If you’re like most homeowners, you probably know very little about leach fields. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! About 8% of homes in Southern California still have septic tanks, and new homes are still being built using septic systems rather than connections to main city sewer lines. There are a number of factors at play when determining whether or not a home should be built using a septic tank or a connection to a city sewage system, including property size, soil type, and proximity to a city sewer line. Not to mention zoning laws and local municipality building codes!
What is a leach field?
A leach field, also called a leach bed or leaching field, is an area of land where water from a septic tank can percolate back into the ground. The leach field consists of a series of trenches (or sometimes beds) that are filled with gravel and have perforated pipes running through them.
The purpose of the leach field is to remove contaminants from the effluent water before it leaches back into the ground. If your home has a septic tank, then it also has a leach field – and ensuring that it is working properly is essential to your septic system’s health.
Here is a YouTube video showing how a typical leach field is installed:
Where is the leach field usually located?
Relative to your septic tank, leach fields are generally located near or around it. Leach fields take up a lot of space underground – and can by up to 100 feet long in size underneath your front or back yard. The trenches are normally 2-4 feet deep, and the leach field should be at least 50 feet away from any water source (like a well, river, or lake). Normally, there’s about 6 feet of clearance between each underground trench in your leach field.
How do septic leach fields work?
In order to understand how your septic leach field works, it’s necessary to understand how your septic system as a whole works.
In homes that have a septic system, all of the wastewater from toilets, showers, sinks, and washing machines flows into a septic tank. The septic tank is a large underground container (usually made of concrete) that’s designed to hold all of this wastewater.
Inside the septic tank, there are three layers:
- The scum layer: This is the top layer and consists of things like grease, oil, and fats.
- The effluent layer: This is the layer that consists of wastewater.
- The sludge layer: This is the bottom layer and consists of solid waste that’s heavier than water, which eventually sinks to the button of the tank.
Wastewater from the scum and effluent layers flows into your surrounding leach field through an underground system of pipes and trenches. As the water leaches through the gravel and soil, it is filtered and purified by natural bacteria. This process of leaching and filtering takes anywhere from 24-48 hours – after which time the water normally seeps deeper underground, where it is further filtered by the soil and then returned to the naturally surrounding environment.
How to know if your leach field needs to be serviced:
If your leach field and septic system are working properly, then you won’t even know that they are there. But, if you’re experiencing any of the below problems, then there’s a good chance that you should call a plumber:
- Frequent backups in your home’s drains or toilets…
- Water pooling on top of your leach field (on the yard)…
- Slow drains throughout your home…
- Sewage smell coming from your leach field or yard…
If you’re not sure whether or not you need to call a plumber, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and give us a call. We’ll be able to quickly diagnose the problem and let you know what needs to be done.
How often should I schedule septic maintenance?
Septic maintenance is typically only required every few years, but this can vary depending on the size of your leach field, the amount of water you use, and the type of system you have. If you’re not sure how often you should be scheduling septic maintenance, then give us a call and we’ll be happy to advise you. Western Rooter & Plumbing will be offering septic maintenance soon, so be sure to keep us in mind when the time comes for your maintenance!