Septic Tank Maintenance & Mold Information


Septic Tank Maintenance - Facts and Folklore


The folklore of septic systems could probably fill a small book. Like most folklore, the stories reflect elements of truth, ignorance, and humor. The purpose of this pamphlet is to dispel some myths about septic systems and explain how they actually work. Hopefully, this information will help you keep your system working well for many years.

How the system works

The septic system is a natural sewage treatment and disposal system. By natural, we mean that it relies on bacteria to digest and clean the wastewater. The bacteria in the septic tank literally eat the solids in the tank turning them into liquids and gases. As you might expect these gases have a foul odor. To avoid these bad odors they are vented off through pipes on the house roof. The liquid wastes flow to the drainfield. The final purification occurs by organisms living in the soil.

The bacteria in the septic tank eat and digest most of the waste. But there's always some waste that doesn't even appeal to these critters. As a result, the health department recommends pumping out the tank every three to five years. This will remove excess sludge that has accumulated.

Common myths - dead cats and a pound of yeast

Theories abound about the best way to startup a new septic system. Most theories deal with "seeding" the septic tank to get good bacterial growth started. Advice has ranged from flushing a pound of yeast into the system, to seeding the septic tank with manure, all the way to placing a dead cat in the septic tank. The Health Department doesn't recommend any of these.

Starting a new system

Most of this folklore is believable because it contains elements of truth. The concept of seeding a septic tank is partially true. Septic systems are biological systems and must have bacteria to work. However, no special seeding is necessary to get them started. The simple act of using the system will provide all the bacteria necessary to make the system function well. Yeast, manure, and especially dead cats will not help develop the colony of bacteria in the tank any faster.

Additives for old systems

Septic system folklore doesn't stop with seeding a new septic system. Many products are sold that claim to make old systems like new. Other products claim to eliminate the need to pump out the septic tank. These products usually contain yeast, bacteria, enzymes, or chemical degreasers.

People often ask if additives can reduce or eliminate the need to pump a septic tank. It's a good question, too. So far, no additive has been proven effective in a controlled scientific study.

Why additives don't work?

Some of the solids in the tank are sand, grit, bits of plastic and similar materials. No enzyme or bacteria can digest these. Other organic solids are not very digestible. Hence they accumulate. Bacteria that are added must compete with bacteria that are adapted to living in your septic tank. These adapted bacteria have the home field advantage. The newly added organisms can't compete and become dinner for the resident organisms. Enzymes on the other hand are not living and cannot reproduce. Whatever is added to the tank is all that will ever be there. Most septic tanks are 1,000 gallons or larger and the quantity of enzymes added are too low to be helpful.

In short, adding enzymes or bacteria usually won't cause a problem but they won't help either. The solution is simple. Pump your tank every three to five years. This solution is easy, safe, and often cheaper than buying septic tank additives.

The routine maintenance of pumping your tank.

After a system is working it requires very little maintenance. About all you have to do is pump the tank out every three to five years. The purpose of pumping out the tank is to remove accumulated solids. These solids can and will stop-up the soil where the wastewater is to be absorbed. When you have your tank pumped, it is wise to inspect the condition of the tank. Your licensed septic tank pumper can check the condition of the septic tank and the pipes going into and out of the tank.

The most often heard myth though is the concept that, "I never had to have my septic tank pumped before." This reflects an unfortunate attitude of neglect. Another way of looking at is, "If it ain't broke don't maintain it." The health department certainly doesn't promote this attitude. We prefer to think of it like changing the oil in you car. It's always wiser to do before you have to and the system stops working.

Call the Department of Health with your questions

If you have a question about your septic system, or suspect a problem, call your local health department environmental health specialist. They are trained and knowledgeable about septic systems. They are here to serve you and can offer free, independent, and professional advice.

This article was copied from the internet at the following site:

Got Mold? Frequently Asked Questions About Mold

What are molds?

Molds are tiny microscopic organisms that digest organic matter and reproduce by releasing spores. Molds are a type of fungi and there are over 100,000 species. In nature, mold helps decompose or break-down leaves, wood and other plant debris. Molds become a problem when they go where they are not wanted and digest materials such as our homes.

What makes molds grow in my home?

