Is My Drain Field is Failing?

How to Know if Your Drain Field is Failing and What Steps Come Next

The drain field is the portion of your septic system where the system drains the liquid into the soil.  Sometimes these are called leach fields, weeping beds, other systems use Sand Mounds or Cesspools, but they basic idea is the same for each design.  There are tiny perforations in the lines or walls that allow liquid to drain into the soil to be absorbed and eliminated.  Overtime, these section of the septic system becomes saturated with organic build up and salt hard pan and begins to restrict drainage.

Many homeowners make the mistake of thinking that just because your drain field has become sluggish, you must replace the drain field.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Often times septic contractors, the same ones that come to pump your tank will inform homeowners that their drain field has failed, and that there only option is to spend $4,500 – $20,000 to have the drain field replaced.  Surprisingly, homeowners agree and move forward with the massive expense without ever actually verifying if the drain field has failed or is beyond restoration.

The truth is, unless your pipes have become crushed or broken there is the ability to improve the performance of your septic system.  Septic Shock Treatments have the ability to liquefy the build up in your system and restore proper drainage within your septic system.  This is not an instant or overnight fix, however.  Consumers should expect the restoration process to take anywhere from 3-6 weeks for the treatment to work its way through the system and complete the restoration.

How to Check Your Drain Field for Problems

If your drain field is having trouble, it will give you some indication.  Perhaps you will hear gurgling in the drain as you empty out a bath, or when you are doing laundry.  These noises are an indication that something is amiss.  The system is looking for somewhere to put the liquid and the gurgling noise suggests it is having a hard time.

If there is no gurgling, that does not mean you are in the clear.  Your system may be flooding or having runoff outside that will continue to become more and more problematic.

Take the time to walk the drain field or the area of the yard that contains the drain field.  Examine the soil in the area.  Does it seem to be firm and similar to the areas of the yard without septic drainage?  If the soil is softer or of a different consistency than other parts of the yard you need to take a closer look.  Take a stick and probe the area and look to see if the soil is moist or appears to be a grey blackish consistency.  If so, this is Bio Mat.  Bio Mat is a collection of organic waste particles that accumulate at the soil line after draining from your septic system.  Over the years this can grow rather thick and it restricts the drainage of your system.

Just because you have Bio Mat or Hard Pan does not mean you need to replace the drain field, but it DOES mean you have to do something.  Septic Shock Treatments are one alternative that work well with a little patience, although digging up and replacing the field will also do the trick.  Septic Shock treatments, however, cost pennies on the dollar and are a better alternative for most budgets.

Choosing the Right Septic Treatment for You

Septic Treatments come in different strength and sizes – choose carefully

Your septic system is making it difficult for you to ignore its problems any more.  You are wondering just what you need to do to get things working properly again.  Perhaps, a septic contractor has given you a quote for the necessary repair work, or maybe you are just doing your homework first.  Either way, you know your septic system needs some help, what do you do next?

The first thing you need to do is to gather some general information about their septic system.  Are you aware of how old the septic system is?  If not, do you know how old the home is?  If you have been living in the home for many years you may have a good understanding of this information, but if you recently purchased a home you may not know every detail about your septic system.  Septic Systems over 10 years old are considered to be ‘old’ in the eyes of the treatments you will need.

Once you have established the general age of the system you can begin to narrow down the treatment options you have for you.  Older systems or systems that are experiencing problems like back ups or flooding in the yard need to look for the ‘Shock’ category of septic treatment.  Those homes that are not dealing with any problems or have been using treatments regularly for the past 2 years can adopt monthly septic “Maintenance” category treatments.

The older your system is, the more likely it is to have build up in the drain field and lateral lines.  Septic systems can work without problems for decades in some instances, however there is always buildup of waste at the soil line and in the lateral lines.  The longer the system runs, the more build up is likely.  If the system is older and you are having some trouble, it is important to understand that using a monthly treatment may not be enough to reverse the extent of the build up common with older systems.

