Septic Access

These are generalities - systems differ and requirements differ for various types of work.

Please feel free to reach out to us by phone, email, or text if you have any questions (and you can include pictures).

 

Access Requirements

For Septic inspections, pumping, and repairs we will need access to the septic tank and other components. 

If you know where the system components are please make sure the areas are accessible*:

  • Brush: Please make sure all foliage/plants & debris is removed and cleared from on top of system components and 5ft around components (as well as a path to the components). Septic Inspections and Septic Pumping do not include brush removal.

  • Landscaping: If there is any landscaping over the components (including but not limited to patios, sidewalks, paving, and/or stepping stones, garden/flowers, mulch, retaining wall) the property owner is responsible for removing them prior to the inspection and replacing them after the inspection or the component(s) will not be inspected.

  • Too Close to Structure: If any component is determined to be too close (or underneath) any structure or support to be able to safely access it, that component will not be accessed.

  • Yard Access: any gates need to be unlocked, all pets and animals need to be contained outside of the work area, no children in the yard, and any other potential hazards or disruptions removed.

  • Personal items should be cleared from the area including, but not limited to, yard furniture, yard tools, toys, etc

  • If a component is not accessible or the tech feels that a condition is unsafe that component will not be accessed.

  • We do call 811 to mark lines before we dig as required by law.

(*The above applies to inspections & pumping. Repairs depend on circumstances.)​
 

A note about decks

If there is a hatch that can be removed, that is great. Our techs will not unscrew a hatch or remove or cut deck boards.

If we need to dig up lids:​

  • if deck is 6ft or more off the ground, no problem.

  • if deck is 4-6 ft off the ground, let us know and we'll evaluate.

  • if deck is less than 4ft, it is complicated: we need deck boards AND supports removed to give us enough room to dig (and somewhere to put the dirt)

If they are ground level concrete lids (which are about 4-6 inches thick by 22x22 in and 80+ lbs)

  • If deck is 5ft or more off the ground, it should be ok.

  • If deck is less than 4ft, we need deck boards AND supports removed to allow enough space for us to use tools to pull the lids up (so we need vertical and horizontal space) and set them off to the side.

If they are ground level plastic riser lids (which are thinner and lighter but about 18 inches across)

  • The lids should be screwed in, so we need enough room to unscrew them

  • A deck 4ft or more off the ground is fine

  • a deck no taller than 1 foot off the ground (otherwise we can't reach the screws) and enough deck boards and supports removed to allow us room to use the screw driver and remove the lid.​

Deck Portal
Deck Portal

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Deck Portal Opened
Deck Portal Opened

Easily removable, but the center support is still

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not accessible
not accessible

They had to remove the deck boards but the supports are too close together and too close to the round to remove the lids

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Deck Portal
Deck Portal

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Uncovering Lids

For septic inspections we will need access to both tank lids if possible. (The state rules say we must open both tank lids if accessible.)
For pumping, it is recommended to open both lids 
(see this section for more info).

Inspections: we will uncover (by hand) both lids, if accessible, up to 3 ft deep as part of the inspection price.

Pumping: we will uncover (by hand) both lids, if accessible, up to 1 ft deep as part of the pump price.  We can uncover up to 3ft deep for an extra charge or you can have it uncovered when we arrive.

If the property owner is going to uncover the tank:

  • You do not need to uncover the whole tank, just the lids.

  • Most tanks have two lids, usually about 22 x 22 inches but sometimes they are different sizes or round.  Usually they are over the inlet and outlet pipes on either ends of the tank.

  • We will remove the lids.

  • (The lids are very heavy and the lids should not be left off for any period of time, especially if it will be unattended.)

  • If the lids are uncovered when we arrive, we will leave put them back on the tank, but leave them uncovered (we leave it as we found it).

lids off 7.jpg
 

Digging

For septic inspections we will need access to both tank lids if possible. (The state rules say we must open both tank lids if accessible.)
For pumping, it is recommended to open both lids 
(see this section for more info).

