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Septic Drainfields

A drainfield is an important component of your home’s septic system. Drainfields are responsible for distributing the waste water (effluent) that accumulates in your septic tank and allowing it to filter back into the soil. In this article, we look at the most common types of residential drainfields, as well as some of the signs your system may need repair.

Types of Drainfield

  • Gravity drainfield: Gravity systems are the most common variety of residential drainfield. They work by allowing the effluent to flow down a series of gravel-filled trenches and filter through the soil before returning to water table. Gravity systems are most effective in areas with dry, permeable soil.
  • Pressure distribution drainfield: For lots where a gravity drainfield isn’t effective — usually due to the septic tank being positioned below the home’s outlet pipe — a pressure distribution drainfield is the most common alternative. The system works the same as a gravity drainfield, but adds a pump to manually move the effluent through the drainage trenches.
  • Mound system : A mound system is a specialized type of pressure distribution drainfield constructed in homes with a high water table. In it, an artificial drainfield is built above the ground, ensuring the effluent has enough space to filter properly.
  • Aerobic treatment unit (ATU): An ATU speeds up drainfield efficiency by promoting the growth of aerobic bacteria, which processes sewage much faster than naturally occurring anaerobic species.
  • Cesspool: Cesspools (or cesspits) are often found in older homes. Less efficient than drainfields, they work by allowing effluent to seep out of a single holding chamber and into the ground.
  • Drywell: A drywell (or seepage pit) is similar to a cesspool but adds an extra layer of crushed rock around the holding chamber to increase absorption.
  • Holding tank: In some situations, non-permeable holding tanks are used for temporary storage of sewage effluent.

Signs Your Drain Field Needs Repair

Drain field repairs can be costly and inconvenient, and the best way to minimize the disruption to your home is to catch minor problems before they become serious. Knowing the signs of a failing drain field can mean the difference between a small repair and a major overhaul of your septic system. Contact Mr. Rooter® Plumbing if you begin to notice any of the following:

  • Backed up drains or sewage pipes anywhere in your plumbing system, especially when accompanied by a foul-smelling, dark colored liquid
  • Strong smells, standing water or sewage in your lawn above the drainfield area
  • Patches of discolored grass above the drainfield area
  • Frequent need to pump your septic tank/system (more than once every three years)

Drain field problems can be more accurately diagnosed with a septic inspection. Any of the following signs may indicate that a septic problem is specific to the drainage field and not caused by any other issue:

  • Floating scum or liquid rising above the baffles of the septic tank
  • Liquid effluent rising above the distribution box outlet
  • Discharge of any effluent to the surface of the septic system

Preventative Drainfield Maintenance

With vigilance and proactive maintenance, your septic drainfield can be counted on for years of trouble-free use. Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Greater Syracuse can help you arrange a preventative maintenance plan for all your septic system components that keeps your drain field working its best. For more information, contact our office directly.

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