17333 Van Buren Boulevard, Riverside, CA 92504
Call us Today (951) 780-5922

If you have recently moved into a home with a septic system for the first time, you may be uncertain as to what that entails. Most homeowners and renters are used to homes that are hooked up to a sewer system. Septic tank systems fall under the responsibility of the homeowner, so there are a few things to bear in mind. That means professional maintenance, vigilant care, and proper treatment. The main benefits of proper maintenance are cost savings and environmental protection.

New septic tank owners should familiarize themselves with some basic guidelines to ensure they understand their new system.


How Your Septic System Is Set Up

It is very useful to know how your septic system is set up to function. Knowing the basic setup will help you better understand how and why it is important to take care of it.


Septic Tank

After passing from the house, the wastewater collects in the septic tank. Septic tanks typically range from 1,000 to 2,000 gallons and are made of concrete, heavy plastic or metal. High-quality concrete tanks are the most durable and should last 40 years or more if they are not damaged. Many modern tanks have two chambers to increase the efficiency.


Drain Field

Also known as a leach field or absorption field, the drain field is a portion of area that is attached to a septic tank for an individual home and makes up the final processing step or sewage treatment in a septic system. The drain field is a network of underground pipes containing many small holes that works as a disposal filter for contaminants and liquids after they have been anaerobically digested and pass through the septic tank. The leach field will typically contain a system of trenches and gravel (or another porous material) covered in soil.

The main purpose of the drain field is to disperse liquids from the septic tank in an area of soil by means of drains which eventually gets spread out in the large area known as the leach field. When the liquid waste passes through the leach field that is made up of earth, gravel and other similar material, it gets all the organic matter removed and transformed into useful substances.

A properly designed drain field considers hydraulics so the material can properly move through it, and catabolism for the biochemical oxygen demands of the wastewater.


Two Chambers in a Tank

Inside a septic tank are two chambers divided by a half-wall. As waste comes down the drainpipes and lands in the tank, solid waste falls into the first chamber, while liquid waste continues over the wall and into the liquid chamber. From there, the liquid flows out into the leach fields through the leach pipes.


First Chamber: Where Solids Break Down

Solids that travel down the drainpipe will enter the first chamber and break down. The septic tank is an anaerobic chamber filled with beneficial bacteria and enzymes, and these bacteria and enzymes begin breaking down the solid waste and turning it into liquid. Once it turns to liquid, other solids will displace it and allow it to flow over the half wall into the liquid chamber.


Second Chamber: Liquids

Liquids overflow into the second chamber where bacteria and enzymes break down any additional waste that may exist. However, once the liquid reaches the height of the drain inside the tank, it overflows out into the leach pipes, dispersing into a leach field.

After the wastes are broken down and flow out to the leach field, it drains into the sand and soil, where it will continue to be filtered until it heads back into the water table. This is the reason why properties require perk tests, as the wrong type of soil will not allow the waste to drain properly.


Tips for Septic Tank Owners

If you are a new septic tank owner, there are a number of things you can do to ensure that it remains in proper working order.

1. Get a Professional Inspection

If you are buying a home and it has a septic tank, make sure it is professionally inspected before you move forward. Important information to gather includes the age and location of the septic tank, including any installation and maintenance details. Some signs of a damaged septic tank system are damaged vents, soggy lawns, and odors.

Have your septic tank inspected by a licensed professional every 3 years. Schedule septic tank pumping whenever necessary or every 3 – 5 years. Alternative septic systems should be inspected annually.


2. Know Where Your Tank Is Located

This may appear to be obvious, but we receive a lot of calls for septic maintenance from homeowners who are unaware of the location of the tank opening. Ask the current owners for the septic records or house blueprints when you are looking to buy a house so you can learn more about the system. Knowing where the system is located is also very important if you want to build an addition to the house. Also, since the roots of trees and shrubs can seriously harm the pipes in your septic system, you should also exercise caution when landscaping in the area around your system.

3. Septic Tank Pumping

Pumping your septic tank is non-negotiable if you want it to retain its function and lifespan. It is also crucial for keeping septic waste from backing up into your house or in your yard. Septic pumping involves removing the waste that cannot dissolve in the tank. This solid layer of scum and sludge builds up over time and will lead to a septic failure and backup if ignored. How often your septic tank needs to be pumped depends on the size of your tank, number of occupants in your household and details of your water usage. In general, septic tanks are pumped every 3 to 5 years.

