Author Topic: septic systems in Florida  (Read 1050 times)

clarkfan1979

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septic systems in Florida
« on: February 03, 2021, 10:33:15 AM »
I bought a 3/2 house on a septic in 2012 in south Florida with very sandy soil. I lived there as a primary in 2012 to 2015. It has been a rental since 2015. In March 2018, the septic tank was backing up, so I had it pumped for the first time. It cost me $300. I got a really hard sell from the septic company the drain field needs to be replaced. I didn't do it.

Now in February 2021, it backed up again and I had it pumped again (2 years and 10 months), but from a different company. I got another hard sell that the drain field needs to be replaced. I told them that I was told the same thing 3 years ago from a different company and I didn't have any problems for 3 years. I told the receptionist that I probably won't do anything, unless it backs up again within 6 months. She told me that I should replace it now because if I get sewage in my yard my neighbors will complain and I will get into trouble with the health department. Don't you think that's being a little overly dramatic? That's theoretical and has not happened yet. There is also a really good chance that septic is backing up because it's full of shit. That's why you have it pumped every 3 years. 

I think I get the hard sell more than most because I am a distant landlord. However, the same thing happened to my dad about 5 years ago. He had a back-up and was told he needed a new drain field. He found some sticks and branches in the ground semi-blocking the pipe. He hasn't had any problems for 5 years.

I had a vacation planned to see my parents in Florida next weekend. I ended up scheduling an appointment with the company for them to show me what is wrong with the drain field in person when I am there. Because I am physically present, I hope that they will be more honest with me. Anything that I should look for? What are some good questions to ask?


Roots&Wings

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2021, 10:52:42 AM »
When was the drainfield last replaced? Are there any trees around it? Everything with a drainfield happens underground, I don't know what they'll be able to show you, but drainfields don't last forever (I was told to expect a 20 year service life) although the original drainfield was there for 60 years before things started backing up/not draining properly.

srad

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2021, 11:04:57 AM »
How much are they quoting to to replace it? 

I've been thinking of buying in FL for a while now but a lot of the properties i've seen have septic.  I may be ignorant here, but i didn't want a house with a septic tank because of issues like this.  But if all it is is an extra grand every 5 to 8 years, maybe i could loosen up my requirements?

uniwelder

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2021, 11:09:18 AM »
The way septics are done that I've seen, you'll have a distribution box (old style was concrete, new style is plastic) a couple of feet away from the main tank.  The clear effluent goes from the main tank to the box, then the box has 2-6 other holes for the drain lines to the leech field.  You don't normally have to uncover the distribution box, but in your case, its probably worthwhile. 

First thing would be to try taking a pic with your phone/camera from inside the septic tank.  Once you have the cover off, you should see a tee for the effluent to drain out.  Hopefully the water level is low enough that you can a horizontal view toward the distribution box and see if its collapsed (if concrete).  Don't fall in and don't drop your phone/camera.  If you can't get a clear view, dig up the distribution box cover.  Its usually about 12"x24" or so.  If the leech field is clogged, you should be able to see which lines from the box are clogged.  If all is well, the box should only have liquid in it.

edited to add--- you should try doing the investigation before meeting with the septic people, rather than seeing it for the first time in their presence.

adding again--- you should also get an outlet filter.  It'll protect the system from solids exiting the tank, though it will make the line to the house more likely to backup.  Its a plastic filter, 4" diameter and about 24" long, that slides down into the outlet tee of the tank.

Another thought--- Is the grass around the leech field wet?  If the lines aren't clogged, it might be that the ground is so saturated the tank can't drain.

For reference, the septic system at my house is 70 years old and still working fine.  Last time it was pumped was about 14 years ago when I dug up the tank cover and distribution box for inspection because I thought I would put a bathroom in my garage and the county wanted to look at the septic.  While everything was exposed, they recommended replacing the concrete distribution box (which crumbled to pieces when I hit it with a shovel), installing a riser with access cover for the tank, and adding the outlet filter.  I've checked the level in the tank and checked the filter a few times since then, but haven't needed to pump yet. 
« Last Edit: February 03, 2021, 12:27:47 PM by uniwelder »

clarkfan1979

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2021, 01:44:32 PM »
The way septics are done that I've seen, you'll have a distribution box (old style was concrete, new style is plastic) a couple of feet away from the main tank.  The clear effluent goes from the main tank to the box, then the box has 2-6 other holes for the drain lines to the leech field.  You don't normally have to uncover the distribution box, but in your case, its probably worthwhile. 