For Systems with No Problems Yet

Your system seems to be working ok.  You are not experiencing any back ups or flooding in the drain field or above the septic tank.  You simply want to make sure you protect yourself and your investment from a potential repair bill that could cost up to $20,000 depending on your location.  You are making the right choice in acting now to protect your system.  You can use regular monthly maintenance treatments for your system.  Be sure to check that the treatments are restorative rather than preventative.  If your system has a few years under its belt, it is best to use ‘restorative’ treatments as they will better reverse the existing build up in the lateral lines and drain field.

For Older Systems or Problematic Systems 

If your system is struggling to keep up with the household water consumption and either gurgles during water use or backs up or floods the yard, your system is showing the signs of its age.  Build up has begun to saturate your drain field and is restricting the amount of water that can be absorbed quickly.  This causes the struggle and back up or flood in the yard.

For your circumstance, you want to find yourself a powerful Shock Treatment designed to restore your drain field and lateral lines.  These treatments may cost a few hundred dollars, around the same price as having the system pumped out, but within a few weeks time they can restore your septic system to the proper performance.

With older systems it is important to adopt a maintenance program following the shock treatment.  Regular use of a monthly treatment will continue to prolong the life of your septic system and protect your wallet from a major expense.

Are Your Household Cleaners Harming Your Septic System?

Household cleaners, hair products and anti bacterial soaps harm septic system

Some news you just don’t want to hear.  The household products that you know and love may actually be hurting the performance of your septic system.  You may not have had a problem yet, but if you own a septic system you are running the risk of a serious headache.  It is important to inform our readers of the day to day products they most commonly use that actually harm the septic system. If a problem has already begun, here are some tips and advice that may make the process a bit easier to handle.

If you look around your home, there are products everywhere that negatively impact your septic system.  There are the obvious, bleach and anti bacterial cleaners.  But any product that is designed to gill germs, any cleaner you use to keep the children germ free has a negative impact once it goes down the drain.  Anti Bacterial hand soaps are extremely common, in fact, many homeowners have one in every bathroom.  How many times a day do they get used?

Laundry Detergent and dish detergent are two of the biggest culprits of harm to the septic system.  Powdered detergents are typically worse as they build up more quickly, but the liquid alternatives also collect.  Anything with that gel like, or waxy consistency will build up in the system.  Shampoos, Conditioners and Body Washes all play a role in slowing down your septic system.

It is very difficult for a household to eliminate all of these products from there life.  BUT, you can do your best to reduce the number of laundry loads that you do, or how often you run the dishwasher half full.  Being aware of the problem may help you reduce the volume of use of these products and in turn, keep more bacteria alive within your septic system.

What to Do if a Problem Already Exists

With any luck, you are reading this information before you are experiencing a problem.  You can reverse the trouble you have started by simply adopting a monthly septic maintenance treatment routine.  These monthly treatments have a boost of bacteria and enzymes to give the system back what it needs to effectively liquefy the waste build up in the septic tank.

If you are not so lucky, then you have found this information after a problem has already begun.  This typically means that the process is a little farther along and has become symptomatic.  The fix is essentially the same, however you need to use a more concentrated, faster acting bacteria to reverse the problem.  These treatments are called Septic Shock Treatments and can be purchased for a few hundred dollars.   Drop them in your system and within just a few weeks time, your system is back to running normally.

Many homeowners do not realize the full impact of the everyday household products they use.  We consider them a part of our lives and parting with them is not always realistic.  Don’t let this fact convince you to risk damaging your septic system.  Replacing them can cost $5,000-$20,000 depending on your system type and county requirements.  A few dollars a month for maintenance, or a few hundred to fix your troubled system is a much more attractive alternative to replacing the system.

Septic System 101

Get a Better Understanding of Your Septic System and How It Works


Septic Systems are not as complicated as you might imagine.  In fact, they are a simple set up that you can effectively manage regardless of your experience level.  You do need to know a few things, but give us ten minutes of your time and we will have you ready.  Everything you need to know about your septic system in one quick, easy to read article.