Mold enters your home as tiny spores. The spores need moisture to begin growing, digesting and destroying. Molds can grow on almost any surface, including; wood, ceiling tiles, wallpaper, paints, carpet, sheet rock, and insulation. The mold grows best when there is lots of moisture from a leaky roof, high humidity, or flood. There is no way to get rid of all molds and mold spores from your home. But you can control mold growth by keeping your home dry.

Can I be exposed to mold?

When molds are disturbed, they release spores into the air. You can be exposed by breathing air containing these mold spores. You can also be exposed through touching moldy items, eating moldy food or accidental hand to mouth contact.

Do molds affect my health?

Most molds do not harm healthy people. But people who have allergies or asthma may be more sensitive to molds. Sensitive people may experience skin rash, running nose, eye irritation, cough, nasal congestion, aggravation of asthma or difficulty breathing. People with an immune suppression or underlying lung disease, may be at increased risk for infections from molds.

When is mold a problem?

You know you have mold when you smell the "musty" odor or see small black or white specks along your damp bathroom or basement walls. Some mold may be hidden growing behind wall coverings or ceiling tiles. Even dry, dead mold can cause health problems, so always take precautions when you suspect mold. Mold is often found in areas where water has damaged building materials and furniture after flooding or plumbing leaks. Mold can also be found growing along walls where warm moist air condenses on cooler wall surfaces, such as inside cold exterior walls, behind dressers, headboards, and in closets where articles are stored against walls. Mold often grows in rooms with both high water use and humidity, such as kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and basements. If you notice mold or know of water damaged areas in your home, it is time to take action to control its growth.

When should I sample for mold?

You don’t need to sample for mold because in most cases you can see or smell mold. Even a clean, dry house will have some mold spores, but not enough to cause health problems. If you smell mold it may be hidden behind wallpaper, in the walls or ceiling or under the carpet. If you suspect you have hidden mold be very careful when you investigate, protect yourself from exposure in the same manner as you would for a cleanup.

Can I control mold growth in my home?

Yes you can. Dry out the house and fix any moisture problems in your home:

• Stop water leaks, repair leaky roofs and plumbing. Keep water away from concrete slabs and basement walls.

• Open windows and doors to increase air flow in your home, especially along the inside of exterior walls. Use a fan if there are no windows available.

• Make sure that warm air flows into all areas of the home. Move large objects a few inches away from the inside of exterior walls to increase air circulation.

• Install and use exhaust fans in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.

• Ventilate and insulate attic and crawl spaces. Use heavy plastic to cover earth floors in crawl spaces.

• Clean and dry water damaged carpets, clothing, bedding, and upholstered furniture within 24 to 48 hours, or consider removing and replacing damaged furnishings.

• Vacuum and clean your home regularly to remove mold spores.

• Check around your windows for signs of condensation and water droplets. Wipe them up right away so mold can’t start to grow.

What cleans mold?

Clean up mold and take care of the problem by keeping your home dry and keeping mold out. Act fast! Mold damages your home as it grows. Clean it up as soon as possible.

Size the moldy area

Decide if you have a large or small area of mold. A small area is less than about ten square feet, or a patch three feet by three feet square. To clean a small area, follow the advice below. You may use a cotton face mask for protection. If you have a lot of mold damage (more then ten square feet) consider hiring a cleaning professional. If the moldy area has been contaminated by sewage or is in hidden places hire a professional. To find a professional, check under "Fire and Water Damage Restoration" in your Yellow Pages. If you decide to clean up on your own, follow the guidance below.

Use protection

Wear goggles, gloves, and breathing protection while working in the area. For large consolidated areas of mold growth, you should wear an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) approved particle mask.

Seal the area

Seal off area from the rest of your home. Cover heat registers or ventilation ducts/grills. Open a window before you start to clean up.

Remove items

Remove all your furnishings to a mold-free area. Clean the surrounding moldy area then follow cleaning directions below for the items you removed and the new space.

Bag moldy trash

Bag all moldy materials and tie off the top of the bag. Bring them outdoors and place in your garbage container right away.

Scrub surfaces

Scrub hard surfaces:

• First wash with a mild detergent solution, such as laundry detergent and warm water. Allow to dry.

• (Optional step) Then wipe with a solution of ¼ cup bleach to one quart of water. Wait 20 minutes and repeat. Wait another 20 minutes.

• Last apply a borate-based detergent solution and don’t rinse. This will help prevent mold from growing again. A borate-based laundry or dish washer detergent has “borate” listed on the ingredients label.