First thing would be to try taking a pic with your phone/camera from inside the septic tank.  Once you have the cover off, you should see a tee for the effluent to drain out.  Hopefully the water level is low enough that you can a horizontal view toward the distribution box and see if its collapsed (if concrete).  Don't fall in and don't drop your phone/camera.  If you can't get a clear view, dig up the distribution box cover.  Its usually about 12"x24" or so.  If the leech field is clogged, you should be able to see which lines from the box are clogged.  If all is well, the box should only have liquid in it.

edited to add--- you should try doing the investigation before meeting with the septic people, rather than seeing it for the first time in their presence.

adding again--- you should also get an outlet filter.  It'll protect the system from solids exiting the tank, though it will make the line to the house more likely to backup.  Its a plastic filter, 4" diameter and about 24" long, that slides down into the outlet tee of the tank.

Another thought--- Is the grass around the leech field wet?  If the lines aren't clogged, it might be that the ground is so saturated the tank can't drain.

For reference, the septic system at my house is 70 years old and still working fine.  Last time it was pumped was about 14 years ago when I dug up the tank cover and distribution box for inspection because I thought I would put a bathroom in my garage and the county wanted to look at the septic.  While everything was exposed, they recommended replacing the concrete distribution box (which crumbled to pieces when I hit it with a shovel), installing a riser with access cover for the tank, and adding the outlet filter.  I've checked the level in the tank and checked the filter a few times since then, but haven't needed to pump yet.

Very good information. Thank you. I have been watching some youtube videos, so I am somewhat familiar with some of the basics that you have mentioned.

To answer your question, there is typically a small puddle of water above the concrete lid of the septic tank. This has now happened 4 times. Two times it happened, a running toilet was the problem and the septic couldn't keep up with the volume of water. The gallons of water for the month went from 4,000 to 14,000. After the running toilet was fixed, no more puddles of water.

Two times it happened without running toilets (no extra water). The first time I paid to have the septic tank pumped and I didn't have a problem for 2 years and 10 months. I think there was a clog due to the septic being too full. It's been a rental over the past 4 years and I know my tenants are putting stuff down the toilet that they shouldn't, which I think would make clogging and plugging more likely.

The septic company said that the septic tank is fine, but the drain field needs to be replaced, but they give no explanation or quote as of yet. The house was built in 1991. I am going to assume that the tank and drain field are original.

The ground is all sand. I can dig with a shovel. If I was to do it myself, it would probably take me 2 days to do the digging and another 1 day to replace the pipes. If they quote me more than $2500, I think I would prefer to do it myself.

« Last Edit: February 03, 2021, 01:49:29 PM by clarkfan1979 »

Mr. Green

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2021, 02:30:32 PM »
Septic systems (drain fields included) last forever if the septic system is cared for properly. That's the key though.

clarkfan1979

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2021, 03:53:12 PM »
Septic systems (drain fields included) last forever if the septic system is cared for properly. That's the key though.

If the drain field is "failing" wouldn't it take a few years to completely fail? The last pump lasted 2 years and 10 months. Wouldn't it make sense for the next one to be around 2 years, then 12 months and eventually 6 months? 

uniwelder

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2021, 05:15:55 PM »
Septic systems (drain fields included) last forever if the septic system is cared for properly. That's the key though.

If the drain field is "failing" wouldn't it take a few years to completely fail? The last pump lasted 2 years and 10 months. Wouldn't it make sense for the next one to be around 2 years, then 12 months and eventually 6 months? 

I'm not a plumber, just have some experience with my own systems, so I might not be correct.  Pumping the tank is only meant to remove the solid sludge at the bottom of the tank that accumulates with time/use.  If not pumped, it gets to a high enough level and will start flowing out into the leach field, filling the drain lines, at the far ends first, then working its way back to the distribution box.  The leach field will be losing its capacity to drain all the water that is flowing to it and you'll start getting problems with your tank backing up.  I assume you'll experience it after heavy rains or as mentioned, the leaking toilet that put out an extra 10,000 gallons a month.

