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Caring for Older Septic Systems

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Maintaining older septic systems

The average life expectancy of a conventional septic system is approximately 25 years, depending on its usage and maintenance; however, many systems can exceed that with proper care and usage. New septic systems can be costly, so it’s important to care for them routinely and well.

Tips for maintaining older septic systems

Following these care practices may help extend the life of your system.

  • Guard against extra water entering your septic system. Leaky faucets, running commodes and malfunctioning water softeners can put extra water into the system and flood out the absorption area.
  • Spread out the septic system usage. Too much water entering the system at one time can flood it out. Avoid doing too many consecutive loads of laundry — in larger families, stagger shower/bathing times.
  • Only allow paper and waste to enter the septic system.
  • Pump out the solids on a regular basis. This prevents extra solids from exiting the tank and clogging up the absorption area prematurely. Septic system pumpings should generally be scheduled every three to five years.
  • Do not build any permanent structures over any portion of the septic system. The tank should be accessible for pumping and the soil in the absorption area needs oxygen. Building over or near the system can result in greater expenses down the road.
  • Do not drive heavy equipment or machinery over any portion of the septic system. This can crush components and cause expensive repairs, or even require a new system.
  • Additives are not necessary. Using additives is like flushing money down the toilet.
  • Use cleaning chemicals in moderation to avoid killing the bacteria in the septic tank.
  • Consider re-routing laundry water onto the lawn. This takes volume of liquids off of the septic system and can extend the life of a septic system that may be on the verge of failing. Regulations for this vary. For example, Texas allows the greywater from the washing machine to remain disconnected from the septic system if it was disconnected prior to 2005.

Septic system regulations have changed

Septic system regulations have changed drastically over the last 15 years. Often older septic systems that do not meet current regulations are grandfathered as long as they are functioning properly and are not creating a health hazard. However, once an older septic system is in need of repair, it may require bringing the entire system up to current regulations, which may necessitate the installation of an entirely new system.

Concerned about your septic system’s age or performance? Contact Van Delden online or give us a call at 210.698.2000 (San Antonio) or 830.249.4000 (Boerne) to schedule a consultation or inspection.


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