How Long Should a Septic Tank Leach Field Last?
The lifespan of a septic tank leach field can vary due to many factors. A well-built and well-maintained leach field should last 20-25 years. It may last for 50 years or longer. A leach field could outlast multiple owners of a house or property.
Events such as natural disasters and catastrophic weather can suddenly damage leach fields. Neglect or other man-caused issues can damage and shorten the life of a leach field and septic system.
What does a leach field do?
A leach field may go by other names such as drain field, seepage bed or leaching bed. Every septic system has a leach field. Every system needs a drainage area, such a field or bed, for waste and wastewater to drain into.
A well-designed and well-built system has a leach field with many aspects taken into account for longevity, safety and the environment. The specifics of the soil and ground, the groundwater level, the terrain and slope, the size of the property, the usage of the septic system and drainage ability of the terrain are all important.
For instance, take a leach field and septic system serving a large home with a family living in it everyday. Everyone in the home uses the bathrooms, kitchen and everything frequently which runs into and out of the system. By contrast, consider a home which is seasonal, or with one or two people living in it. The wear of the busier system will likely be more. Proper design and construction of everything which goes into a leach field, then good maintenance over the years, will be more important.
More factors to consider are:
- A leach field is made up of lines, trenches and boxes to distribute effluent material going out from the septic tank. The size of the field should fit the size, demand and usage of the property’s septic system.
- How much topsoil or gravel should cover the field and its parts? Sunlight should go through to the underground parts to help evaporation and healthy bacteria keep the field draining property and safely.
- How will the surrounding environment be important? For the draining area itself, is the land generally drier or wetter? Is the area often humid? Is the land on raised ground, or on sandy or rocky soil? Are there areas to note or protect, or which could affect drainage nearby? You might need to be aware of waterways, swampy areas, property lines and lands protected by law.
Mistakes and what to avoid with a leach field
Starting in the house, the same things which can damage or clog a pipe, a tank or anything in a system can harm a leach field fast or over long periods of time. In the span of years or decades, this can wind up shortening the life of a leach field.
Improper use of toilets and sinks can put material into a field which it’s not built for. Using harsh, improper or chemically destructive cleaners or products, especially if it’s repeated use, can damage parts with corrosion. A leach field runs shallow under the soil of your yard or property. Consider the effect of what you’re dumping into it. In general, avoid putting plastics, paper towels, diapers, large quantities of pet food or pet waste, sanitary wipes and cigarette butts into a septic system.
You should not park vehicles, drive vehicles over or put heavy objects or items on part of a leach field. The parts and waste material are usually not deep underground. If gravel, sandy soil or topsoil is used, any shifting or wear can cause damage or limit the efficiency from the original construction.
Take care when planting trees or doing any other excavation, digging or planting near the leach field. Tree roots can do damage over time. Again, these activities may accidently shift the original soil, slope and drainage ability of the field.
How do you know it’s time to repair or replace a leach field?
A professional should check a septic leach field the same way, and with the same schedule, as a tank or other parts of a septic or plumbing system. It should be inspected anytime a tank needs pumped.
It’s inevitable a leach field will need major renovation or fail in the course of 20, 30, 40 or more years. Natural causes of damage, be it a sudden disaster or over a long span of wear and tear, are normal.
Odors can be a sign of a clogged or backed up leach field, which can happen just as it happens to a tank or pipe. As waste goes through the system, some solids will build up in a field, even one maintained well. The amount of use can change as the property, or the residents, change from when the field was first built. Water levels and soil conditions can change over time.
If you see or smell wet spots in a yard it could be a leach field failing or deteriorating. More signs could be slow drainage, a tank backing up or clogging more often, a tank needing pumping more often than usual maintenance, more problems or smells when it rains, a sinking spot in a yard or greener grass in a spot or area of a yard.
A leach field’s span, just as the life of your septic system or any major part of a home, depends on how it’s used and how it’s cared for. It’s smart to stay up to date on its conditions with professionals as much as possible. Sure, there are some events no property owner can predict or control, but being aware, with good maintenance, can prevent many issues.
South End Plumbing specializes in clogs, so remember, we are just a click away. We also specialize in leak detection – give us a call! South End Plumbing is one of the only companies that will give you a free estimate. Call us at 704-919-1722 or fill out the form online to schedule a visit.