The tank only holds 1,000-1,500 gallons or so.  Lets say the family uses 2,000 gallons per month--- it will only be 2-3 weeks before the tank fills and effluent starts flowing to the leach field.  I suppose the ground would dry out in those weeks, allowing the lines to drain properly for a bit, so you'll have a working system for at least a month. 

Since you mentioned a standing puddle of water at the tank, you've definitely got issues that I think pumping the tank won't fix.  From what I understand, clogs in the leach field or distribution box don't clear up on their own and won't be helped by pumping the tank.  If your lines aren't clogged, I wonder if the water table is high enough that the soil is just waterlogged (after lots of rain perhaps) and won't allow proper drainage.

The ground is all sand. I can dig with a shovel. If I was to do it myself, it would probably take me 2 days to do the digging and another 1 day to replace the pipes. If they quote me more than $2500, I think I would prefer to do it myself.

My first septic experience was with my dad, one of his work buddies, and my brother when I was about 12 years old.  In NJ, a licensed contractor was required to do the leach field replacement and my parents were getting quotes around $10,000 (this would have been in the early 90's)  Instead, my dad had a load of gravel delivered and had the pvc pipe and filter paper ready to go.  We hand dug and replaced all the lines in a weekend.  I have a feeling you're not going to get a quote as cheap as you'd like and if you do it yourself, you may need to see how to go about doing it incognito.  And if its the problem is the soil itself, as in high water table, etc, not sure what to tell you.  When the house was built, it should have passed a perc test.

edited to add--- Its worth mentioning that all the work we did eventually had to be redone.  The water table was very high and the ground was usually soggy around the area of the leach field.  Replacing the lines and adding gravel helped, but I remember when the house got sold about 5 years later, to pass the perc test, the contractor was required to dump enormous amounts of sand in the backyard, raising the entire drainage area about 2 feet or so, plus a pump because the leach field was now above the level of the tank.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2021, 05:34:30 PM by uniwelder »

clarkfan1979

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2021, 07:54:00 PM »
Septic systems (drain fields included) last forever if the septic system is cared for properly. That's the key though.

If the drain field is "failing" wouldn't it take a few years to completely fail? The last pump lasted 2 years and 10 months. Wouldn't it make sense for the next one to be around 2 years, then 12 months and eventually 6 months? 

I'm not a plumber, just have some experience with my own systems, so I might not be correct.  Pumping the tank is only meant to remove the solid sludge at the bottom of the tank that accumulates with time/use.  If not pumped, it gets to a high enough level and will start flowing out into the leach field, filling the drain lines, at the far ends first, then working its way back to the distribution box.  The leach field will be losing its capacity to drain all the water that is flowing to it and you'll start getting problems with your tank backing up.  I assume you'll experience it after heavy rains or as mentioned, the leaking toilet that put out an extra 10,000 gallons a month.

The tank only holds 1,000-1,500 gallons or so.  Lets say the family uses 2,000 gallons per month--- it will only be 2-3 weeks before the tank fills and effluent starts flowing to the leach field.  I suppose the ground would dry out in those weeks, allowing the lines to drain properly for a bit, so you'll have a working system for at least a month. 

Since you mentioned a standing puddle of water at the tank, you've definitely got issues that I think pumping the tank won't fix.  From what I understand, clogs in the leach field or distribution box don't clear up on their own and won't be helped by pumping the tank.  If your lines aren't clogged, I wonder if the water table is high enough that the soil is just waterlogged (after lots of rain perhaps) and won't allow proper drainage.

The ground is all sand. I can dig with a shovel. If I was to do it myself, it would probably take me 2 days to do the digging and another 1 day to replace the pipes. If they quote me more than $2500, I think I would prefer to do it myself.

