determine the tank size

It’s important to remember that a septic system consists of two main parts: the septic tank and the drain field. First, determine the tank size by estimating how much water will be used. In other words, you need to ask the following questions:

  • How many people will be living inside the residential home?
  • What plumbing fixtures or appliances will the residents be using? Do you have a hot tub? How many toilets are there in the house?
  • Do you receive visitors frequently?

One to two bedroom homes can get by with a 750-gallon septic tank. For four-bedroom residents, a 1,000-gallon septic tank will be more than enough. A residence with five bedrooms or more will require a 1,500-gallon septic tank.

Choose the type of material

The next step is to choose the type of material. You can choose from steel, concrete, fiberglass, low-density plastic, or high-density plastic. We’d advise against choosing steel or low-density plastic. Steel is prone to rust while low-density plastic is too malleable, which may compromise the configuration of your septic system. Concrete is the most common on account of their cost, durability, and long shelf life. If you want something lightweight, durable, and reliable, then you can do no wrong with high-density plastic. But if you want optimal performance and long shelf life, fiberglass is the way to go, although expensive.

Choose a tank configuration

Lastly, you need to decide on the tank configuration. The right configuration depends on many factors. What type of soil will the septic tank be installed into? If the soil is coarse or gravely, a pressure system septic tank will be more capable of handling untreated sewage than the standard “gravity flow” tank. What type of pump should you use? There are two types to choose from — the turbine pump or the centrifugal pump. Overall, tanks that use a turbine pump are more reliable, although they are far more expensive than the ones using a centrifugal pump. Talk with your septic system dealer or contractor and ask for a consultation on the type of septic system they would recommend.

Septic System Services

If you want your septic system to stay healthy and last you several lifetimes, you need to do regular maintenance and be on the constant lookout for issues so you can address them before they become serious. In most cases, hiring a professional contractor is the best solution. The following are the septic system services they offer.

Pumping & Maintenance

A septic system can only operate efficiently if the amount of scum and sludge collecting inside the tank is the right amount. When they reach 30% of the septic tank’s capacity, then that’s the time to have it pumped. Ideally, a regular septic tank is in need of pumping every 3 to 5 years. The costs for pumping will depend on many factors such as location, accessibility, or the number of tanks.


Any complex system requires an inspection to ensure that everything is in good working order. Septic systems are no different. Not only can regular inspections extend the lifespan of your septic system, but it also saves you a ton of time and money in the end. Detecting issues before they become serious allows you to address them accordingly, saving you from the hassle and high expenses involved in major overhauls and repair jobs.

Ideally, routine inspections are done at least once per year. Professional inspectors can check whether every component — from the tank’s lid to the drain field —   in the septic system is working properly. Inspectors can check if the tank needs to be pumped or if there are any signs of system failure.

Septic Care and Maintenance

Proper care and maintenance of septic systems not only extends their shelf life, but they also ensure that your household, and the neighborhood for that matter, is safe from contaminants that may put everyone’s health in jeopardy. Moreover, regularly checking to make sure that every component of the system is properly working can go a long way into maintaining water resources.

Repair and Replacement

Septic tank issues are bound to happen sooner or later, and you need to be on your toes for any signs of potential issues. Are solids building up in the tank? A professional septic system installer can pump your tank until it’s empty. Is there standing water around the drain field or the septic tank area? Chances are the tank’s pipes are broken or in need of replacement. Whatever the issue is with your septic system, a professional should have the technical know-how, skills, and the tools required to fix it.

Septic Tank Installation

Every good home needs a good septic system.  Otherwise, there’s no efficient means to treat and dispose of wastewater. If your residence is not connected to a central sewage system, then you will need to have a septic system installed underground.

Septic tank installation is a complex process, and the type of system you need installed will depend on several factors: location, accessibility, number of residents, among many others. As such, it’s in your best interest to hire a reputable contractor to do all the work for you. They have the extensive knowledge needed to determine which system is best for you as well as the skills to manage and execute the installation process.

Drain Field Services

The drain field is the most expensive component of your septic system, and its maintenance is critical to wastewater management and maintaining your septic system’s lifespan. Drain field failures often occur when there’s too much buildup of sludge and scum, giving the wastewater less room for processing. This overflows the drain field, causing the effluent to puddle on the ground or your plumbing fixtures to backup.

