How to find your Septic Tank at Home

How to find your Septic Tank at Home

Have you ever stopped to wonder what happens to the stuff you flush down the toilet?
Kind of gross to think about, right?

If you’re conjuring up images of cobwebby crawlspaces with lots of creepy-crawly unmentionable creatures sliding, slithering, creeping, or crawling over crusty, rusty, ooey-gooey piping which is oozing out slimy goo from every joint, you may not be too far off. I hope you are. Especially if I’m the lucky guy you call to come fix your toilet that just doesn’t want to flush.

That’s why I want to help teach you how to find your septic tank. If your toilet, sink, or bathtub begins to gurgle, burp, belch, or starts emitting other kinds of strange noises or odors, (Or even worse, Liquids!), don’t panic. Just call 911 and calmly ask for help.

Or better yet, read this blog to find out where in the earth your septic tank might be hiding.

Septic tanks are known for their uncanny abilities to win most games of hide-and-seek with the average human competitor.

Many are the embarrassed humans who have endured the questioning stares, or peeking through the blinds by neighbors who watch with growing concern as they wander aimlessly around the yard, peering behind the bushes, prodding under the flowers, kneeling for a better look under the back deck, gingerly poking at the driveway, all while calling out “Here septic tanky tanky tanky!” And they wonder who to call for help when, after hours spent poking, prodding, stroking, and calling, the neighbor shakes his fist at the sky and disappears into the house muttering and shaking his head, only to reappear a few minutes later and begin to repeat the process with the same results.

The good news is…I can give you a few tips that may help you win the game on how to find your septic tank, gain the respect of your neighbors, and quite possibly turn you into the neighborhood expert on Septic Tank Locating!

Contrary to popular belief, septic tanks Usually do not hide in attics, basements, or any of the many closets you may have in your home.

We will start with the easiest scenario first.

Grab your favorite drink and relax in your favorite spot for a minute. Now gradually start your normal brain functions, but direct them towards your yard. Yes, that’s right, your yard. Forget all about the toilet. Or sink. Or tub. Or whatever it is that is
the root of that panic rising in your chest.  Your yard.

Septic tanks will usually be located in one of your yards. One of the first clues will be the location of your well. Your well? Yes, your well.

The septic tank should not be in close proximity to your well.

So wherever your well is located, you can rule out that area first. Your septic tank will likely be on one of the other sides of the house.

Now that we have ruled out the area with the well, let’s think of some other things. Septic tanks are normally installed with their tops buried under the surface of the ground, usually submerged at least 12 inches or so. Sometimes the depth can be much greater, or a little less. Often there will be a plastic access tube or a concrete riser structure which extends from the top of the tank to the ground surface to allow access for the tank to be emptied by a Septic Pumping company…AKA Shankster Bros.

Many septic tank installers will attempt to blend these access risers into the surrounding landscaping so they don’t create an ugly eyesore.

So the next step is to go over your yard in your mind, searching for any round, plastic lids. These may be black or green and may be from 10 inches to 24 inches in diameter. Secondly, if that comes up negative, think about any round, square, or rectangular concrete lids that may be in your yard or landscaping. Often these will be nearly flush with the surface of the ground so that a lawnmower or rake could go right over the top of it without damaging it.

Start in the areas of your yard closest to your house, and work outwards from the perimeter of your house. Usually, the septic tank access will not be closer than 10 feet to your house, but sometimes in the case of an older home or a later addition to the home, they may be closer.

If you have not been able to locate the septic tank yet, we may need to leave the couch, and go downstairs. Hopefully, you have a basement. Otherwise, you may need to peek in the crawlspace. If your house has no basement or crawlspace, we will use some other clues.

Now that you are in the basement or crawlspace, try to identify the main drainage pipes that carry the wastewater from all your bathrooms and kitchen. These should all converge into one larger pipe, (Usually 4″ in diameter), and exit the house through one of the walls. Identify which wall the pipe exits, and try to estimate the approximate location and the direction the pipe is going outside your house. Now go outside.

Check the area where the pipe comes out of the house. There may be a PVC pipe extending to the surface, with a threaded cleanout cap on it. If you find this, you’re well on the way to victory.

If your house is built on a slab, with no basement or crawlspace, look at the roof. Look for a vent pipe coming out of the roof. Often the piping inside your house will have a vent that runs straight up, all the way through the roof, and sticks out the top. If you locate that vent, it may give you an idea where the piping is exiting the house.