My first septic experience was with my dad, one of his work buddies, and my brother when I was about 12 years old.  In NJ, a licensed contractor was required to do the leach field replacement and my parents were getting quotes around $10,000 (this would have been in the early 90's)  Instead, my dad had a load of gravel delivered and had the pvc pipe and filter paper ready to go.  We hand dug and replaced all the lines in a weekend.  I have a feeling you're not going to get a quote as cheap as you'd like and if you do it yourself, you may need to see how to go about doing it incognito.  And if its the problem is the soil itself, as in high water table, etc, not sure what to tell you.  When the house was built, it should have passed a perc test.

edited to add--- Its worth mentioning that all the work we did eventually had to be redone.  The water table was very high and the ground was usually soggy around the area of the leach field.  Replacing the lines and adding gravel helped, but I remember when the house got sold about 5 years later, to pass the perc test, the contractor was required to dump enormous amounts of sand in the backyard, raising the entire drainage area about 2 feet or so, plus a pump because the leach field was now above the level of the tank.

Thanks for the info. There has been a pretty big twist in the story. The septic driver was supposed to pump the tank at 9:00 a.m. on Friday. He called me but never showed up at the house. I called the septic company and they said it was miscommunication and he was going to pump the tank around 3:00 p.m. My tenants were not home.

My tenants called me tonight Wednesday, to let me know that the septic tank is full and they are pretty sure the guy never showed up to pump the tank. None of the dirt is disturbed near the lid. It looks the same. The tank is 1,000 or 1,250 gallons. The family uses 4,000 gallons/month. They probably used about 600-700 gallons over the past 5 days. I am going to call the water company tomorrow to confirm the total. If the total amount of water used is less than 1,000 gallons, I'm 99% sure the guy didn't pump the tank, correct?

My credit card was never charged, which makes sense because they guy probably never submitted a ticket. He just blew me off. What makes it really weird is that the receptionist gave me the hard sell that it was inspected by the pump guy and it failed the test and I need an entire new drain field.


Mr. Green

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2021, 08:50:19 PM »
A septic system is actually a fairly simple beast. Waste goes into a tank. Solids fall to the bottom. Liquid stays on top. The lines running to the field are high enough off the bottom that only liquid should go to the "field." That liquid is then absorbed into the ground. Bacteria in the tank is supposed to eat the solids over time. Over use can cause a build up and if allowed to get too full solids can enter the field lines and clog them. Screens are used to limit this but they can only do so much if a system is abused. Obviously non-biodegradable things like tampons or "flushable" wipes should never go into a septic system. You also can't send grease down the sink drain because it floats and will carry into the leech field and clog the lines. Washing high volumes of bleach or other chemicals into the tank can kill the bacteria that eat the solids. This wasn't a complicated thing 70 years ago because we didn't have any of the things people mess the system up with. Now most folks don't understand the particulars of septic, and they're used to sewer, so a system gets abused and fails.

Also possible is failure of the ground around the system if continued overuse saturates it to the point that it cannot absorb any more fluid. This can also become a seasonal issue in places where the water tables rises during part of the year and heavy rains and overuse cause the ground to lose its ability to absorb any more moisture.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2021, 08:52:42 PM by Mr. Green »

plantingourpennies

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2021, 05:06:26 AM »
Septic systems (drain fields included) last forever if the septic system is cared for properly. That's the key though.

If the drain field is "failing" wouldn't it take a few years to completely fail? The last pump lasted 2 years and 10 months. Wouldn't it make sense for the next one to be around 2 years, then 12 months and eventually 6 months?

As you might remember, we have a place in the same neighborhood built in the mid 1980's, so a little older than yours.  Back in 2018, we ended up replacing our leech field for the septic.  We had been on a 4 year pump schedule, then it was causing issues at 3 years, then 6 months...  Each pump was lasting less and less time, so it was clear it wasn't draining properly. 

Mr PoP did a fair amount of DIY diagnosing in the hopes that we would be able to do hydrojetting to clear it out ourselves, but the pieces basically just started falling apart as he got to them.   

In the end, we ended up paying someone to replace the whole field.  It was not cheap and there aren't that many places that do it - it's not a regular plumber or GC, I believe they are permitted and licensed through the Department of Health.  We do know someone that DIY dug his own leech field (again, same neighborhood), but I'm not 100% convinced he did this legally because...

