When you are remodeling your home it can be easy to forget that you can affect any septic system by building near a septic tank and drain field. This is also true for those who are buying a home and are planning to renovate. It’s best to know exactly where your tank and drain field are located. This will keep new building projects from obstructing the routine maintenance of your system or damaging your septic system.
Building Near a Septic Tank
What could happen if you neglect finding your system? Your septic tank may be in the path of a heavy construction vehicle. Breaking your septic tank lid would be the least of your concerns. The weight of construction equipment may cause cracks in the septic tank. These may not be evident immediately after it occurs. But over time, the cracks will develop and cause serious structural concerns. A tank is usually marked in some way making it easy to spot. If the path of any vehicle is near the tank it is a good idea to find the edges of the tank and draw an outline. This will ensure that the driver knows exactly where the tank is located and to give the tank some space. The septic tank is more likely to be in danger if the construction is near the perimeter of the house. Besides damaging your tank, construction can keep a pumper from accessing the tank.
Decks, patios, and other structures near a septic tank can always run the risk of covering the manhole to the tank. This not only makes the tank difficult to find, but in some cases impossible to maintain. The lack of regular pumping of your tank will be a costly mistake, which can also affect you again when you sell. If you have a deck or patio with no access to the tank, you may have to rip out the structure wasting all the money spent to build it.
Building Near a Drain Field (Leach Field)
If a drain field is damaged it can cost a lot more to replace. The biggest issue that can arise from construction near a drain field is the damage caused by heavy construction equipment. The weight of many large trucks driving over a drain field will crack the pipes in the drain field and compact the soils. Compacted soil in a drain field will decrease the drain field’s ability to drain. The air pockets in between the soil is what the effluent fills up. If there are no air pockets to fill, the effluent will be forced to go up towards the top of the soil and spill out onto the ground.
If you can keep any new structure off the drain field it is best to do so. Here are a few examples of how building near a drain field could potentially cause a problem.
Problems Building Near a Drain Field
- An in-ground pool will more than likely need a permit to be built, but it is important that it is kept away from your drainfield. The most obvious problem would be cutting into your drainfield. But even getting too close can compact the surrounding soils and decrease the drain field’s life expectancy.
- An above ground pool adds some weight to the soil. When it drains out it will seep down into the drainfield adding a good bit of water.
- Many times we will see sheds placed on top of leach fields. There is a chance the weight of the shed can cause the some of the soils to compact, but it also invites traffic from machinery.
- Larger sheds and pole barns should definitely be kept off of drainfields. They are certainly heavy enough to cause problems. They are also big enough to hold heavy vehicles that will only add to the damage.
- Some people will plant gardens on top of the drain field. Make sure you are not planting anything with large enough roots to get down into the pipes. There is typically 2 feet of soil cover, but this can vary. It’s best to be cautious and place the garden somewhere else if in doubt.
- Fence posts tend to be placed around gardens. Make sure the posts are not too big that they are digging down into the drain field stone (aggregate).
- Any large posts or poles that are placed too deep can cause a problem. This can be from decks, flagpoles, and large fences
- Replacing a septic tank can cause a leach field to become damaged. The large trucks needed to bring in the concrete septic tank will harm the soils. A plastic septic tank is a great way to avoid the problem altogether. They are light enough to be carried by hand.
Now that you know what risks are involved with building near your septic system, we can get into how to prevent any problems from rising. The best form of prevention is to know where each component of your system is placed.
How to Locate Your Septic System
It’s easy to lose track of where your system is located. Many people only see the whole system during the home buying inspection process. If you still have access to your report there may be information on its location, or even a 2-D sketch of the system’s layout. We will take pictures with our report to give a better reference for the system components’ placement.
If you no longer have your report, you can always have someone come out and locate your system. This will not only be helpful for construction but is needed for proper maintenance.
Taking precaution and a little bit of common sense will go a long way when doing any building near a septic tank and drain field.
If you have any questions feel free to reach out to us in the comment section or on our facebook page.