Now continue outward from the house a few feet, looking for that round, square, or rectangular lid. If you can’t find it, look for an area in the yard that may be slightly sunken. Sometimes skillful installers may use round or square patio stones to conceal the access port. If you see one of those, you might try checking under there in case it is covering the access.

If you have been experiencing problems with the toilet or other fixtures draining, you may also want to look for an area that is more damp or wet than the rest of the yard. This could be where your tank is hiding. If all of these tips have not brought you to victory, and you start to notice your neighbors peeking through the blinds with those worried looks that neighbors are so prone to….give us a call!

We have found septic tanks in many strange and unpredictable places. Here’s hoping you win the game on how to find your septic tank. Here tanky, tanky, tanky! If you need to schedule a septic tank cleaning, pumping, or inspection, don’t hesitate to call Shankster Bros at (260)-982-7111. any time.

Can Septic Tank Additives Do More Harm Than Good?

Can Septic Tank Additives Do More Harm Than Good?

Bottom line: nothing is as good for your septic system upkeep as regular professional pumping, inspection, and maintenance. However, some homeowner-directed, off-the-shelf septic tank additives can help your septic system maintain a basic level of health and performance, in certain circumstances.

We suggest that you only use a hardware store/DIY additive if you’ve already checked with a professional septic inspector, and never to treat an active septic tank emergency.

That said, here are the key differences in your common homeowner additives:

Biological additives

Biological additives are made of natural compounds, usually packed with bacteria and enzymes. The idea for these additives is “insurance” for concerned septic owners, making sure that your system has the bacteria needed to function properly. But, unless your system has sat unused for several months, there isn’t a reason to add bacteria or enzymes, because your system is producing those elements naturally from the matter from your drainpipes.

Chemical additives

Chemical additives are what they sound like: chemicals used to break down solid matter and remove clogs. However, these chemicals are obviously not natural or organic and will impede the breakdown of the matter in your system with bacteria-killing chemicals. These artificial additives can also be harmful to your local environment and groundwater.

Basically, while it’s tempting to purchase a “cheap and easy” DIY solution at your local hardware store, you might be buying a placebo instead of a real asset to your system’s health. Septic systems are incredibly well-designed and should run smoothly with little interference, assuming they are used properly and cleaned on schedule. As always, check back on our past blog content for more best practices, tips, tricks, and solutions for common septic system questions.

The important thing to remember is that your septic system can last for many years, without any septic tank additives or headaches, if you care for it properly and stay aware of septic system health and maintenance. If you need to schedule septic tank cleaning, pumping, or inspection, don’t hesitate to call Shankster Bros. at any time.

What Things Should I Never Put Down the Drain?

What Things Should I Never Put Down the Drain?

This is a common question we hear often, and it’s not only important for those with septic systems. All of us should be intentional about what we put down our household drains, as the use of hazardous chemicals, bio-hazards, and products like oil or gas can make a significant negative impact on the local environment and groundwater.

But these concerns are even more valid with a septic system, as the monetary and environmental costs fall to the septic system owner if the system fails or becomes compromised.

So, here’s our shortlist of things to never put down your drain and into your septic system.

Solid waste. While it’s OK to use a garbage disposal occasionally with a septic system, it’s unwise to rely on it too heavily. Avoid solid food waste if possible, even small pieces of solid waste such as coffee grounds.

Chemicals. Bleach and other intense household cleaners can kill the healthy bacteria in your septic tank and can cause harm to your system. Consider switching to more Earth and septic-friendly cleaners such as castile soap or essential oils.

Too much water. Dishwashers and washing machines are incredible time-saving tools but should be used wisely. Load your appliances fully before running and avoid running too frequently in a 24-hour period to avoid overloading your septic drain field.

Grease or fat. Washing grease down the drain is an easy solution, but it can cause headaches later. Scrape excess fat off of cooking pans and into the trash to avoid clogs, slowdowns, or septic system overloads.

The important thing to remember is that your septic system can last for many years if you care for it properly and stay aware of septic system health and maintenance. If you need to schedule a septic tank cleaning, pumping, or inspection, don’t hesitate to call Shankster Bros at (260)-982-7111. any time.

Why Do Septic Systems Fail and How to Prevent Problems?

Why Do Septic Systems Fail and How to Prevent it?

Septic systems fail, most often, because the owners of the system don’t know how it works or why it matters.

Septic systems create an organic relationship between water, soil, and bacteria that naturally and effectively disposes of the waste and excess water coming from your home. This is an amazing and environmentally friendly way to handle the convenience of a modern, well-plumbed building. However, there are a few things that can go wrong – some caused by human inexperience or carelessness, and some by nature.