Clean and wash

Give the entire area a good cleaning, vacuum floors, and wash any exposed bedding or clothing.


Check regularly to make sure mold has not returned to the clean-up area.

What cleans-up moldy furniture?

How to clean your moldy furniture depends on how it reacts to water. See chart below:

Reaction to Water Items Recommendations

Doesn’t absorb water and is washable

Wood, metal, plastic, glass, and ceramics objects. Wipe with a solution of lukewarm water and laundry detergent.

Absorbs water and is washable

Clothes and bedding. Wash in laundry.

Absorbs water but not washable

Beds, sofas and other furniture. These items may have to be discarded. Or, try to save by vacuuming well and allowing to air out. If there is no odor it may be okay. Mold can come back, so watch for any mold growth or mold related health problems. Discard the item if you suspect mold is growing inside or outside the item.

Should I paint over mold?

No. Don’t paint or caulk over mold. The mold will grow under the paint and the paint will peel.




A newsletter for REALTORS

What Really Matters?

Buying a home? The process can be stressful. A home inspection is supposed to give you peace of mind, but often has the opposite effect. You will be asked to absorb a lot of information in a short time. This often includes a written report, checklist, photographs, environmental reports, and what the inspector himself says during the inspection. All this combined with the seller's disclosure and what you notice yourself makes the experience even more overwhelming. What should you do?

Relax. Most of your inspection will be maintenance recommendations, life expectancies and minor imperfections. These are nice to know about. However, the issues that really matter will fall into four categories:

Major defects. An example of this would be a structural failure.
Things that lead to major defects. A small roof-flashing leak, for example.
Things that may hinder your ability to finance, legally occupy, or insure the home.
Safety hazards, such as an exposed, live buss bar at the electric panel.
Anything in these categories should be addressed. Often a serious problem can be corrected inexpensively to protect both life and property (especially in categories 2 and 4).

Most sellers are honest and are often surprised to learn of defects uncovered during an inspection. Realize that sellers are under no obligation to repair everything mentioned in the report. No home is perfect. Keep things in perspective. Don't kill your deal over things that don't matter. It is inappropriate to demand that a seller address deferred maintenance, conditions already listed on the seller's disclosure, or nit-picky items.

Jim Boston is the President of Boston Home Inspection, Inc., Chattanooga, Tennessee. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the Home Inspection Institute and is a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and the Chattanooga Association of Realtors (CAR).  


Getting A Home Inspection
Story by Calvin Sneed on Tue, Oct 1st 2002 (6:09 PM)

Craig Chisholm wants others to learn from his mistake.. it was only when he tried to sell his house, he found out the homework he should have done BEFORE he bought it..

In the eight years Mr. Chisholm has lived in the house, he's had no roof leaks.. in fact, he says he's had no problems whatsoever with the roof.
But when he put the house on the market, the prospective buyers hired a private inspector to go through the dwelling, including a roof inspection..
What the inspector told him, was shocking..

The roof decking was composed of sheets of Masonite siding.
You heard correctly.. instead of the plywood the Jasper, Tennessee city code requires, the original owner who also built the home had used the SAME masonite siding on the roof under the shingles, as the siding on the outside of the house..
Before Mr. Chisholm could sell the house, the roof would have to be re-done, at a cost of about $6,000..
The builder flat-out refused to pay, and since the statute of limitations on suing homebuilders is seven years, Mr. Chisholm is out of luck..
The masonite decking might have shown up IF there had been a leak BEFORE Mr. Chisholm bought the house. Federal law says repaired leaks have to be disclosed..

Elwynn Schwartz is the president of the Chattanooga Board of Realtors. She says, in the state of Tennessee every homeowner is required to disclose anything they know about a home they're selling.

Anything NOT disclosed on the form, might be discovered in a private home inspection.. she says "for several hundred dollars, you can get a home inpector to come out and inspect the home.
Ms. Schwartz says a home inspector would most likely have caught Mr. Chisholm's masonite roof deck before he bought the house. "The majority of the time, they do pick up on things that are obvious problems that an untrained eye might not know to observe."
Meanwhile, Mr. Chisholm says he's learned a valuable lesson. Always have a home inspector look for things unnoticeable.
The price of a home inspection depends on the size of the property, but they average between 350 and 600 dollars per property.
In many cases, the price of a home inspection can be deducted from the selling price of the house you want to buy.