Your septic tank has two baffles: the inlet baffle and the outlet baffle. These are situated, as you've probably guessed, at the incoming and outgoing pipes of your septic tank. They're made of either concrete or plastic piping, and they're designed with multiple purposes in mind, including directing the flow of wastewater, keeping the leach field free of solids, and more.
If either one of your septic tank baffles malfunctions, you can end up with sewage backed up into your house or even worse. Here are five tips to help you keep your septic baffles healthy and happy.
1. Schedule Regular Inspections
Your septic system as a whole can benefit from regular inspections scheduled once per year. But inspections are particularly important for your baffles. Most new outlet baffles have a filter installed, and the filter needs to be cleaned on a regular basis or it will cause problems.
Also, most older baffles are made of concrete, which can slowly degrade in the septic environment until it crumbles completely and causes a septic backup. The regular inspections can keep an eye on the rate of decomposition, similar to a dentist keeping an eye on a "watch spot" on a tooth that might eventually develop a cavity.
2. Choose Plastic
If you do ever have a new septic system installed or get your baffles replaced, be sure to choose baffles made of ABS plastic. This plastic can actually last longer than concrete because it doesn't corrode when in contact with the gases in the septic tank.
If you have concrete baffles on your existing tank, consider upgrading to a set of plastic ones. Schedule this upgrade along with your next septic pumping.
3. Don't Flush Solids
Just like your outlet baffle is especially susceptible to crumbling, your inlet baffle is especially susceptible to clogging. It can even clog from too much toilet paper, especially if you use a non-septic-safe toilet paper or if the inlet pipe is installed with its opening too close to the baffle opening.
If you flush solid items such as diapers or even "flushable" wipes into your septic system, either baffle can become clogged. As you can imagine, a clog at the inlet or outlet of your septic system spells bad news for your home.
4. Enforce a No-Drive Zone
Your septic baffles, along with the inlet and outlet pipes, are easy prey for heavy machinery driving through your yard. Driving vehicles over your septic system can result in damage to your system. You may cause damage without even realizing it until your toilet starts to back up.
The inlet baffle, for example, is attached to the inlet pipe with a fitting, and heavy vehicles can damage this vulnerable junction. To protect your baffles and the system as a whole, never drive over any component of your septic system (including the main line between the tank and your house). Additionally, use a small, light lawnmower (ideally a hand-pushed mower) to care for the lawn above your system.
5. Prevent Tree Root Problems
You've probably heard that you're not supposed to plant trees above your septic system. But in reality, the tree's roots can extend much further out than its branches. And the septic tank's baffles can sometimes be one of the vulnerable spots that might allow roots in.
As a rule of thumb, make sure no trees are planted or allowed to grow anywhere near the septic system — all trees should be 30–50 feet away. The tree's mature height is sometimes used as a quick estimate of how far away the tree should be, but some trees can cause problems even further away than that.
These five tips will help you keep your septic tank baffles working well for the entire life of your septic tank. If you need baffle replacement or repair, or if you think you have a baffle clog or some other malfunction, get in touch with our experts today. Chuck Keene Septic Tank Pumping Service is here to help with inspections, pump cleaning, repairs, and much more.