Let’s start with the name of the systems.  ‘Septic System’ refers to the fact that these systems use naturally occurring bacteria and enzymes to break down and liquefy the solid waste, paper, greases and fats that are present in the system.  This is point number 1.  You need to effectively manage the bacteria in your system.  You can do this by making sure your household cleaners are not designed to kill germs or you can supplement bacteria into your system with the use of monthly septic treatment.

septic systemNow that we understand that septic systems begin and end with bacteria, we need to take a closer look at the septic system itself, so we can get a better understanding of what happens when something goes down the toilet or drains.

As you can see in the image, once the waste leaves your toilet or goes down the drain, it is deposited into the septic tank.  In the Septic Tank, solids are digested (liquefied) by the bacteria and enzymes.  Once liquefied, this effluent (liquid) leaves the tank and travels to the drain field portion of your system.  There, it leaves through perforations in the lines and is absorbed by the soil.

That is how the septic system works, when everything is functioning correctly.  But what happens when bacteria counts drop within the septic tank?  Well the system can no longer breakdown the solid waste and it begins to pile up.  Over time, this build up and particles of the build up make their way into the drain field with the effluent.  It then leaves through the perforations in the lines and is absorbed into the soil.  The soil acts like a natural filter and collects these particles of solid waste and organic material.  Over time this develops into what experts call Bio Mat.

Bio Mat is kind of like a wet sponge, once saturated it restricts the drainage of fluids through the soil in that area.  With time, this build up can completely shut down the systems ability to drain properly, causing you back ups or flooded yards.  All of this because bacteria counts in the septic tank dropped too low, most of the time without the homeowners even knowing their was a problem.

How to Fix a Sluggish Septic System

Fixing a sluggish or failing septic system does not require you to spend thousands of dollars on a septic contractor to replace your drain lines, no matter how many times the contractor may tell you it is the only option.  Truth is that you have a couple options to buy you some time and a couple options to fix the problem all together.

  1.  Replace the Septic Drain Lines.  This is the most expensive option for homeowners.  Quotes can range from $4500-$20,000 to put a new drain field in, depending on your county requirements, etc. Keep in mind, replacing your system will absolutely work and stop the problems, but if you do not correct the issue causing the bacteria counts to drop, you may cause the same issues all over again.
  2. Use Septic Shock Treatments to Open Up Lines – Septic Shock Treatments are powerfully concentrated bacteria and enzymes designed to penetrate the system, spread throughout the drain field and liquefy all of the build up causing your systems sluggishness.  These treatments can cost a few hundred dollars and take 3-5 weeks to work completely, but they will effectively restore your septic system and prolong the life of your drain field.
  3. Regular Pumping – Pumping your septic system is really more a maintenance step than it is a step used to restore the systems performance.  By pumping your tank, you can gain a temporary relief to the problem, however within a months time, the tank will be full again, and the problems persist.  Pumping costs a few hundred dollars per pump out and typically is done every 3 years or so depending on the county requirements from you.
  4. Jet Blasting Drain Lines -Another option your contractor may recommend if replacing the lines is not in your budget is jet blasting the lines.  They apply pressure to the drain lines and force the build up to the end of the lines.  This affects what is in the pipes itself, but not the build up in the soil. Ultimately, this is too is a temporary fix to the problem.  Within a few months time the sluggishness will return along the frustration.

Before you make any decisions regarding the treatment of your septic system, make sure you fully understand the cause of the problem.  Relying on the septic contractor is not always the best idea.  Remember they are directly compensated by your choice, they are not objective and therefore should not be trusted without some verification.

Only you can decide which option is best for your particular situation and budget.  Dollar for dollar, Septic Shock Treatments are the most effective and best overall value for homeowners dealing with septic problems.  Take some time to decide for yourself if a few weeks of time and a few hundred dollars is the right option for you and your septic system.