Here are the top 6 reasons we see septic systems fail:

  1. Tree roots or other organic growth. Excessive organic growth from your yard or pasture can interfere with your drain field or the plumbing from building to tank but is usually easily fixed once discovered.
  2. Solid materials in the tank. Flushing feminine products, baby wipes, and bits of food or other solids can seriously back up your septic tank. If you can avoid using a garbage disposal and flushing such items, do so, but if you occasionally run your disposal or have accidentally flushed some solid waste products, simply pump your septic tank a bit more often to be sure it’s not causing back-ups.
  3. Excess water use. Do a load of laundry per day rather than 10 loads on the weekend. Try to limit long showers and don’t leave the water running when not in use – using just the amount of water you need will help your drain field to not overload.
  4. Harsh bacteria-killing chemicals. Natural cleaners and septic-friendly soaps and paper products help ensure that the bacteria in your tank are alive, healthy, and doing its job. Plus, natural products are better for people and animals, too!
  5. Compacted drain field. Bad weather or heavy vehicle or livestock traffic can compact your drain field so it doesn’t work properly. Avoid driving over your drain field and try to keep large animals off of it. Of course, you can’t control the weather, but it is wise to check on your field after big storms and make sure there isn’t standing water on it, which is a sign of a back-up.
  6. Tank problems. A dirty tank, a tank with the wrong-sized baffles, or a cracked or damaged tank can all cause a septic system failure. It’s important to make appointments to regularly inspect and clean your septic tank to avoid unpleasant shut-downs or repairs.

Call Shankster Bros Today, we are here to help with your septic tank!

Remember that knowledge is an important aspect of keeping your septic system in working order. We have years of high-quality, informative and easy-to-understand blog-posts on our website to help you understand your septic system and keep it in tip-top shape – but if you don’t find the info you’re looking for, please give us a call. We’re always happy to help.

How Long Does a Septic System Last?

How Long Does a Septic System Last?

If you’re putting in a new septic system, it’s natural to wonder, “How long do septic systems 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.

Regular Maintenance Makes a Big Difference

The first factor is, you guessed it – septic tank maintenance. We know we say this all the time, but regular maintenance makes a big difference in how long your septic system lasts and how well it functions. If you are installing a new system, set a reminder for yourself every couple of years to pump and clean your septic tank (more often if you have a large household or use a lot of water regularly.) Just the simple act of pumping your tank on the recommended schedule ensures that your tank stays in working order, and, if there is a septic system problem, a professional septic tank pumper will catch it before it becomes a catastrophic issue.

The second factor in the life of your septic system is the original installation choices. If you’re buying a property with a septic already installed, there’s not much you can do about those choices (although knowing what they are will inform your maintenance decisions.)

Think Through Your Septic Tank Materials to Avoid Problems

But if you’re installing a new system, think through your septic tank materials, drain field installation, and more. These sound like boring 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.

Your soil type, groundwater saturation, family size, and more can impact what kind, material, and size of septic tank you install, as well as what style and size drain field is right for your needs. Give us a call today at (260)-982-7111, we’re happy to answer any questions you have about an existing septic system or a new installation. In addition, we can help you make sure that your septic system is in good working order for years to come.

Does Having a Large Family Mean I Should Pump My Tank More Often?

Does Having a Large Family Mean I Should Pump My Tank More Often?

Septic tank pumping and cleaning are like any other regular household maintenance, it is largely dependent on how much you use the item requiring service.

For instance, those who drive for work need more regular oil changes than someone who drives rarely. Your HVAC system in your home needs more maintenance if you live in an extremely hot or cold climate versus a locale where you can usually keep your windows open. And, if you have a large family, or just use a lot of water, you probably need to pump your septic tank more frequently than you might think.

If you use a septic system for professional laundry, such as an Airbnb where you are washing linens regularly, or if you have a garbage disposal or water softener installed in your kitchen, these are factors requiring more frequent service of your septic system.

If you have a large family (more than four people in your household) or a long-term uptick in your household count (such as a foreign exchange student or elderly relative) it’s probably a good idea to pump your septic tank once every 12-18 months instead of the usually recommended 2-3 years.

Septic tanks can back up or fail entirely if not maintained properly

As always, if you notice any foul smells, slow drainage, or other signs of septic tank backup, call and get your septic tank professionally inspected and pumped IMMEDIATELY. No matter how many people are in your family or how often you use your plumbing, septic tanks can back up or fail entirely if not maintained properly, and the fall-out can be costly, time-consuming and unpleasant for everyone.