A drain field failure is not a pretty sight. By making sure it’s always properly maintained, you can prevent minor issues from developing into serious ones.

Onsite Operation & Maintenance

Wherever you are located, the proper and regular maintenance of your septic system is sorely needed not just because it’s convenient for your household, but also because it’s required by law. According to the Operation & Maintenance (O&M) program (mandated by the state of Washington), every homeowner is required to ensure that their septic system is working properly.

By hiring reputable professionals who will verify if every component of your septic system is in good condition, you’ll not only meet the requirements of the municipality, you can also rest easy that all necessary paperwork has been accounted for.

How often should you pump out your septic tank

As a general rule of thumb, a septic tank should be emptied every three to five years.

That said, the frequency will depend on the number of people living in your household or the plumbing fixtures or appliances being used.

Signs that your septic tank needs to be emptied or replaced

Every septic system runs the risk of reaching maximum capacity, and if you don’t want it to stink up your lawn, you’d do well to keep your eyes peeled (or your nose turned up) for any signs indicating that your septic tank needs to be emptied.

A good septic system can last for a couple of decades, maybe even more if it’s well-maintained. It’s good practice to have your septic tank pumped or emptied every few years. And while regular fixes may alleviate or resolve septic issues, you also need to recognize when it’s the right time to be replaced.

So, is your septic system in need of service? Below are the signs you need to look out for.


When your septic tank exceeds its maximum capacity, what you’ll end up with is a pool of water around your trank’s drain field. It’s not a good sight, and it definitely isn’t a good scent. This happens because when solids clog up the piping system, forcing the wastewater to come up to the surface. Such a mess could have been avoided if you pumped your system sooner. Severe system failure, however, will require major repairs or a replacement.

Plumbing fixtures start to become sluggish

If your washing machine or toilet starts to act sluggish, that’s probably because the pipes are clogged. But if the issue persists even after you’ve gone through all unclogging procedures, it’s a clear sign that your septic tank is already full and needs emptying.

Foul odor

The moment you notice a foul odor emanating from your drain could be a sign that your pipes are clogged and will need to be pumped and emptied out.

Contamination of well water

Are you detecting a foul odor in your well water? Is it not clear as it used to be? If so, it could be because the water is already contaminated. Potential causes include the high density of septic tanks, poor soil permeability, or clogged drains. To detect the root of the problem, you need a professional to have your septic system checked. A septic system’s failure to filter water properly causes it to run afoul of contaminants, which could cause a variety of bacterial diseases such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever, and more. In most cases, especially when there’s a system failure, the ideal solution is to replace the system altogether.

Sewage backup

If you notice your bathtubs, toilets, and sinks are starting to backup wastewater, that means the septic tank has reached its limit. In this situation, emptying your septic tank should help unclog the sewage backup. The earlier you do this the better.  If you find that your system is getting clogged up more frequently than before, then that’s a sign of system failure or damaged drain pipes, in which case buying a new septic system is the recommended solution.

Grass near your septic tank is too lush or too green

It might sound crazy, but if the grass near your septic tank looks healthier than the grass surrounding it, then you have a septic problem. It could mean that the tank has a leak. When this happens, it’s imperative that you call a professional to have it pumped and emptied. If there’s a drain field failure, then it’s high time that you install a new septic system.

Who Installs Septic Systems Near You?

By filling out the form at the top of this page, that’s not even a question you will need to worry about since we will be matching you with the most relevant contractors that provide such services.

Use our Form to Get Quotes from Competing Contractors

If you’ve reached this point in the article, then chances are you’re looking for a contractor but don’t know where to start. You’re also wondering what kind of budget you need to prepare to have your septic system checked.

Well, here’s for starters: I advise you to get quotes from competing local septic tank installers near you. To ensure that you’ll get the best service and great value for your money, you need points of comparison.

However, asking for a quote from every prospective contractor takes too much time. Time is not a luxury you have when your septic tank is acting up.

So here’s the good news. There’s an easier and cheaper alternative to get quotes from competing contractors… and it’s right here on our site!

All you need to do is fill out the form at the top of this page and you’ll get free quotes from SCREENED septic tank contractors near you in no time. It’s totally free and requires no commitment on your part. Good luck!

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