The other thing you also need to be aware of going into this is that there is a minimum clearance that the leech field needs to be above the water table and it's pretty likely that yours doesn't meet it if it hasn't had work done to it since it was installed.   I can't remember if the minimum clearance above the water table has increased due to regulations since a lot of these fields were installed 30 years ago, or if the water table has changed (probably both), but that means that if your field is 100% gravity (there is no electric pump involved), that will likely need to change and you'll end up with a mound for the field and a pump to get the waste to the mound.   Any reputable company will explain this to you - I think it was a department of health representative (or some other official) that actually had to do a site visit before the work was done to establish where the water table was and that was the determining factor in whether or not we could keep a gravity system (we couldn't). 

Mr PoP probably remembers more of the details of this (he did a lot of the smelly diagnostic work and was willing to DIY if we could have so did a ton of research at the time), so feel free to ping us with any questions that are neighborhood specific. 

Good luck!  If nothing else is to be gained, there are so many *shitty* puns that you will get to make throughout this process.  =)

Roots&Wings

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2021, 05:57:56 AM »
I've been thinking of buying in FL for a while now but a lot of the properties i've seen have septic.  I may be ignorant here, but i didn't want a house with a septic tank because of issues like this.  But if all it is is an extra grand every 5 to 8 years, maybe i could loosen up my requirements?

Do a septic inspection upon purchase, negotiate drainfield replacement as needed, follow @Mr. Greens's advice for product use to not clog, and enjoy the cost savings of being your own wastewater provider instead of paying a utility!

The septic company probably told me to expect only 20 years from the drainfield because they assume no one will use products that don't clog it.

And install low flow fixtures/reduce water use. Can't imagine anyone using 4k gallons a month, saturating the ground is another potential pitfall.

clarkfan1979

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2021, 06:17:29 AM »
The septic company was supposed to pump the tank on Friday, January 29th. The receptionist called me on Monday, February 1, 2021 to tell me that it was pumped and they recommend replacing the entire drain field. However, they need to send out an inspector for an exact estimate.

I just got data from my tenants for water usage from Friday, January 29th to Sunday, January 31st. They used 82 gallons total. The tenants said the septic was backing up again on Wednesday, February 3rd. I do not have data right now for Feb 1 - 3. However, it's probably around 100-150 gallons. We are looking at 225 gallons used over the past 5 days. The tank is at least 1,000 gallons, probably 1,250 gallons.

There is less than 1% chance the septic company pumped the tank. The part that really sucks is that I am obviously dealing with a very dishonest company. They called me on Monday, February 1st to tell me that it was pumped and upon inspection they gave me the hard sell on replacing the entire drain field. It's very obvious they never showed up to pump it. 

Any recommendations on how I proceed? I think I am going to schedule a different company to pump it for Saturday or Monday and I will watch it in person. I won't mention anything about being a distant landlord.

Do I call the old company back? What do I say? They never charged my credit card. I think it's because the driver never submitted a ticket because he never went to my house. I don't think the receptionist knows that.

clarkfan1979

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2021, 06:24:36 AM »
Septic systems (drain fields included) last forever if the septic system is cared for properly. That's the key though.

If the drain field is "failing" wouldn't it take a few years to completely fail? The last pump lasted 2 years and 10 months. Wouldn't it make sense for the next one to be around 2 years, then 12 months and eventually 6 months?

As you might remember, we have a place in the same neighborhood built in the mid 1980's, so a little older than yours.  Back in 2018, we ended up replacing our leech field for the septic.  We had been on a 4 year pump schedule, then it was causing issues at 3 years, then 6 months...  Each pump was lasting less and less time, so it was clear it wasn't draining properly. 

Mr PoP did a fair amount of DIY diagnosing in the hopes that we would be able to do hydrojetting to clear it out ourselves, but the pieces basically just started falling apart as he got to them.   

In the end, we ended up paying someone to replace the whole field.  It was not cheap and there aren't that many places that do it - it's not a regular plumber or GC, I believe they are permitted and licensed through the Department of Health.  We do know someone that DIY dug his own leech field (again, same neighborhood), but I'm not 100% convinced he did this legally because...

