Your guide to septic system repair & installation

Septic System Repair & Replacement for Baltimore Homes

Septic systems are an often confusing but integral part of your home.  We know a septic system in disrepair can be stressful.  C.A. Taciak & Sons believes you make the best choices for your home when you get educated on the problem that is present.  We pride ourselves on being home advisors to the greater Baltimore area.  We’ve compiled our three generations of knowledge into a guide that helps you understand septic repairs.  With this informative article, you have a jumping-off point for your plumbing problem.  If your home is experiencing sewage backups, gurgling toilets, sinkholes, or a damp yard, we are confident we can help.  C.A. Taciak & Sons would be more than happy to walk you through your options for septic repair or replacement.  If you are ready to start your home’s septic repair, call us at (410) 960-2667.  If you are curious to know more about a C.A. Taciak & Sons septic system repair/replacement, read on.

In this very long and thorough article, you will find much information about septic systems and our repair process.  If you would like to quickly jump to a particular topic, use the links below:

Septic Components  |  Cause of Problems  |  Repair vs Replacement  |  Symptoms  |  Cost  |  Contact Us  |  FAQ

What is a septic system?

A septic system is a self-contained, natural alternative to a municipal sewer system.  Typically, properties in rural areas use septic instead of sewer.  If your home has a septic system, think of it as an onsite wastewater treatment plant.  So how does it work?  A septic system removes solid waste from your drain water and then filters the remaining water through the ground away from your home.

A traditional septic system is made of three main components and the pipes that connect them.  These three components are a tank, a distribution box, and a drain field.

The septic tank

A septic tank separates solid waste from wastewater.  Wastewater is all of the water sent down your toilets, tubs, showers, sinks, and other plumbing drains.  A septic tank accomplishes this process by using gravity to separate your solid waste and wastewater.  Wastewater enters the tank through an inlet.  As the water flows through the tank, solids fall to the bottom of the tank.  During this separation, the water continues to flow to the outlet and onward to the distribution box.  The solids and sludge left behind need to be pumped out before they fill the tank. If pumping isn’t done regularly, this rising solid waste can interfere with the normal operation of the septic tank. On average, septic tanks need to be pumped every two to three years. This schedule changes depending on your home and septic usage.

Diagram of a septic tank, septic baffles, inlet, outlet, sludge, scum, liquid, and access points

The distribution box

A distribution box, or D-Box for short, is a small container made of concrete or plastic that lives up to its name. As a large volume of water drains from your septic tank, the distribution box distributes this water to two or more drainage areas. The pipes exiting the distribution box allow smaller more manageable amounts of water to flow out to each drainage area. The water diversion from the d-box keeps your drainage areas from becoming overwhelmed and your yard from flooding with wastewater.

The drain field

A drain field – also known as a leach field, seepage pit, or dry well – is a filter. Its job is to clean and dispose of your septic wastewater into the surrounding soil.  Drain fields work similarly to a water filter in your home. Water drains through the ground in the drainage area.  In turn, the ground filters the water. After passing through many layers of soil, the clean water enters back into the environment and the water cycle.

Several other types of septic systems do exist. There are many one-off specialty systems designed for a property’s unique conditions. We won’t address these systems in this article. If you have an uncommon septic system, this article may still be able to help you. No matter how obscure the system, its design will roughly follow these guidelines. The basic information provided will help you determine if there is a problem with your septic system. After educating yourself on the problem, you can reach out to a trained inspector for help.

If you are aware that your home has a sand mound, low-pressure dosing system, or another BAT-type septic system, please call us for an in-depth consultation. These systems are a significant investment both in your home’s plumbing and its value. BAT systems must be expertly maintained and repaired.  C.A. Taciak & Sons can help no matter what septic system your property may use.

A cross section illustration of a septic tank, distribution box, and drain field

What causes septic problems?

Diagnosing septic problems can be difficult due to their complex structure.  Still, septic systems are plagued by many of the same issues that affect all plumbing.

Old Age

Septic systems have an average life expectancy of 25 years.  If constructed from hearty concrete and well maintained, it is common for a septic tank to last 50+ years.  However, many internal elements of septic tanks like baffles, inlets, and outlets can require attention at an earlier date.  Septic systems are usually installed during the construction of the home.  This can mean that your system may be as old as your home itself.   The nature of its job requires your septic system to work hard every day.  So what can go awry with your septic as it ages?

Common problems are:

  • Tree root infiltration
  • Pipe corrosion and deterioration
  • Broken, cracked, or collapsed pipes
  • Settling or shifting soil conditions

A septic system repair can seem like an expensive and unexciting item to spend money on.  However, spending money fixing problems that a broken septic system can cause will feel even worse.  Keeping your septic system operating correctly is an important investment that ensures your home is livable.

