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Installing a septic tank, whether it is part of a new housing property or it is replacing an old system, can be an expensive venture. This is because a septic tank is a large, buried system that is complex and requires regular maintenance over time.

A septic system should not be a deal-breaker, though you might be wondering how long it will last. The short answer is, anywhere from 15 to 40 years. The long answer is that there are many factors that impact the long-term life of your septic system.


How Long Does a Septic Tank Last?

The life expectancy of a septic tank will depend on a couple of factors, including the materials the tank is made from and what conditions it has undergone over the years. Septic tanks are generally made from steel, concrete, or plastic. The average life expectancy of a septic tank is as follows:

  • Steel Septic Tank: 20 to 30 Years Life Expectancy
  • Plastic Septic Tank: 40 Years Life Expectancy
  • Concrete Septic Tank: 40+ Years Life Expectancy

The lifespan assumes basic maintenance procedures have taken place. Additionally, if the septic system itself has not been overloaded with too much groundwater, if no harmful chemicals have been flushed into the tank, and if only one or two people live in the home, then you may be able to extend the life of the system beyond the average lifespan.


How Long Does a Leach Field Last?

A properly designed, installed and maintained field will need to be replaced once every 15 to 30 years. If the field is not designed and constructed adequately or receives poor maintenance, it may need to be replaced before the 15 years. Leach fields should be maintained in a well-ventilated area and should not be located in areas that are exposed to direct sunlight.

Leach-contaminated soil should never be allowed to remain in the field for more than a few days. The field should also be kept clean and free of debris, weeds, and other contaminants that may be present. If a field is contaminated, it should immediately be removed from the property and disposed of in accordance with state and local regulations.


Septic Tank Materials

Septic tanks are most commonly made of steel, plastic, or concrete. Each material has its pros and cons that contribute to how long the septic system is going to last before needing a repair or replacement. But if you are installing a new system, think through your septic tank materials and drain field installation. These sound like basic choices to make, but they can be the difference between a long-lasting, clean-working septic system and broken-down septic which will cause problems and expensive re-installation or repairs in the future.

1. Steel

Steel septic tanks can be expected to last 15-20 years on average. This is the shortest of any of the commonly used materials, a result of the propensity for steel to rust over time. To prolong the life of a steel septic tank, regular maintenance and inspections are very important.

To ensure your steel septic tank lasts as long as possible, you should have it inspected often. A professional can catch rust and other issues before they become more significant problems.


2. Plastic

Plastic septic tanks are cheaper and easier to install than other septic tanks. It is also possible to install a plastic septic tank in a wider variety of places than other tanks.

Plastic septic tanks are relatively crack-resistant due to the flexibility of the material. They are also immune to corrosion, meaning they will not rust like steel options. Because of this, plastic septic tanks can last thirty to forty years if well-maintained.

However, because plastic is less sturdy than other septic tank material alternatives, it can get crushed more easily. If vehicles drive over where your tank is buried, the pressure will likely crush a plastic septic tank. Though crack-resistant, plastic septic tanks are more susceptible to damage than sturdier materials like steel and concrete.


3. Concrete

Compared to other septic tanks, concrete septic tanks last the longest — 40 years or more. If a concrete septic tank is designed properly and installed correctly, you can reasonably expect it to last at least 40 years. With proper care and maintenance, it can even last up to 50 years (that is half a century!). Because of their longevity, concrete septic tanks are very popular.

As long as the tank is built from quality concrete and there is no clogging or rusting in the pipes, a concrete septic tank will last a very long time. Having said that, all types of concrete septic tanks requires periodical inspections, and concrete systems are no different. A septic inspection provides you with a detailed report about the health of your septic system and helps fix minor issues before they turn into huge problems.

Concrete septic tanks are more expensive than other types of septic tanks and sometimes not easy to install. However, their long lifespan makes up for these shortcomings.


Factors That Influence the Longevity of a Septic Tank

Almost 60% of the new homeowners are asking how long septic tanks last before starting septic tank construction. When you have these types of queries in your mind, you have to start with the basics. And you will get a better idea, and an explanation of how long do septic tanks usually last.

This means you should first know the basic factors that influence the septic tank’s longevity.


  • Cleaning Agent and Other Materials

There are some household products that have chemical pollutants that can actually be toxic to the beneficial bacteria in the septic system. So if you are a septic system owner and continue to use such harmful products, then the septic system is probably going to be affected. This means you need to keep in mind the products that you are using in the home will directly impact the overall health and longevity of your septic system


  • Number of People In the Household

The general consensus is that at least 110 gallons of water per bedroom is used every day in the average home. In other words, the more the bedrooms you have, the more wastewater your septic system will have to handle. If the septic tank receives too much water at short intervals, the wastewater might be forced out of the septic tank and into the drain field before the bacteria finish breaking down the organic waste or before the other solids settle down. These solids might, therefore, end up in the drain field which can cause the system to fail.


  • Soil Quality

The quality of soil will determine how durable your septic tank is. For instance, acidic groundwater can corrode a concrete septic tank. This is why an engineer should inspect your property in order to recommend the best septic system to install.

The 20-30 year period is the national lifespan average of septic systems. However, it is possible for the tanks to last for even up to 50 years or more depending on the soil conditions and how well the owner takes care of it.


Ways You Can Lengthen the Life of a Septic Tank

It may seem that you face a rather daunting challenge in keeping your septic system operational. But the truth is that there are things you can do to both keep your septic tank functioning and lengthen its lifespan. What follows are a few tips that will help you maintain the health of the septic tank.


  • Regular Pumping

Septic tanks are essentially underground storage containers that hold solid wastes until they’re able to naturally break down.  This waste is then able to escape your tank by filtering through the soil in your yard as processed water, also known as effluent, where nature breaks it down even further.  The process is simple enough. But, over time solid waste that has not yet been able to decompose properly will begin to build up at the bottom of your tank. This buildup can then fill your tank until it eventually escapes, and you’re left with wastewater openly in your yard.  Needless to say, this is not an ideal situation and why it is so important to have a professional pump out your septic tank every few years.


  • Limit Disposal

When you flush things down the toilets and drains, the solids sink to the bottom of the septic tank. Many solid objects can damage the septic tank, including food, baby and wet wipes, condoms and feminine products, grease and oil, dental floss, diapers, cotton swabs and balls, tobacco products and ashes, napkins and paper towels, medication, cat litter, and toilet tissue that is not septic safe.


  • Treatment Products

You can purchase products at a local retail store that help the septic tank to convert the wastewater into clean water for the drain field faster. Such products break down the unwanted materials inside the tank without causing damage or harm. For homes with one or two people living inside while having a large septic tank outside, this may extend the life of the tank considerably. You should pour the recommended amount of these products into the septic tank on a regular basis. Be sure to first discuss this with your septic contractor and/or review your septic system’s owner manual.


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.