The other thing you also need to be aware of going into this is that there is a minimum clearance that the leech field needs to be above the water table and it's pretty likely that yours doesn't meet it if it hasn't had work done to it since it was installed.   I can't remember if the minimum clearance above the water table has increased due to regulations since a lot of these fields were installed 30 years ago, or if the water table has changed (probably both), but that means that if your field is 100% gravity (there is no electric pump involved), that will likely need to change and you'll end up with a mound for the field and a pump to get the waste to the mound.   Any reputable company will explain this to you - I think it was a department of health representative (or some other official) that actually had to do a site visit before the work was done to establish where the water table was and that was the determining factor in whether or not we could keep a gravity system (we couldn't). 

Mr PoP probably remembers more of the details of this (he did a lot of the smelly diagnostic work and was willing to DIY if we could have so did a ton of research at the time), so feel free to ping us with any questions that are neighborhood specific. 

Good luck!  If nothing else is to be gained, there are so many *shitty* puns that you will get to make throughout this process.  =)

Thank you so much for the info. This is gold. I will definitely send you a PM when I have more information. It's unfortunate that the septic business is such a "dirty" business.

uniwelder

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2021, 07:00:48 AM »
The septic company was supposed to pump the tank on Friday, January 29th. The receptionist called me on Monday, February 1, 2021 to tell me that it was pumped and they recommend replacing the entire drain field. However, they need to send out an inspector for an exact estimate.

I just got data from my tenants for water usage from Friday, January 29th to Sunday, January 31st. They used 82 gallons total. The tenants said the septic was backing up again on Wednesday, February 3rd. I do not have data right now for Feb 1 - 3. However, it's probably around 100-150 gallons. We are looking at 225 gallons used over the past 5 days. The tank is at least 1,000 gallons, probably 1,250 gallons.

There is less than 1% chance the septic company pumped the tank. The part that really sucks is that I am obviously dealing with a very dishonest company. They called me on Monday, February 1st to tell me that it was pumped and upon inspection they gave me the hard sell on replacing the entire drain field. It's very obvious they never showed up to pump it. 

Any recommendations on how I proceed? I think I am going to schedule a different company to pump it for Saturday or Monday and I will watch it in person. I won't mention anything about being a distant landlord.

Do I call the old company back? What do I say? They never charged my credit card. I think it's because the driver never submitted a ticket because he never went to my house. I don't think the receptionist knows that.

If it hasn't already been done, have your tenants take a pic of the area where the tank cover is located, so you have proof the cover was never moved.  If you call the company back, verify with them that you're both talking about the same address, just in case they happen to just have really messed up the logistics.

waltworks

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2021, 08:21:23 AM »
I had a property (the first one I ever owned) with a pumped septic system and raised leach field (needed to be a certain distance above the water table as noted earlier) and it was always a nightmare.

It literally caused me to not make money in the entire time I owned the property (this was in CO) though if I'd held onto it until today I'd probably have ended up making a little bit on appreciation. Between the septic and the fence falling apart and all kinds of other stuff, "unexpected" maintenance costs ate me alive. Turns out if you don't spend the money on paint you have to replace a lot of the trim and siding, who knew?

So my "profit" was the knowledge gained, I guess - it sucks to watch months or years of profits disappear like that. Generally if you're hitting 1% rule or better properties where you've built in some conservative assumptions about repairs, you'll still be making money in the end, though.

-W

Roots&Wings

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #16 on: February 04, 2021, 11:28:20 AM »
Whenever you get to perc test stage (to determine gravity vs mound/pump replacement drainfield) make sure to ask for a copy of the perc test results and review these against the Dept of Health requirements.

Septic company tried telling me I needed the expensive mound/pump system, but upon double checking the perc test results, a gravity drainfield was fine and saved $$ thousands.

MainstreamContrarian

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2021, 12:01:10 PM »
Maybe the drain line to the tank is clogged.  I have a property on septic and it backed up into a tub in the house so the tenant was grossed out and we got the tank pumped right away. However it turned out the tank was not full and it was actually a clog in the line from the house to the tank.  That might explain how it could be pumped and still having a problem.

uniwelder

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2021, 01:09:55 PM »
Maybe the drain line to the tank is clogged.  I have a property on septic and it backed up into a tub in the house so the tenant was grossed out and we got the tank pumped right away. However it turned out the tank was not full and it was actually a clog in the line from the house to the tank.  That might explain how it could be pumped and still having a problem.

