How Long Does a Septic System Last?How Long Does a Septic System Last?

Homeowners not used to septic systems may worry about the cost of replacing them. But depending on the type and how well your septic system is maintained, a septic system can serve a home for decades.

Septic systems serve rural areas and neighborhoods not connected to existing sewer systems. A residential septic system uses a storage tank to collect household wastewater.

The tank retains the wastewater, enabling solids to sink to the bottom and fats, grease, and oil to rise to the top. The wastewater from the tank flows into a drain field, introducing harmful bacteria and viruses into the soil.

How Long Do Steel Septic Tanks Last?
The material used to build the system's septic tank impacts how long it will last. Cost and limited durability make steel tanks an unpopular option. Steel tanks are vulnerable to rust that weakens the structure after about 15 years. The corrosion can cause a steel septic tank to collapse even before its expected lifespan of about 20 years.

Are Metal Septic Tanks Legal?
Usually, no. While steel septic tanks once were common, many jurisdictions no longer allow them. As steel tanks corrode, they can collapse, posing a danger to a homeowner. Check your local and state laws and building codes to determine if metal septic tanks are legal for your home address.

How Long Does a Concrete Septic Tank Last?
A high-quality concrete septic tank can last 40 or more years with routine tank service. A concrete storage tank is common in residential septic systems, and these concrete septic tanks gain strength over time. The tanks are even heavy enough to withstand the buoyant forces of rising water tables.

Concrete Septic Tank Problems
While durable, concrete septic tanks can crack, especially lower-quality concrete. Those cracks, if large, are evidence that the tank needs replacing. A concrete tank can degrade if not vented to prevent sulfuric acid buildup.

Can a Concrete Septic Tank Be Repaired?
Yes. Some repairs are possible for concrete septic tank problems. A professional can seal small cracks and install a new inlet pipe to prevent sulfuric acid buildup from releasing hydrogen sulfide gas. But large cracks and other failures mean you must replace a concrete tank.

How Long Do Plastic Septic Tanks Last?
Plastic storage tanks are light and less expensive than steel or concrete. They last more than 30 years. Plastic septic tanks are vulnerable to damage from extreme weight applied from above ground. Rising water tables below ground also threaten to lift lighter plastic tanks.

How Long Does a Sand Mound Septic System Last?
A sand mound septic system serves homes on their property having high groundwater or not much soil depth. The sand mound above ground serves as the drain field. The lifespan of a sand mound system will depend, in part, on the septic tank construction.

Household chemicals and cleaning solutions found in the wastewater reduce the system's life. But it also depends on how much household chemical solutions and even antibacterial products found in the wastewater degrade the drain field. The loss of good bacteria leads to clogs and system failure.

How Long Does a Septic Leach Field Last?
A septic leach field is the first component of a system to fail, but it can last 20 years if properly maintained. The field's size and how much wastewater it serves can impact its life. Drain fields that serve a seasonal home last longer than a field that serves a larger household all year.

Can You Drive Over a Leach Field?
No. It is essential to protect the leach field. Never park vehicles or drive on or near a leach field. The activity can damage the drain pipes that distribute the wastewater. Also, trees planted in or too close to the drain field can produce roots that damage the lines in the leach field.

How Long Does a Septic Pump Last?
A septic system pump lasts between 10 and 15 years. The septic pump's life depends on how much wastewater it pumps and how often the septic tank fills. Replace the pump instead of repairing it to avoid unexpected system failure.

How Often Do Septic Tanks Need to Be Replaced?
A septic tank can last between 20 and 40 years. The lifespan depends on the tank's material. A steel tank lasts 20 years, while a concrete tank lasts 40 years. Plastic tanks can last as long as 30 years.

Do I Need to Replace My Septic Tank?
Puddles or soggy soil around a tank are signs that you need to replace your septic tank. The moisture may be evidence of cracks or other failures. Rust on a steel tank could be a sign to replace it to avoid further corrosion or collapse. Strong odors suddenly coming from the septic tank could also be a sign of damage.

Are Septic Tank Damages and Septic Systems Covered by Home Insurance?
Yes. Home insurance typically covers septic system damages when damages were caused by one or more of 16 perils included in your policy. See the image below.

How Long Does a Septic System Last?

However, poor construction, neglect or inadequate maintenance, and misuse claims will get rejected. Examples of possible rejected claims include:

  • Neglecting removal of tree roots
  • Flushing chemicals and oils
  • Improper drainage of the septic system
  • Driving on the ground over the tank

A septic system is an "other structure" covered under Coverage B of a standard home insurance policy. That means your coverage limit is 10% of your dwelling coverage. So, if you have $300,000 for your dwelling, you will have $30,000 to pay for repairing or replacing your septic system.

Since home insurance excludes floods and earthquakes, you need to file a septic system claim under one of those policies, depending on which one caused the damage.

How Long Can a Septic System Sit Unused?
Properly installed and maintained septic systems can sit unused for an extended period. A tank that remains inactive for a year will likely still be full of wastewater. If idle for longer, a system may have less wastewater.

How Long Do Septic Tanks Last in Florida?
In Florida, one in every three households relies on septic systems. Septic tanks can last 30 years with proper maintenance; that includes having the septic tank pumped every three to five years. The system lasts longer without household food scraps, grease, paint, and harsh chemicals.

Can a Septic System Be Repaired?
Yes. You can repair some problems with a septic system. A new sewer pump can replace the old one, and new drain field pipes can replace broken ones. But when steel or plastic tanks rupture, there are no possible repair options. There also is no repairing a failed drain field.

How Long Does It Take to Replace a Septic System?
Installation of a new septic system can take as little as one day or as long as several days. Removing and replacing the old tank can take a day or two. Replacing a leach field also could take a day or two. It depends on how suitable the soil conditions are for leaching.

Hope that helps!

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Young Alfred