Material Defect

The nature of its job causes a septic system to undergo plenty of strain each day.  Even a carefully installed septic system can experience problems if built from subpar materials.  We have come across many variations of septic tanks in our 70+ years of service to the Baltimore area.  Not all septic materials are created equal, and some septic tanks have more issues than others.

Modern septic tanks are usually constructed from either concrete, fiberglass, or plastic.   Concrete tanks are the standard for Maryland septic systems.  Even though concrete tanks are considered the most durable, if cast from a low-quality concrete mix, a tank is still liable to crack and leak.  Fiberglass and plastic tanks are other common alternatives.  These are less likely to crack than a concrete tank, but do come with their own problems.  Plastic tanks are much more fragile and can crush or dent when installed.  Regardless of the material, making sure your contractor uses a high-quality tank is imperative.

If you have an older septic system, it is also possible that you have a steel septic tank.  These are no longer manufactured or installed.  Steel tanks have a much shorter lifespan and often fail because of rust.  It’s best to replace a steel septic tank as soon as possible.  If it has not failed already, it will soon.  Rusted tanks pose a significant and serious danger for cave-ins and collapse.

Poor Workmanship

As mentioned above, there are several important components that make up a septic system.  These components must work together for the system to function.  When a component fails from poor installation, the rest of the system suffers.  For example, if a septic tank is improperly installed, shifting ground conditions and water table levels can move the tank or even push it out of the ground.  Any movement of a septic tank can damage the pipes attached to it.  This is not an ideal situation.  Any excess strain on your septic system can result in an even more expensive repair down the road.  When it comes to repairing your home’s septic issues, always go with an expert.  A quality job done right the first time prevents needless headaches in the future. C.A. Taciak & Sons has been repairing Baltimore’s septic systems for three generations.  Give your home’s septic the high-quality materials and expert installation it needs.

While affected by common plumbing issues, there are also problems unique to septic systems that may be happening to your home. These issues are derived from the way a septic system works.

Septic Tank Problems

If you are experiencing a sewage backup or slow gurgling drain, it could be an issue with your septic tank.  A backup in your home is an indicator that the tank may need pumping.  It can also be a sign that debris is clogging the inlet, outlet, or baffles.  A leaking tank is a sign that your septic system may not be able to drain properly.  Sinkholes are another manifestation of septic system problems.  A collapsed or cracked tank can pull dirt into itself, leaving a large pit in your yard.  These holes do not plug themselves and need to be addressed.  For the sinkhole to stop appearing, the septic tank will need to undergo repair.  Rest easy knowing that C.A. Taciak & Sons can resolve your sinkhole problem.  We combine septic repair expertise with masterful excavating skills to solve your problem.

Distribution Box Problems

Problems with your septic distribution box can cause a sewage backup in your home.  Often this occurs when the d-box clogs or collapses.  Distribution box lids sometimes cave in or break.  Dirt then floods the box, rendering it inoperable.  At this point, water is longer draining from any point upstream of the distribution box.  This causes water to back up into your home.  Another common problem to occur is a wet or soggy yard.  If a distribution box isn’t level, an influx of wastewater will repeatedly flow to the same drainage areas in your lawn.  The overwhelmed drainage areas will suffer premature wear.  The underutilized leach fields on the neglected side won’t see much action.  This can prematurely fail your septic system and require major repairs down the road.  

Dry Well Problems

Most dry well and drainage area problems occur when water can longer drain from them.  This can occur from two main causes; some form of pipe blockage or oversaturation of the drainage area.  If the pipes leading to a drainage area collapse, clog, or suffer root infiltration, water can no longer drain from the septic system. This situation would then create a backup.  The surrounding soil of a drainage area can also become too saturated with wastewater and can no longer drain correctly.  The lack of drainage prevents the soil from filtering during the septic process. This usually results in a wet or soggy area of your yard, but can also lead to a sewage backup into your home.

Whatever septic system problem you face, we are here to help. If you think your home would benefit from a septic diagnostic, get in touch. If you are still seeking more information on the septic repair/replacement process, read on.

Septic Repair vs Septic Replacement

Most septic systems problems will only need repair.  It is very unusual for all three septic systems – tank, distribution box, or drainage field – to fail all at once.  Often, only one component needs attention at a time.  Sometimes a septic system only needs a little maintenance to get back in working order.  For example, a broken distribution box could be affecting your drainage area.  Simply replacing the small box would completely fix the problem in the much larger drain field.  Since septic system components are all related, fixing one component can often greatly improve the health of the entire system.

