Large field of possible septic drainfield locations Why do We Need to Locate the Septic Drainfield?

  • REASONS to FIND THE DRAINFIELD - CONTENTS: Soakaway bed or drainfield location for building site planning or other purposes. Drainfield location as part of septic system maintenance or repair. Drainfield location necessary for diagnosing septic system failures or odors. How to locate the septic system drainfield or leach field
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about why and when we need to find the septic system drainfield or soakaway beds

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Why do we care where the septic drainfield is located? What can we do about it? This article and our accompanying septic system location videos explains how to find the leach field or drainfield portion of a septic system.

We include sketches and photos that help you learn what to look for, and we describe several methods useful for finding buried drainfield components. (Septic drain fields are also called soil absorption systems or seepage beds.)

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Guide to Finding the Drainfield - Part 2

Why Look For the Drainfield? How to Find the Septic Fields

Overgrown septic areaSite planning requires septic drainfield location

"How do I find my septic system's drainfield?" is a question we hear often. There are several reasons that you may need to know the accurate location of the leachfield or drainfield.

Planning new site construction or house additions: If you are planning to install a pool, deck, or to do any work that involves driving across your property you want to keep these activities off of the drainfield, also called leach field which has the job of treating and disposing of effluent from the septic tank.

Planning site landscaping around the septic system:

Other reasons for locating the leach field include septic system care such as keeping plants, particularly trees, away from this component lest roots clog it and lead to a septic system failure.

If your septic area is as overgrown as that shown in this photo, you can assume that it is unlikely to be functional.

See Planting Over Septic Systems for advice about what you should and should not plant over or near a septic system leachfield or drainfield to protect and not harm its operation.

Septic System Maintenance Requires Knowing Drainfield and D-Box Locations

Septic Distribution box adjustment

Maintaining the septic system: if you know where all of the septic components are, you can investigate their condition and perform maintenance.

For example some systems are designed to permit adjustment of effluent flow among different drainfield sections, allowing sections to rest and recover.

In the US EPA photograph at left the technician is adjusting a concentric opening cap on individual drainfield lines to balance effluent flow among them.

Diagnosing septic system failures requires knowing septic drainfield location

Wet area under snowcover might indicate a septic failure

Diagnosing septic backups, slow drains, or wet areas: if you know where the D-box (distribution box) and where the septic drainfield individual leach lines or seepage pits are located, you can explain possible wet areas as either probably harmless (distant from any known septic components), harmful (flooding the septic fields), or indicative of septic field failure (odors and effluent appearing at ground surface).

When we found this wet area showing up under deep snow cover at the rear of a residential property we had to decide if it was groundwater, a local spring, or a failing septic system. It was pretty smelly which made everyone suspicious.

The worst turned out to be true.

We had a septic drainfield that had been installed in soil with high seasonal water table, lots of local groundwater and surface runoff from nearby Clover Hill in Poughkeepsie, NY, inadequate fill in the drainfield area, a failed steel septic tank, and a failed drainfield.

Total replacement of the drainfield included a curtain drain to intercept local groundwater, site drainage corrections, additional fill for the drainfield area, and a new tank and drainfield system. Curtain drains or intercept drains can protect septic drainfields in areas of wet soils or surface and subsurface groundwater

Also see How to Find the Septic Tank. More videos on septic system location & maintenance are at SEPTIC VIDEOS.


Continue reading at RECORDS to LOCATE the DRAINFIELD or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

or see SEPTIC COMPONENT LOCATIONS for help finding the septic tank, distribution box, drainfield, soakaway bed

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REASONS to FIND THE DRAINFIELD at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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