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Septic and Sewer Maintenance 101

How to Maintain Septic and Sewer Systems

Nobody likes dealing with sewage, but in order to prevent the worst of it, you will want to remember a couple of maintenance tips:

  • For a typical septic system, schedule professional maintenance at least every 3 years.
  • For alternative septic systems, schedule professional maintenance once a year.
  • Annual plumbing maintenance is recommended regardless of if you have a septic system or not.
  • Septic tank pumpings are typically needed every 2-5 years. By scheduling regular maintenance, you’ll be able to tell how your septic system is behaving and whether or not you need to schedule professional pumping or not.
  • Don’t plant trees or plants with long roots near any sewer lines. All landscaping should be done at least 10 feet away from all sewer lines to prevent root intrusions.
  • Contact a professional plumber as soon as you detect a problem with your plumbing system

How Does a Septic System Work?

The typical septic system has three main parts:

  • Pipe from home
  • Septic Tank
  • Drainfield

Parts of a septic tank - septic and sewer maintenance

Source: Wikimedia Commons

After being treated by your septic tank, the wastewater travels to the drainfield for further treatment. Since septic systems require large drainfields, they are usually not found in densely built areas.

If there is a problem with your septic tank or your drainfield gets overloaded with too much wastewater, sewage can make its ways to the ground surface or create backups in plumbing fixtures within the home. Many times, a backup drainfield is needed for when the main drainfield fails.

As a homeowner, you are responsible for maintaining your septic system. Protect your home and septic system by learning how to be a responsible septic tank owner.

Sewage System Warning Signs

Since your plumbing and septic systems are hidden, they are often neglected by homeowners. Luckily, there are ways to tell if you have a problem with your main sewer line.

If you have a main sewer line clog, this can cause raw sewage to back up into other drains in your home, causing extensive damage and a very uncomfortable situation for all household members.

  1. Sewage Smells

The most obvious sign that you have a problem with your septic tank is the smell of sewage around your septic tank, drainfield, or even inside your house. You may notice sink and toilet drains running slowly.

  1. Sewage Backups

Sewage that backs up into the yard or into the home is a clear sign of a septic tank failure.

Call a qualified plumber before the situation gets worse. Generally, a major repair can be prevented by clearing a blockage, pumping the septic tank, or fixing a break.

  1. Clogged Toilet

If you have a toilet or toilets that back up and gurgle, you could have a major problem. For instance, if the toilet backs up when you are draining your bathtub or if your shower drain gurgles and flows with water when you flush the toilet, this is a major red flag that something is wrong—most likely, a problem with your main sewer line.

  1. Water Backing Up Into Sinks

If you flush the toilet and notice water backing up into your bathroom sink or water pooling around a floor drain in your basement, you most likely have a min line obstruction that requires immediate attention.

Sewage systems can leak sure to pipe breaks cause by root intrusion and erosion. If you notice a break in your sewer main, contact a qualified plumber immediately.

Public sewer systems’ local service mains (via manholes in public streets) can break or become clocked from tree roots, fats/grease, and debris. Even though you are not directly responsible for the public sewer system, it’s important to do your part to reduce the chance of public sewer problems.

Don’t flush these items down the toilet, including so-called “flushable” wipes, one of the main causes of “fatbergs,” a combination of congealed fat and items that don’t break down, like wet wipes.

Who is responsible for a backup in the sewer system? 

If there is a backup in the sewer system between the sewer main in the street and the homeowner’s property line, the city is responsible. If the backup occurs between the property line and the house, it is the homeowner’s responsibility.

What is the difference between on-site septic systems versus public sewer service? 

Owners of private septic systems are responsible for the replacement and maintenance of their own private wastewater collection system.

Customers of the public sewer system pay for the wastewater utility to collect and treat their sewage at a central treatment facility.


Contact Gold Medal Service to ask your questions, provide feedback, and schedule service.

We 24-hour service and customer support so even if you experience a plumbing emergency in the middle of the night, we’re there for you.

Call us today at (877) 803-0511 or fill out our online request form.

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