The Septic Tank Man

A septic tanks resource for homeowners

Septic Tips

Average Lifespan of a Septic System

Septic systems are crucial components of households that are not connected to a centralized sewer system. However, their lifespan is influenced by a range of factors, and while a 20-30-year lifespan is typical in Canada, proper maintenance can extend that.

Let’s have a look at these factors:

Usage Volume

The amount of wastewater generated by a household directly correlates with the stress on the septic system. For instance, families that do multiple loads of laundry per day, have long showers or use a dishwasher frequently will introduce more water into the septic system.

If you are planning to expand your family or the number of residents in your home, consider getting an evaluation to determine whether your existing septic system can handle the increased load.

Household Products Used

Products such as bleach, ammonia, and other high-concentration cleaners can be detrimental to the bacteria in your septic system. These bacteria are vital for breaking down waste.

Even “biodegradable” or “eco-friendly” products should be used sparingly because they can still affect the septic system’s microbial balance.

Soil Quality

The nature of the soil in your property can also impact how long your septic system will last. Permeable soil conditions are optimal for drain fields as they allow for better absorption.

On the other hand, clayey or sandy soils may either drain too quickly or retain moisture, creating problems over time. Soil pH can also corrode tank materials, leading to leaks or structural failures.

Why Septic Systems Fail

Aside from the abovementioned factors, there are also a handful of reasons that could cause a septic system to malfunction, thus reducing its lifespan even further. They’re as follows:

Drain Field Issues

Once the drain field is compromised, the entire septic system is at risk. Grass over the drain field becoming unusually green or spongy ground is often an early warning sign of a failing field. Regular inspections can catch these issues before they become full-blown problems.

Imbalanced Bacterial Ecosystem

If the bacterial balance is disturbed, solid waste will not be adequately broken down. Over time, these solids will build up faster than they decompose, filling the tank and possibly leading to a system failure.

Extending Septic System Lifespan

Fortunately, you can expand the lifespan of your septic system so it can serve you for a much longer time. Here are some tips to help you out:

Limit the Use of Harmful Chemicals

The first line of defense in prolonging your septic system is at the drain. Educate everyone in the household about what can and cannot be poured down the drain. This not only includes harmful chemicals but also excessive food residues, oils, and non-biodegradable items.

Conduct Regular Pumping and Inspection

Septic tank pumping is generally recommended every 3-5 years, but this can vary based on usage and tank size. Inspections can reveal whether you need to adjust this schedule.

Some jurisdictions require regular inspections as a part of environmental conservation efforts.

Conserve Water Usage

Installing low-flow toilets and high-efficiency showerheads can reduce water usage. Collecting rainwater for gardening, fixing leaks immediately, and running only full loads in dishwashers and washing machines can also contribute to water conservation.

Limit Solid Waste

Make it a rule to never flush anything other than human waste and toilet paper. You may also want to install sink strainers to catch food scraps and prevent them from going down the drain.

Use Septic Additives

Biological additives, although not a substitute for proper care and pumping, can assist in maintaining a healthy bacterial ecosystem within the septic system.


The longevity of your septic system isn’t just dependent on the quality of its construction but also on how well it’s maintained. Through responsible usage and regular maintenance, you can significantly extend the effective lifespan of your septic system.


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