Septic 101: A Guide For Homeowners

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A Baffling Problem: Addressing Issues With Your Septic Tank's Inlet And Outlet

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Typical septic tanks are relatively straightforward in both design and function. A concrete septic tank consists of an inlet baffle, outlet baffle, and one or two compartments where waste can accumulate, separate, and degrade. Despite the simplicity of most septic tanks, each part of the system has a crucial role to play.

Unfortunately, septic tank baffles are often the unsung heroes of the waste disposal world. While these simple plumbing elements are critical to keeping the system running correctly, it's easy to ignore them or even completely miss the signs of failure. Unfortunately, failing to repair one or more damaged baffles can have significant long-term consequences for your septic system.

Not So Baffling After All

If you haven't heard of septic tank baffles before, you might be expecting a sophisticated piece of plumbing. In reality, the average baffle is a simple "T"-shaped pipe leading into or out of your septic tank. Baffles serve two purposes, both of which are necessary to keep your septic system operating efficiently and reliably.

First, the baffle reduces the speed that the waste enters the tank. Forcing wastewater directly into the tank would deposit it on the surface and create a current that could rapidly direct fresh wastewater to the outlet. By creating a 90-degree bend, the baffle pushes new waste to the bottom of the tank, allowing the tank's microfauna to break it down.

The baffle also helps protect your drain field by preventing solid waste from entering the outlet pipe. Effluent rises to meet the lower portion of the outlet baffle, ensuring that only liquid can exit the septic tank into the drain field. Baffles also typically contain effluent screens that provide some additional filtering and protection.

Fixing Bothersome Baffles

Baffles can sometimes fail, especially in older septic tanks with integrated concrete wall baffles instead of sanitary T-pipes. A baffle failure won't immediately produce any symptoms, but it will eventually allow sludge and solids to reach the drain field. In many cases, you may not realize there's a problem until your drain field begins to back up.

The best way to avoid causing more damage to your septic system is to schedule routine tank inspections along with tank your pump-outs. During this inspection, your septic service technician can determine if your baffles are deteriorating, allowing you to repair them before they permit excessive waste to clog your leaching field drain tiles.

Remember that your baffles are critical to your tank's operation, and you shouldn't ignore issues with them for long. If you discover a failing baffle, it's best to repair it as soon as possible to avoid a much more costly drain field restoration or replacement. Contact a septic repair service near you to learn more.