Caring for your septic tank system

Tips and tricks to be sure you maximize your septic system's efficiency

So, how does a septic system work? A private onsite septic system means that the waste from your home drains (sinks, showers, toilets) goes into a septic tank which retains the solids and lets the effluent flow into the soils on the property.  

Homeowners love that septic systems require very little upkeep but give them monthly savings compared to the cost of city sewer.


In a standard septic tank and drain field system, usually about 40% of the treatment of sewage wastewater occurs in the septic tank, and the remaining 60% occurs in the drain field trenches and surrounding soils.

Properly designed and installed private septic tank and drain field or soak away bed systems are functional and sanitary. Private septic systems serve more homes in the U.S. and many other countries than any other waste disposal method.


In caring for your septic system, we recommend the following homeowner maintenance tips:

If you are new to septic systems, a top priority is to prevent solids from leaving the tank.

You should get your tank inspected and pumped on a regular basis to prevent excessive accumulation of solids in the tank. Under normal conditions, you should have the tank inspected and pumped every 1-3 years.

One Very important tip: tanks should be pumped and inspected through the manhole cover, not the inspection pipe. Your septic contractor should also install an effluent filter in the exit baffle of the tank. Effluent filters stop the larger solids from getting out to the drain field. They are cleaned out every few years when you have your tank pumped. They are usually less than $100.

Effluent filters are cheap insurance and along with a washing machine filter, one of the best things you can do to protect your system.

Use of Household Cleaning Products
Excessive use of these products can contribute to septic system failure. If you do more than five loads of laundry a week containing bleach, problems could arise. Avoid powdered detergents as they contain plastic fillers that can plug up your lines and drain field.

Also be careful with harsh automatic toilet bowl cleaners, which can seriously harm your septic system.

Here are some tips and tricks we have found useful


1.  Divert surface runoff water from roofs, patios, driveways and other areas away from your drain field. 

2.  Have your septic tank pumped regularly. It should also be inspected for leaks, cracks and to make sure the exit baffle is in place. 

3.  Install lint and effluent filters.

4.  Spread out the time between your laundry loads.

5.  Compost your garbage or put it in the trash

1.  Use a garbage disposal.

2.  These appliances normally double the amount of solids added to the tank!

3.  Flush sanitary napkins, disposable diapers or other non-biodegradable products into your system. 

4. Dump solvents, oils, paint thinners, disinfectants, pesticides or poisons down the drain as they can disrupt the treatment process and contaminate the groundwater. 

5. Dig in your drain field or build anything over it. 

6. Drive over your drain field or compact the soil in any way. 

7. Plant trees or shrubbery close to the septic system, because the roots can get in the lines and plug them. Grass is the only thing that should be planted on or near a drain field.

These tips were meant to provide general information and are worded based on our personal experiences combined with online research. We always recommend calling a licensed, trained professional for specifics including warranty information, code requirements, precise instructional information, etc. Since we are a new home builder, some products, materials and processes may change over time and may vary in the different locations we build new homes.

Please refer to your new home warranty paperwork included in your homeowner orientation packet for more information.

More home improvement tips can be found here.

Adams Homes is one of the largest privately-held new home builders in the southeast. Adams Homes has built more than 35,000 new homes since 1991 and builds in seven states including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Discover all Adams Homes communities, model homes and homes for sale anytime on our website, While you're there, explore our mortgage calculator and obtain financing information.

16 thoughts on “Caring for your septic tank system

  1. I appreciate the information on caring for your septic tank system. I agree that one of the best things you can do is to have your tank pumped on a regular basis because it keeps the bigger problems small so you don’t have to deal with them. My sister hasn’t had her tank pumped for as long as she has lived in her home. I will be sure to share this information with her.

  2. My sister recently bought a home with a septic system. She has been asking for advice from her family, but none of us have owned a home that has used this system. I didn’t realize that you should get your tank inspected and pumped every one to three years to make sure everything is in working order. I’ll be sure to tell my sister!

  3. Thanks for the tips for taking care of a septic system. I have never known how to take care of mine, so this is good to read. I will definitely stop using powder detergents with my laundry!

  4. Just to add up, if the tank is the right size for your needs, and if you take care of your drains and your sewer system, you should only need to have the tank pumped every 3-5 years. Consult a plumber if you are not sure.

  5. I didn’t realize that it’s a good idea to have your tank inspected and pumped at least once a year, so I’m glad that you brought that up. I just bought an old home and I think I’m going to have the septic tank inspected because I don’t know when it was last done. I think if I do that now, it will save me time and money later because I don’t want there to be a problem if I don’t do anything now.

  6. I like your tip to have your septic tank inspected regularly for cracks and leaks as well as have it pumped regularly. My drains have been smelling pretty bad lately, and it only just occurred to me that it might be the tank. I should find some septic services to come out and take a look at it.

  7. My uncle just moved to a more rural area, so he has a septic tank. Thanks for pointing out that using your drain disposal can cause your tank to fill up faster and possibly get clogged. These tips will really help my uncle, so I’ll be sure to share them with him.

  8. I had no idea that septic tanks needed to be inspected and pumped every 1-3 years! My husband and I have not had our septic tank cleaned since moving into our new home, and it’s been so long that our toilets are having a hard time flushing completely. We’ll have to find a reliable septic tank cleaning service in our area that can make sure that our tank is efficient and managed so that it stay functioning properly through the years, and so that we get back the water pressure in our home that we’ve been missing.

  9. Thanks for helping me understand that the system should be checked every 1 to 3 years to ensure that there will be no accumulation of solids. I will follow your advice to keep the system in good condition. With that in mind, I will be contacting an expert since we have bee here in this house since 2015 when we bought it.

  10. Thanks for the tip to not use a garbage disposal. I have been using mine and I also had to get my tank pumped more frequently. I also haven’t been checking the chemicals I use to see if they are septic safe. I’ll have to start using these tips to keep my tank in better condition.

  11. Thank you for stating that excessive use of house cleaning can contribute to septic system failure. My husband and I are new homeowners and have no idea what we need to do to properly maintain our septic system. I will definitely keep all of your great tips and information in mind when trying to take proper care of our septic tank.

  12. It makes sense how you said that you should be sure to get your septic tank pumped regularly to avoid buildup. This seems like something that would be really smart because it would allow you to keep your septic tank system clean, and you won’t have to worry about anything flowing back into your home. Hiring a professional would be an excellent idea as well because they would do a thorough job.

  13. I am new to septic systems as my current home has one, my previous one did not. As you said here, it would be best to get it pumped every other year or so. I think I should have this done just to be sure that the previous homeowner didn’t forget.

  14. I’ve done the mistake of using household item. And it severely costed me. Thank god you mentioned it. Good information though. Would incorporate it as much as I can.

  15. Thank you for helping me to understand that it is important to have my septic tank pumped on a regular basis. I imagine that this would help to prevent it from overflowing and causing pipes to burst. I’ll be sure to have my tank pumped at least once every six months from now on.

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