If you don’t remember the last time you got your septic tank pumped, it’s probably time to schedule a septic service. If you recently purchased a property that has a septic system and you aren’t sure what the maintenance has been like in the past, it’s probably time to schedule a septic tank pumping.

No matter how big your family is or what shape your septic system is in, we can help. Call Shankster Bros today to schedule your septic maintenance. Call us at (260)-982-7111

Are Baking Soda and Vinegar Safe for Septic Systems?

Are Baking Soda and Vinegar Safe for Septic Systems?

We get a lot of questions about cleaners and best practices in septic systems, and this one is easy – it’s an emphatic “yes!”

Baking soda and vinegar are safe

Baking soda and vinegar are safe and effective cleaners for your household drains and, best yet, they are 100% safe for your septic tank and drain field. Bleach and ammonia-based cleaners (i.e. most of the cleaning aisle at the big-box stores) can be harmful to the good bacteria in your septic tank.

But baking soda and vinegar will not kill the healthy bacteria in your tank, keeping your septic system working properly much longer and with less maintenance required.

How to use baking soda and vinegar

So, you might be wondering how to use baking soda and vinegar to clean in your home. Here are some of our favorite methods to use these effective and inexpensive cleaners for your kitchen and bathrooms:

Clogged drains are a real hassle. It’s important to watch for signs of a backed-up septic system, but if that’s not the case, you can use baking soda to unclog stubborn grime from your drains, which might be leading to slight backups. Mix a few tablespoons of baking soda with a cup or two of hot water (you can also add white vinegar for a bit more punch).

Pour down your drain, wait a few minutes for the mixture to work, and then try running hot water or using a plunger. It’s a great way to avoid the large expense of a plumber’s visit and the hassle of unusable drains – so try it first!

These work as a toilet bowl cleaner as well

Amazingly, these natural cleaners work as a toilet bowl cleaner as well! For this purpose, we recommend a mixture of baking soda and liquid castile soap. You may have heard of castile soap but might not know why it has a cult-like following. Many people swear by the cleaning powers of castile soap, and how non-toxic it is – remarkably, it’s a vegetable-based soap, free of animal fats and synthetic ingredients.

It’s biodegradable (great for septics!) and, fun fact: gets its name from the Castile region of Spain. To clean a toilet bowl, generously dust baking soda in the toilet bowl. Add a few drops of liquid soap and scrub with a sponge or cloth – you’ll be amazed at the sparkle you achieve in no time.

Baking soda works as a great scrubbing agent for sinks, showers, tubs, and counters. It’s a clean effective and powerful cleaner that will help get your house sparkling clean without hurting your septic system or requiring septic tank maintenance afterward.

Add simple white vinegar and liquid castile soap to your cleaning arsenal and you won’t even miss the harmful standard cleaners you used to use, most of which were slowly harming your septic system.

You don’t have to harm your septic tank

Cleaning our kitchens and bathrooms is a necessity, but you don’t have to harm your septic tank to do it. Thanks for reading, and as always, call us anytime with septic tank questions or to schedule a septic tank pumping or clean. We’re happy to help.

Five Simple Tips to Extend the Life of a Septic System

Five Simple Tips to Extend the Life of a Septic System

On this blog, we’ve talked a lot about the need to maintain, clean, pump, and eventually properly replace your septic tank and system. While we recommend calling our offices with any questions or concerns with your septic system, it’s also obviously wise to have some best practices in your back pocket, in order to easily and efficiently extend the life and health of both your septic tank and your septic system.

Here are five things to keep in mind, as you maintain your septic system. These five best practices are easy to do but will pay off in the efficiency, lifespan, and overall health of your septic system.

1. Avoid Draining Water Into Your Drainfield.

This might seem obvious, but the more liquid flows into your drain field, the more strain you put on your leech system and your drain field health in general. Combat this easily by creating alternative routes for runoff, rain management, and home or animal water management. Only have water from the home or business septic system in your drain field, if at all possible!

2. Conduct Annual Septic Tank Inspections.

Have a professional come out at least once a year and inspect your septic system. This might include a tank or drain test, or it might be as simple as a visual inspection of key septic pieces. Regardless, a professional can ease your mind about the health of your septic system and catch small problems before they become big hassles.

3. Conserve Water in Your Home.

This is similar to #1 but slightly different. It’s important to conserve water in all circumstances, but especially on a septic system when excess water can overload the drain field or tank. Try to avoid excessively long showers, and remind children to turn off the sink when not in use (while brushing teeth, for instance). It can also help to give your system “rest times” throughout the day when there is no water running to the system. We suggest not running dishwashers or washing machines overnight for this reason.