This is a good point I don't think has been brought up yet.  Assuming it hasn't been pumped yet, it'll be easy to tell once you take the cover off the tank--- the water will either be at the level of the outlet pipe (good) or that outlet pipe will be completely submerged (bad).  Since the tenants aren't using much water right now, the level could go down on its own even though the drain field is clogged up, so you might need to turn on the garden hose and direct it into the outlet pipe to see if it comes running back out toward you or drains as intended.

clarkfan1979

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #19 on: February 04, 2021, 01:16:42 PM »
The supervisor called me to set up the pumping of the tank. According to him, the pumping of the tank never happened and he was still in the process of setting it up. I lost it and I "went-off on him. I told him that his receptionist gave me a hard sell on a new drain field and I'm 99% sure the pump guy never showed up to my house. It's been 5 days and my tenants have not gotten any relief from the septic back-up.

I verified with the utility company that the tenants used 375 gallons since it was pumped. It's a 750 gallon tank. I told him that I didn't think his company pumped the tank. He knew something wasn't right, so he took over and solved the problem for me. He went to the house, lifted the septic tank lid and verified that it was pumped. He sent me pictures of it being mostly empty. That was mostly good news, but how is it still backing up into the house?

I have a 4 inch clean out pipe in the front yard that sticks out of the ground. The supervisor figured out that the pipe from the clean-out to the septic tank is clogged. That's the problem for the current back-up. He politely insisted that the drain field still isn't draining as good as it could be. I agreed and politely told him that I'm not replacing the drain field until I get more information. I'm going to wait and see how long it goes before it needs another pump. The last pump was 2 months and 10 years. He agreed with me and said that he would probably do the same thing. I told him that his receptionist was very pushy and was insisting that I needed to do it right now and it was a huge turn-off. She was telling me that I was going to get into trouble with the health department. He noted it, accepted it and things ended nicely.

I am still going to meet with him on Tuesday in person so he can give me an estimate of a new drain field. 

clarkfan1979

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #20 on: February 04, 2021, 01:17:34 PM »
Maybe the drain line to the tank is clogged.  I have a property on septic and it backed up into a tub in the house so the tenant was grossed out and we got the tank pumped right away. However it turned out the tank was not full and it was actually a clog in the line from the house to the tank.  That might explain how it could be pumped and still having a problem.

This was the problem. You got it 100%!!!!!

MainstreamContrarian

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #21 on: February 04, 2021, 10:01:04 PM »
Hey, i’m glad I was able to help out! 

A somewhat related plumbing trick that I learned from a buddy that’s a handyman is a tool called a drain bladder, a really easy way to clear a lot of clogs in my experience.  Drain Bladders come in a couple sizes that are most useful, are available online or the big box stores, and they “help clear drains by expanding in the drain and forcing water pressure through the clog. The bladder is designed for use with garden hoses.’”  It’s worked like magic for me a few times and saved me time and money.  See pic.

clarkfan1979

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #22 on: February 07, 2021, 11:31:35 AM »
The plumber snaked the line from the clean-out to the septic tank on Friday and found tampons and baby wipes in the line. The tenants still had plumbing problems on Saturday, so the the plumber came back on Saturday to snake the entire house. He found more tampons in the line that was the cause of the blockage.

The tampons and baby wipes are likely from my current tenants because they have them staged right next to the toilet. I cannot prove it was them, so whatever. We had a conversation about it and I put it in the lease, but it doesn't look like that was enough to stop them from doing it.

I was going to pay the $325 for a septic pump within the next 6-12 months anyway, so I don't really consider that to be a loss. However, the plumber bill is going to be around $300-$400 to snake the lines because he had to show up on two different days (Friday and Saturday).

The drain field is bone dry with dead grass. There is no evidence for a saturated drain field. More than likely, the septic will be fine after it was pumped. If there is a problem, there is a small chance that the entrance to the drain field is plugged from tampons and baby wipes. When the septc "fails", there is a small puddle of water above the septic tank lid, not the drain field. The lid is concrete and not 100% sealed, so water forms above the lid.

Mr. Green

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #23 on: February 07, 2021, 08:10:02 PM »
The plumber snaked the line from the clean-out to the septic tank on Friday and found tampons and baby wipes in the line. The tenants still had plumbing problems on Saturday, so the the plumber came back on Saturday to snake the entire house. He found more tampons in the line that was the cause of the blockage.