At the other end of the spectrum, a complete septic replacement would require installing new versions of all three components.  While often not required, it is a possibility.  A complete septic system replacement would occur in two instances:

  • If your home’s initial septic installation was completely botched
  • If something catastrophic has occurred in the natural state of your soil

Does my septic system need to be repaired?

If you are on septic, the need for repair is always a possibility.  There are a few symptoms that point towards septic repair.  Are you experiencing any unusual or frustrating plumbing problems such as:

  • Sewage backups
  • Slow flushing toilets
  • Gurgling toilets
  • Foul smells in your yard
  • Sinkholes
  • Overly green portions of grass
  • Unusually fast-growing trees or bushes
  • Wet or mushy areas in your lawn

If you answered “yes” to any of these symptoms, you may want to consider a drain clean or a septic pumping first.  A diagnostic drain clean is an affordable first step that may in fact get your septic up and running.  A septic pumping is also a logical first step if you have not had a pumping in the last 2-3 years.  If you do require a septic repair, it is often a minimally invasive procedure.  Please give us a call if you need help deciding on a course of action.

What does a septic system repair cost?

We understand that a septic system repair isn’t an exciting project to spend your money on.  A vacation is far more enjoyable than any plumbing maintenance.  Still, spending money to have working plumbing is a necessity.  We don’t take your plumbing problems for granted.  We understand that your home is your investment and take care to treat it as such.  C.A. Taciak & Sons is proud to bring the finest industry practices, customer service, and expertise to your project.  We approach each job with our client’s affordability and practicality in mind.

Most Baltimore area septic system repairs begin around $2,500.  Pricing is dependent on the job site requirements, the condition of your septic system, and the addition of a-la-carte services.  Why are plumbing repairs so expensive, you may ask?  As fellow homeowners, we are happy to shed light on this information.  

The biggest expense when it comes to septic system repairs is our expertise.  When you hire C.A. Taciak & Sons, you are gaining access to 70+ years of plumbing knowledge.  We spend a great deal of time attending industry educational courses, licensing classes, and seminars. These skill sets help us give your home the treatment it deserves.  Another factor is equipment.  A large portion of our cost comes from bringing many hundreds of thousands of dollars of specialized equipment on site.  Often we are able to save our clients money if any other problems are discovered while we are working because of what we bring with us.  Instead of paying a company to come out a second time, we are already on site with the equipment we need.  We thus can take care of any additional issues for nominal material costs.

Does my septic system need to be replaced?

Complete septic replacement is only advised after a detailed inspection of your system.  In most cases, we work with your county’s septic authorities to create a solution based off of repair.  In the extreme case that your entire septic system needs replacement, we will work to create a plan that fits your needs and budget.

What does a new septic system installation cost?

New septic system installations are usually only required for new home building. In these situations, septic system installations start upwards of $20,000 and go up from there. Although this is a hefty price tag, it is usually worked into the loan taken out to build your home. Always remember a properly maintained septic system can last 50 years or more. It is a worthwhile and important investment.

C.A. Taciak & Sons Baltimore Septic System F.A.Q.

Does C.A. Taciak & Sons do septic pumping?

Currently, we do not perform septic pumping. We are happy to recommend two fellow contractors who specialize in septic pumping.  Our customers have had many good things to say about both:

Michael Septic: 410-833-0108 

Jones Pump Service: 410-836-9206 

I’m on septic AND well. Does C.A. Taciak & Sons also do well repair?

Unfortunately well repair is a science unto itself.  We currently do not have the manpower or specialized equipment to help with well repair. If you have any questions about your well please contact:

Patton Well Drilling: 410-592-8662 

My septic system is clogged and we are on a time crunch. How long does a repair take?

We can diagnose many septic problems over the phone or onsite within 24 hours.  Depending on our schedule, we can get to repairing most major problems within 72 hours.  In emergency situations, we make every effort to get to you as soon as possible.  We can often get to smaller repairs requiring less equipment even faster.

Isn’t it Baltimore City or Baltimore County’s responsibility to make sure my septic utilities are working?

Your septic system is a self contained system completely on your property.  Unfortunately it is the homeowners responsibility to ensure that it is working properly.  The state of Maryland does require a septic inspection at the sale of every home with a septic system.  This ensures that the home’s new owner is taking possession of a house with a working septic system.  We are MD state certified to perform septic inspections.  We do many Maryland real estate transaction septic inspections every year.   Please give us a call if this is what you need.

I know there is a problem with my septic system, but I’m not entirely sure what it is or where to start. Where do I begin?

If the above guide does not help diagnose your problem please give us a call.  We are often able to diagnose issues over the phone using our many decades of septic experience.