Frequently Asked Questions about Septic Services

Below are some common questions asked by homeowners who have septic systems. If you have more questions or want to schedule septic pumping or maintenance services, contact Able & Ready Septic Tank Service today.


How often should I have my tank pumped?

The frequency of pumping is a great question. The rule of thumb is 2-5 years, but the bottom line is it depends on use. Not all waste is organic; the sludge layer in the bottom of the tank contains a lot of dirt from clothes washing that will never decompose, and the scum layer contains grease from dishwashing that will float forever in the tank. When either of these layers encroaches on the baffles (threaten to leave the tank by underflowing or overflowing the baffles), or when the tank volume has been reduced, your drain field is at risk and the tank needs to be pumped.


Therefore, cooking, washing and other variable habits make the pumping frequency uncertain. If you move into a home formerly lived in by another family, always have the tank pumped immediately, and have the pumper check the condition of the tank and the baffles (plastic or concrete barriers that block the outlet from scum). Once you have lived in the home for two years, have the tank checked by a licensed pumper; it may or may not need pumping. He or she will check the depth of both layers. Either the scum layer or the sludge layer will build up faster on the safe zone (roughly three inches of free space above the outlet baffle of the tank, and 12 inches of free space below the outlet baffle is required in a healthy tank). You will now know how often to have the tank pumped.


If I’m not having a problem with my septic system, do I still have to have it pumped out?

Yes, Yes, Yes. One of the most important things is providing your septic system with the proper maintenance. Just think: you would never drive your car 50,000 miles without changing the oil. When your tank is pumped out, the scum and sludge layers should be removed, allowing the leaching portion of your system to take a brief break from receiving any liquid.


Exactly what causes a septic system to fail?

Most septic systems will fail eventually. If properly maintained, most systems have a useful life of 20-30 years, under the best conditions. Eventually, the soil in the leaching facility becomes clogged with organic material, making the system unusable.


Many other factors can cause the system to fail before the end of its natural lifetime. Pipes blocked by roots, soils saturated by high water tables, crushed distribution pipes, improper location, exceeding design capacity, poor original design, or poor installation can all lead to major problems.


By far the most common reason for early failure is improper maintenance by homeowners. When a system is poorly maintained – not pumped out on a regular basis – solids build up in the septic tank, then flow into the leaching facility, clogging it beyond repair. The use of chemical or enzyme additives, which are prohibited in many towns, is not a substitute for regular pumping. It is essential that septic systems be pumped every 2 to 5 years, depending on size and use.


My backyard has a spot that is overly wet with a blackish slime. What does this mean?

A mushy spot in the vicinity of your field – particularly during the dry season – could be a warning sign of a plugged-up or failing field. Call a reputable septic cleaning service as soon as possible


I hear that it is unsafe to flush certain products. I use a lot of cleaners. Do they hurt my system?

Overabundances of commonly used home products that will kill vital bacteria necessary for proper tank operation are toilet cleaners, detergents, and bleach. Never dispose of acids, polishes, antibiotics, caustic drain cleaners, oil or paint in your tank. Also detrimental are feminine products, condoms, kitty litter, cigarette butts and prescription drugs.


I have seen products on the internet that unclog and prolong the life of my field. Do you recommend any?

Our company does not promote any of these products. These products tend to overstimulate bacterial activity and this alone can do harm to the natural action occurring in the system. This is a personal opinion, as we are firm believers of regular maintenance schedules and the natural anaerobic breakdown which happens within a septic tank. As many of these products have originated out of Canada, they are not recommended by any Canadian authorities. We do recommend the natural septic starter recipe found on this page for low-occupancy dwellings that are not producing enough bacteria for natural breakdown.


I smell septic in the house. Does that mean it is time to pump?

Septic odours do not indicate that it is time to pump your tank.


A septic odour inside the house could be contributed to one or several things. Make sure that all traps (drains) have water in them. When a sink, shower or toilet is not used for an extended period of time, the trap could dry up, allowing the septic gases to enter the house back through the dried trap. If a sink, shower or toilet has not been used, allow the water to run for several minutes.


Another cause for the septic odour to be in the house is the gasket/seal (wax ring) around the bottom of the toilet. Check to see if gasket/seal is broken (sniff around bottom of toilet); if broken, contact us. If you are a handy man or woman, you may choose to make the repairs yourself. It is a relatively simple repair.


If you get a septic odour outside, it could be coming from the septic tank, the vent pipe on the roof or the vent pipe at the end of your leach field (if you have one). Septic gases can and will escape out of any small opening. To eliminate an odour from the septic tank, keep caps securely fastened on all stand pipes, monitor tubes and cleanouts. Caps on all pipes also keep rocks, sticks and debris from being dropped in, causing blockages. If odour is in the air, it could be coming from the vent pipe on the roof (over the bathroom). This pipe vents the septic gases from the house out through the roof.


Septic Starter Recipe

This process will help promote bacterial breakdown of solids when there are not enough occupants to produce needed bacterial levels:

  • Purchase One Pound of Frozen Yeast
  • Cut into 8 Equal Pieces. Wrap 7 Individually and Keep in Freezer
  • Thaw 8th Piece Completely, Add 1 Tsp of Sugar and 1 Cup of Warm Water. Allow to Become Frothy
  • Flush Down Toilet; Repeat Monthly


If you have questions not answered here, contact Able & Ready Septic Tank Service and we’ll be happy to help.

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