Septic Field Failure: How to Solve
LESLIE: Milton in Georgia is on the line and he’s getting some water at his basement. What’s going on at your money pit?
MILTON: I have a problem. When it rains heavy and water from – it’s running to my septic. I don’t know – and then goes and backs up into the toilet, into the bathroom hole. Where the water is supposed to be going down, the water is coming back up through there. And then it floods my basement.
TOM: So, what’s happening is you think the septic is flooding and then it’s backing up into the house. Is that correct?
MILTON: Yes. Yes, sir.
TOM: That’s not supposed to be happening. You’ve got a pretty significant septic problem there. Have you had any septic professionals look at this?
MILTON: Yeah. Well, they said that the lines they built – they said – what did they say? They said the drain that goes out to seep the water out – or what do you call that, the … ?
TOM: Yeah, the field – the drain field. Does he say it’s clogged?
MILTON: Yeah, they say it’s clogged. What can I do to get that unclogged?
TOM: So, if your drain field has failed, that unfortunately, Milton, is the end of a normal life expectancy for a septic system. So the field has to be replaced. When the drain field becomes clogged, then you need to do some major work.
Now, you could move the drain field to another section of the property or you could remove the soil and replace the soil there. But when it gets completely clogged, it’s not draining anymore. And that really is the end of the septic system. But that’s a significant problem and it’s a potential big expense.
So I would do this: I would get an expert to look at this, maybe somebody like a very experienced professional home inspector or a health officer to look at it and really diagnose that that is exactly what’s happening. Because that’s what it sounds like. And if that’s the case, if the field has actually failed, then you can go ahead and get some bids for replacement of it. But I wouldn’t do it just on the contractor’s word. I would get an independent expert, who’s not there to sell you a septic system, examine it and make sure it really has failed.
MILTON: OK. And another question now. When it floods now, the water goes onto the sheetrock like 4 inches. Should I take off the whole sheetrock or do I carve the piece that is wet?
TOM: You can cut the piece that’s wet about 12 inches off the ground and see what’s behind that. Now, if there’s insulation, that needs to be replaced, as well. You’ll have an additional seam there but you don’t have to tear the whole thing out.
And by the way, if it turns out that you do want to tear out more than that, what I would do is I would put a different type of drywall in there. There’s a product by Georgia Pacific called DensArmor – D-e-n-s-Armor. And basically, it’s a fiberglass-faced drywall, so it can’t grow mold or rot.
MILTON: Oh, OK, OK, OK. DensArmor.
TOM: Alright, Milton? Good luck with that project.
MILTON: Thank you very much but I appreciate that.
TOM: Have a nice day. Thank you so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.