DIY Septic Tank Inspection

For most homeowners whose septic tank are kept out of sight, sometimes they forget the need for septic tank inspection. Often, their failure to inspect their septic system is because they assume everything in their system will automatically work without any chance of failure or problems. But septic systems do need to be maintained and inspected if they are to continue functioning properly.

Inspection and Maintenance Benefits

Why is maintenance—including periodic inspection—important? There are 3 benefits you can expect from good septic system maintenance:

  1. Costs – poor maintenance is the leading cause of expensive repair and replacement of septic systems. The cost of replacing a septic system can be $3,000 to $10,000, while typical inspections are usually $55 to $150. Pumping a system will run about $150 to $1000, depending on access to your septic tank and the amount of solids to be removed from it.
  2. Health – failed septic systems often release wastewater from homes, wastewater that has not been adequately treated. This wastewater, or untreated human waste, that enters the community environment can create significant health hazards when it enters groundwater, wells, and other nearby water sources.
  3. Community Problems – improperly maintained septic systems can cause problems for members of your community. Reduced property values, refusal of building permit requests, and sale of real estate property, for example can be caused by defective septic systems.

Locating Your Septic Tank

Typically, your septic tank will be buried and covered. Unless you have previous knowledge of your tank’s location, you will need to locate it before you can inspect it. To do this, first locate where the drain pipe leaves the house. With a 10 to 15 foot metal rod, probe the ground, beginning at the location of your drain pipe. When you find your tank create a map showing its location, and keep your map where you’ll be able to find it when needed. An optional method is to use a metal detector to locate the metal manhole on top of your septic tank.

Uncovering Your Tank Manhole

When your metal probe comes in contact with an underground metal object, or when your metal finder locates a metal object, it is likely that it will be your manhole cover or inspection port cover. Then, you’ll need to remove enough soil to expose the cover for your manhole or inspection port. This may take a considerable amount of work, depending on the depth of  the soil above the manhole. You will need to remove the soil by hand, however, deep it is. Using a backhoe could damage the manhole and require you to replace it.

Testing Your Septic System Drainage

To determine if your septic system is working properly, flush your toilet. Proper water draining will indicate your system is working as it should.

Testing Your Tank’s Sludge Layers

Once you have uncovered your septic tank inspection port or manhole cover, you can test the scum and sludge layer by inserting a clear, hollow plastic tube through the tanks sludge to the bottom of the tank. When this tube is retracted, you’ll be able to see a cross section of sludge and scum from your tank.

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