Inspections: we will uncover (by hand) both lids, if accessible, up to 3 ft deep as part of the inspection price.

Pumping: we will uncover (by hand) both lids, if accessible, up to 1 ft deep as part of the pump price.  We can uncover up to 3ft deep for an extra charge or you can have it uncovered when we arrive.

We dig up the lids.

  • The lids are usually about 22 in x 22 in, so the holes are usually about 25x25 in (a little room to work), though some lids can be up to 4 x 6 ft.

  • We put the dirt on tarps, to help keep it from getting in the surrounding grass.

  • For inspections and pumping, we dig by hand, up to about 3 ft.  We will not use a machine without 

 

If we uncover the lids, we put the dirt back.

  • It will be mounded up for a little while, until the dirt settles back down.

    • We do not tap it down as that inhibits grass growth.​

  • We do not grass seed.

    • Grass is incredibly resilient (ever seen it growing through concrete) and usually comes back on its own.​

    • We cannot identify or carry seed on our trucks for all the different kind of grasses - fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, zoysia, rye grass, etc (not to mention all the different varieties of each).

  • We do not put down straw.​

    • Some people don't like the look of straw or hay in their yard

    • Straw can contain random (weed) seeds​

    • Most of the time the lawn does not need straw to recover, especially given that most of the time the area we dig up is a roughly 25 x 25 in square. 

  • Additionally, if the system winds up needing repair work, it will need to be dug up again.​

If the property owner is concerned about how the holes will look, they are of course welcome to uncover the lids (do not remove the lids) before we arrive and recover after. 

Lids uncovered
Lids uncovered

Riser Lids

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Both Sides of Tank
Both Sides of Tank

Both Sides of Tank with lids off

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Holes recovered
Holes recovered

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Lids uncovered
Lids uncovered

Riser Lids

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Locating

If we have a permit, we use that as a starting point. For Septic inspections we will request a permit from the county, though they don't always get back to us quickly or find one.

A permit does not guarantee that the tank can be found: sometimes the county returns the wrong permit, sometimes the tank is too deep, sometime the permit is slightly off.

The standard locating method is "probing" for the tank, which will we do for about 30-45 minutes.  

We do have an e-locator we can flush - this is include in septic inspections, but is an additional cost of pumping.  Note: This doesn't always find the tank: the tank could be very deep; if there is a cast iron pipe it will block the signal; it can get stuck in the pipe between the house and the tank; and if water is sitting in the pipe between the house and the tank (or if its backing up into the house), the locator will stop at the first water point because it floats.  Additionally, even when it makes it to the tank, it is still an approximate location because of the way the signal carries through the ground.

 

Do you have to uncover the lids? I have a pipe for access.

For more information on lids vs pump ports vs cleanouts for pumping (including how to tell which one(s) you have), please see the Pumping page.

Tank Lids & Access Risers

Tank lids are usually found on either end of the tank (one above the inlet, one above the outlet).  

State Rules say for an inspection we must open the lids (if accessible).

For pumping, the lids provide maximum visibility so that we can see what is in the tank and maximum access so we can move the hose around and reach all the areas.

Tank vs Pump Tanks

99% of septic tanks are buried - though the lids could be at ground level.  There is sometimes a second tank called a pump tank - these should extend up above ground level.   They are usually square, with one lid, and should have a control and alarm box (which is usually next to the tank, but can be closer to, or in, the house).  The main septic tank is what should be pumped regularly - pump tanks that are working properly rarely need pumped.

"Pump Port"

 These are ok for pumping but do not provide adequate access for an inspection (we will still uncover the lids if accessible).

Cleanout

 These are for cleaning the line - they do not provide direct access to the tank.  We do sometimes use them to help locate the tank, or to camera the line between the tank and the house,  but they are not adequate for a full inspection (we sill still uncover the lids if accessible) or for pumping.