The tampons and baby wipes are likely from my current tenants because they have them staged right next to the toilet. I cannot prove it was them, so whatever. We had a conversation about it and I put it in the lease, but it doesn't look like that was enough to stop them from doing it.

I was going to pay the $325 for a septic pump within the next 6-12 months anyway, so I don't really consider that to be a loss. However, the plumber bill is going to be around $300-$400 to snake the lines because he had to show up on two different days (Friday and Saturday).

The drain field is bone dry with dead grass. There is no evidence for a saturated drain field. More than likely, the septic will be fine after it was pumped. If there is a problem, there is a small chance that the entrance to the drain field is plugged from tampons and baby wipes. When the septc "fails", there is a small puddle of water above the septic tank lid, not the drain field. The lid is concrete and not 100% sealed, so water forms above the lid.
Yeah you don't have a septic problem. You have a "people can't follow directions" problem.

uniwelder

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #24 on: February 08, 2021, 04:53:20 AM »
The plumber snaked the line from the clean-out to the septic tank on Friday and found tampons and baby wipes in the line. The tenants still had plumbing problems on Saturday, so the the plumber came back on Saturday to snake the entire house. He found more tampons in the line that was the cause of the blockage.

The tampons and baby wipes are likely from my current tenants because they have them staged right next to the toilet. I cannot prove it was them, so whatever. We had a conversation about it and I put it in the lease, but it doesn't look like that was enough to stop them from doing it.

I was going to pay the $325 for a septic pump within the next 6-12 months anyway, so I don't really consider that to be a loss. However, the plumber bill is going to be around $300-$400 to snake the lines because he had to show up on two different days (Friday and Saturday).

The drain field is bone dry with dead grass. There is no evidence for a saturated drain field. More than likely, the septic will be fine after it was pumped. If there is a problem, there is a small chance that the entrance to the drain field is plugged from tampons and baby wipes. When the septc "fails", there is a small puddle of water above the septic tank lid, not the drain field. The lid is concrete and not 100% sealed, so water forms above the lid.
Yeah you don't have a septic problem. You have a "people can't follow directions" problem.

It sounds like there is a septic problem, just wasn’t happening this time around.

Clarkfan— while you’re there and it’s pumped out, this is a good time to check out the distribution box and get that outlet filter in place. The filter should be stocked at a plumbing store, maybe $20-30, in slips in place in less than a minute.

clarkfan1979

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #25 on: February 10, 2021, 01:01:41 PM »
I met with the owner/supervisor on Tuesday. He inspected the drain field and could not find any evidence of drain field failure. It was a little awkward because his septic pump guy reported that I needed a new drain field on his inspection sheet and the receptionist gave me the hard sell that I needed a new drain field asap.

He was nice and reasonable. He said there is zero chance that baby wipes and/or tampons made it into the drain field. My septic tank doesn't have a filter, but the outlet pipe is designed in way to prevent that from happening. If the outlet pipe was damaged or missing, then baby wipes and/or tampons could end up in the drain field.

When the drain field does start to fail he did tell me that it will be slow. It will not happen all at once. The times that it takes to pump the tank will become shorter in duration. Once it's no longer cost effective to pump the tank, you replace the drain field. He quoted me $6500 to $9500. He said that based on the elevation of my lot, I do not need a raised mound and pump system, so I'm closer to $6500.

In the end, it's pretty good news. However, I wish I could have skipped the part where the pump guy and receptionist tried to give me the hard sell on the drain field that I do not need. It will need to be replaced eventually, just not right now.

clarkfan1979

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Re: septic systems in Florida
« Reply #26 on: March 10, 2021, 04:34:13 PM »
Update: I need a new drain field. It started backing-up again after about two weeks.

It was a little confusing at first because I saw the septic tank draining effectively when I was in town. However, it was 10 days after the pump. The septic drain field had about 7 days to dry out before water starting flowing through it again. It was probably day 3 when I witnessed the septic drain field working properly.

Based on the evidence, it's now clear that I need a new drain field. This is not possible to DIY. I'm getting two quotes this week and making a decision next week. It's probably going to cost me about $7000 to $8000 total. The last drain field lasted 30 years.