4. Keep Track of Services

Most septic reviews incorporate septic tank pumping, so you realize the tank was empty before you moved in. If you are renting and do not know when your system was last serviced or if you are not sure if the tank was pumped out, we highly recommend scheduling a site visit with a septic company to have the system looked at by a professional and pumped out if necessary.

5. Watch What Goes Down Your Drains

One of the most important factors for maintaining the health and effectiveness of your septic system is to watch what goes down your drains.

You may already know not to pour chemicals, grease, oil pesticides, gasoline, antifreeze, or paint down your drains, but read on to find out about the things you may not know about.



You should always be cautious about what gets flushed, even if you have a new septic tank. Avoid flushing anything other than human waste and toilet paper. This includes items such as baby wipes, Q-tips, facial tissues, feminine hygiene products, condoms, cigarette butts, and cat litter. If these materials enter the tank, they may not break down adequately or could clog up pipes leading to the drain field.

Do Not Flush Medications: When you need to dispose of medication, whether it is prescription or over the counter, do not flush it down the drain. The bacteria in your septic tank can be harmed or killed by medication, which can cause the system to become less able to process waste from your home. It is important to always take medication to a local pharmacy or other designated drop-off location.

Avoid Harmful Chemicals: To keep your septic system running properly, you must be mindful of the types of chemicals that enter your septic tank. Stay away from products that contain harsh chemicals and compounds such as bleach, oils, solvents, and paint thinners. These can kill off bacteria in the septic tank or clog up pipes.


Laundry Room

Running multiple loads of laundry during the day can put excess strain on your septic system, risking flooding to the drain field. Consider spreading out your washes over the week and switching to a more energy and water efficient washer.

Kitchen Sinks/Garbage Disposal

Grease, oil, chemicals, paint, and other household products separate from the wastewater in your septic tank and eventually need to be properly disposed of. Reduce the amount of scum and sludge that enters your drainage system.

6. Use Water Efficiently

It is essential to manage how much water you use on a daily basis. Excessive usage could cause an overload on the system and lead to backups and other issues with wastewater flow. To reduce the likelihood of this happening, try to spread out water usage over multiple days, adjust water levels on toilets, and invest in low-flow fixtures when possible.

Easy ways to minimize your use of water:

  • Upgrade to low-flow plumbing fixtures and high-efficiency toilets
  • Install or replace faucet aerators
  • Run full loads of dishes and laundry
  • Periodically test your plumbing system for leaks
  • Take shorter showers and be mindful of water waste
  • Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances
  • Only use toilets for flushing toilet paper and human waste
  • Sign up for a plumbing maintenance plan or remember to schedule professional plumbing maintenance every year

7. Avoid Building, Parking or Driving Above Your Septic Tank or Drain field

Septic systems are designed to work best when wastewater is allowed to spread out and filter through the soil. If you build a driveway, patio, or deck above the tank or drain field it could disrupt this process and lead to backups. The same goes for parking vehicles such as cars, tractors, or recreational vehicles over these areas. Their weight can cause soil to become compacted, leading to a cracked septic tank or an ineffective drain field.

8. Maintain Your Drain field

Your drain field—a component of your septic system that removes contaminants from the liquid that emerges from your septic tank—is an important part of your septic system. Here are a few things you should do to maintain it:

  • Parking: Never park or drive on your drain field.
  • Planting: Plant trees the appropriate distance from your drain field to keep roots from growing into your septic system. A septic service professional can advise you of the proper distance, depending on your septic tank and landscape.
  • Placing: Keep roof drains, sump pumps, and other rainwater drainage systems away from your drain field area. Excess water slows down or stops the wastewater treatment process.


Signs of Problems With Your Septic Tank

Signs of septic tank problems can vary, but here are a few of the most common ones.

  • Foul odors can indicate a septic problem, such as sewage backing up into the home or a clogged or overloaded tank.
  • Slow-draining toilets can also be a sign of septic tank problems, especially if multiple fixtures are affected.
  • Gurgling drains happen when air is released from the pipes that have built up pressure due to blockage in the septic system.
  • Overflowing sewage can be the result of an overloaded tank or a clog in the system that prevents wastewater from leaving the house properly.


Call West Coast Sanitation Today!

Like everything else, your septic system requires regular maintenance. Have it inspected by a septic company near you at least once every year. During a maintenance session, your contractor will pump your septic system, conduct a drain test, and look for & rectify issues.

At West Coast Sanitation, we know that you don’t have time to deal with septic problems. If you think that your system has reached capacity, please give us a call right away. We have professionals ready to answer your questions and get your system working properly again.