4. Follow the Pumping Schedule.

We know, we know, we say this all the time. But it’s important – septic tanks need to be pumped out regularly! Check your homeownership records and make sure that your tank has been pumped and cleaned in the last 5 years – if not – you need to call us and schedule this service. Trust us: regular septic pumping is the difference between a healthy, working system and failing plumbing.

5. Watch What You Flush

This is common sense, but harsh chemicals such as bleach can kill the healthy bacteria hard at work in your septic tank, so be sure to use septic-safe cleaners on your toilets and drains. Also, things like feminine products, trash, non-biodegradable wipes, and other detritus can cause serious and unpleasant backups in your septic system. When it doubt – don’t flush it – throw it in the trash!

As always if you have any questions about your septic system or septic tank health, don’t hesitate to call us. At Shankster Bros., we’re proud of our products and services, and we’d love to help you!

When is a Good Time For a New Septic Installation?

When is a Good Time to Install a New Septic System?

Obviously, a functioning septic system is essential to the health, well-being, and comfort of your home and family members. A single unusable shower, dishwasher, sink, or toilet is an inconvenience enough, imagine if all of the plumbing in your property wasn’t working – that’s truly unfortunate and uncomfortable for everyone.

So, it’s essential to keep your septic system in good working order, but sometimes even the best-cared-for septic systems must be replaced. But when is a good time to install a new septic system?

Septic System Inspection

Well, first, make sure that the replacement of your septic system (or certain elements within it) is truly the best option. No matter what piece(s) of the septic system you replace, it’s going to be an inconvenience, so please call us, the Shankster Bros., for a professional inspection of your septic tank, drain field, piping, and outflow systems to make sure that you are making the best use of your time and money with regard to your septic system.

Septic System Installer

tank installationRemember that a professional septic system installer is essential to the speed, efficiency, and quality of your new septic system if you do decide to replace your current system. The professional septic installer will make certain that you are inconvenienced for a minimal time, that your new system will last many years and that you won’t have ongoing septic system problems.

One thing to remember, like all outdoor maintenance, is that weather plays an important role in the success of your septic system project, no matter the size. So, even if the snow or rain is coming down now, maybe start with making some initial appointments for the months to come. Nice days will be here before we know it, and like with all construction and farm work, outdoor professionals get even busier and harder to book when the weather turns fair; so get on the calendar and start your plans ahead of the rush.

If you’re noticing problems with your septic system or septic tank give us a call today!

No matter when or how you decide to replace your septic system or pieces within it, we promise to give you the best possible advice and most economical and efficient solutions to your septic system problems. Call us anytime for honest and expert advice – at Shankster Bros we are your local septic experts!  Call us at (260)-982-7111 for an inspection today!

When You Should Call for Emergency Septic Pumping

When You Should Call for Emergency Septic Pumping

By default, emergencies are unscheduled events that can’t be planned for. An emergency is by nature an inconvenient and often unpleasant experience, but a septic system emergency doesn’t have to be as bad as it sounds.

Call our office and schedule an emergency septic tank service if you see any of the following signs:

Sewage (also known as blackwater) overflowing the tank. Be careful and avoid touching the place with bare skin if you can, but check around the septic tank cover for excess moisture. If the tank is full, it’s possible that solids are plugging exit baffles or the disbursement system itself, and causing leakage around the top of the septic tank.

Excess moisture over your septic system and leach field. If there’s a relatively small pool of localized water, it could be a broken leach pipe. If there’s a great deal of excess water on the field and not elsewhere on your property, the field itself might have failed.

Slow, gurgling, bubbling, or backed-up drains, which could be signs of damaged pipes or a compromised septic tank. Septic alarms sounding. Some septic systems have alarms to alert property owners to failing pumps or tanks, and this is an easy way to quickly find the offending piece of your system.

If you suspect a septic emergency in your system, DO NOT run any more water, and call us, Shankster Bros, immediately. We always try to answer emergency calls as quickly as possible and get your septic system back up and running in a timely fashion.

The truth is that even with regular and comprehensive septic maintenance, septic system emergencies can happen at any time. Sometimes these emergencies are caused by things out of the property owners’ control: a crushed sewer pipe, sewage pump failure or clogged line. Sometimes these emergencies come about because of high use, bacteria-killing chemicals in the tank or simply old age of the system. No matter why the emergency happens, it always requires immediate attention, and we are happy to help.