Building On A Rural Yard? Watch Out For The Septic System

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If you're new to rural living or not exactly skilled in plumbing, septic systems can be a new and confusing responsibility. Although there are businesses out there to make sure that your septic system is efficient and leak-free, it's hard to understand the importance of maintenance if you've never seen the problem--especially since the system is mostly out of sight and underground. If you're planning on adding driveways, gazebos or any additions to your yard, take a look at why septic tank placement can be a surprising and expensive problem to miss. 

Sinking Ground And Moist Soil

Septic tanks are installed underground and buffered with a few layers of replaced ground called a drain field or leach field. Drain fields are often made of a mixture of gravel, sand, and other porous materials, although some septic systems have their own proprietary mixture with specialized materials.

The materials tend to hold moisture longer than natural ground and are less packed, meaning that even an average day's rainfall can leave the area in a soft and squishy state. With more drastic rains, just walking over the drain field results in sinking feet, although it's hard to tell the difference between a drain field and a really soft, muddy area if you don't have experience living with a septic system.

A corroded or otherwise damaged septic tank can create a biological hazard if not contained, which is what the drain field is designed to handle. Instead of poisoning groundwater and destroying vegetation, the drain field absorbs any leaking substances and allows time for a problem to be discovered and a maintenance team to be called. If you're performing, at least, annual inspections on the septic tank, a lot of the septic damage is likely to be caught in time.  

Building On Or Near A Drain Field

Because of the moist and sinking state of a drain field, placing stationary, heavy object on top of the drain field area can lead to disaster--a problem that happens all too often simply because a renter, new homeowner or visitor doesn't know of the drain field's dangers.

A visitor who parks their car over a drain field may not notice an immediate problem. If they're staying overnight or for a few days on a rainy day, they may wake up to one or more tires sinking slowly into the ground. Thankfully, a driver can try to slowly drive out of the muck (and hopefully not spin the tires in haste) or be towed away. Permanent structures aren't so simple.

Pouring a concrete or asphalt driveway over a septic system drain field may result in sinking concrete over time--even more if cars are parked near the drain field area on a regular basis. If you plan on building a porch, gazebo or other structure, the posts and foundation can sink into the ground slowly. The entire structure may not sink so deep that the ground engulfs it, but the leaning, uneven position can make enjoying your new design difficult.

Before performing any construction in a rural area, be sure to contact a septic system maintenance professional. It's likely that you have a septic tank and either weren't told about it or didn't understand the significance of the issue immediately. Septic system maintenance professionals can find the drain field, mark safe areas, perform maintenance on potential problems with the septic tank or even install a new system.