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Cabin Plumbing: How to Maintain Your Septic Tank

Septic systems aren’t uncommon in cabins and lakeshore homes in locations where it’s too costly to run municipal sewer lines. While these systems are time-tested and safe, they aren’t foolproof. To get the most from your system, protect it by staying off it, watching what you put into it and having it serviced regularly.

Protect the Drain Field

Take out the drawings for the septic system and look for its boundaries. Once you’ve conceptualized them, pace them out in the yard. It’s important to keep heavy things off this area to avoid compacting it that will slow drainage. Never drive on the drain field because the weight of vehicles could crack the pipes leading into the tank. Make sure that the gutters on your home flow away from the drain field and don’t plant trees and bushes close to it. Their roots can work their way inside the smallest of cracks in the pipes or at their joins. Roots are a major cause of slow drains.

Watch What Goes down the Drain

Even though drain cleaners might be safe for some kinds of pipes, they’re hard on septic tanks. It only takes a few ounces of these harsh chemicals to kill off the tank’s active and beneficial bacteria. Too much water will make the tank overflow and you might need a septic service to pump it out. Installing low-flow plumbing fixtures will ease the water load, as will doing laundry over the course of the week instead of all at once. Avoid pouring grease down the drains is one of the worst things you can do to a septic system, along with using a salt-based water softener system. Pay attention to what you buy. The toilet paper should say it’s “septic-safe.”

Pump It

Depending on how often you use the cabin and the septic system, you may want to have it pumped every three years. If you’re a heavy user, you may need it done more often. If you smell sewage from your yard or indoors, you probably need it pumped sooner rather than later.

Put It in the Budget

Instead of treating septic maintenance as an emergency, set aside a certain amount annually to have your tank serviced. It will pay you back in few, if any, emergency visits and keep your home’s plumbing running smoothly.

Watch what you put into your drains and stay off the drain field to protect your septic tank from unnecessary damage. A septic tank needs maintenance just like other components of your home and maybe more so, since being without a sewer system is a major inconvenience and health hazard.

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