Septic system troubleshooting: the easy way to help you

Septic systems can represents a big problem for your house if they are not working properly. Here you have some practical rules to avoid bigger problems and also how to diagnose them early:

  1. Check the capacity of your septic tank: normally residential septic tanks range from 1,000 – 2,000 gallons, with the great majority of them being 1,500. So, they are easy to be filled up by liquid. A family of 4 people normally spend 150 gallons of water per day – so in 10 days your septic tank will be full, and the water will have to flow to the distribution box and then to the leach field. With no problems in the way a septic tank like this one here has to be drained every 18-24 months depending on your use
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Diagram of a septic system (Photo credit: click here)

2. Don’t throw away solid waste in your sink / toilets: paper towel that are specific for septic tanks are available in the market, and you have to use just this type. If you have an in sink garbage disposal take care not to put meat and egg shelves on it. They can clog the filter in the tank.

3. If your grass are very green close to the septic access riser you probably have water from the sink in the ground – normally this is more visible during the spring and summer time, and it is a signal that the grass is being “fertilized” by the components of the waste material coming from the sink.

4. Toilet and drain backup – this is normally a late phase of a problem. Before that other signs were missed by yourself. Odor and liquid flushing near the riser is normally present before you notice a backup water in your sink or toilet. Call a service as soon as possible to pump your septic – they will also clean the filter, that is normally the problem if the septic system is a new one.

5. Distribution box problems: remember to check the trees close to the system. The tree roots could be blocking one or more pipes, or even the entire D-box sometimes. Remove roots and seal joints where roots entered if possible. Remember that an uneven D-box will not effect leach bed as severely, because water will find its own level through stone.


Solar energy: problems to be solved

During the last 5-10 years we are listening that solar will become the cheapest source to produce power in many countries. Unfortunately this is not the reality yet here in the USA, despite many states are trying to push hard the system. California, for example, is thinking about a law that will put an obligation for every new home to have a solar panel system to generate energy. I can image how home builders there are afraid of this proposal – and probably the price for customers there to buy a house will jump more.

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Photo credit:

I am a big believer in solar energy, and in my opinion this has to be a matter of study. Nevertheless the panels are still very expensive, and even with some government incentives it takes a lot of time to have your money back. In Massachusetts, depending on your house will be built, you just will have your money back in no less than 7-10 years, depending on the amount of panels you installed.

Gas continues to be the cheapest way to move in terms of energy, even in the New England region (where the prices are among one of the highest in the US). But I think that if you can afford the price it is worthy. I have them here in my home (12 panels) and for a house of more than 3,000 sf I pay no more than 150 dollars per month during the summer time. Also, every quarter, I have a deposit of 250 dollars in my account, because of the energy that can be sold in the market. But when I remember that I’ve paid of it around 18,000 dollars I also remember that the investment will take some time to break-even (around 8 years in my case).

As I mentioned I am a strong believer of solar panel energy, but I think the companies and the government has to continue to put efforts to find the best way to provide customers a more affordable price.

How your house works?

Today we are just in the flow of the 4th of July holiday week, so we decided to be soft on the technical aspects of our blog. The tip of the day is about a great reading if you are curious about HOW YOUR HOUSE WORKS.

This is the title of a book that will help you understand the anatomy of your house systems (plumbing, electrical, foundation, etc). It is also a great book in terms of illustrations. The author is Charlie King, a home building expert that also specialized in writing great books with great visual art.

The book has 10 chapter, from Plumbing and Wiring to Windows and Framing and Foundation topics. In the day we are writing this post, At you can find it for $13.00 (Kindle Edition) – not a big price in terms of the content that is really good and easy to understand.

Of course it will not be a substitute of a professional help if something big is happening in your dishwasher, but at least you will not be completely lost when the repair team says that you are having a problem in the flapper of your toilet.

Enjoy the reading, and have a nice weekend.

How to get rid of pests in your house

Many of us live in the midst of the natural habitat of various animals. And there’s no point in complaining: birds and deer – for example – will continue to show up in your garden and often joining your blueberry trees.

Some visitors, however, are more intrusive and can cause a lot of trouble. We recently had a blackout in our HVAC system and when we looked at what had happened on the machine we saw that there was a rodent nest on top of the thermistor – small piece of metal inside heat pumps that are responsible for the temperature measurement.

Here are some tips on how to get rid of pests that can ruin your life:

Poison Baits and Traps

Bait station: Holds either a snap trap or poison bait blocks to kill rats and mice. Must be placed outside, safely away from children and pets.

Tomcat Bait Station Wise Home Building 1
An example of a bait station

Electric trap: Jolts the unfortunate rat who ventures inside with a lethal dose of electricity. A little bit strange, I think

Live trap (for mice): A trapdoor swings shut when the mouse enters and tilts the box.

Snap trap (for rats): See below an example – but take care of your hands.

SnapTrack for Rats Wise Home Building 1
Snap trap available at


Water: get out of here

Did you notice a strong musty odor in your basement after a rain shower? If you have a septic system, probably he will be responsible for your craziness. But remember that you can have a problem from moisture build-up inside the basement too.

Proper drainage around the outside of your home is critical for the long term when you are building your house. We have a lot of options to work in a proper drainage for your foundation, when building a new home: the traditional French system is normally used, normally with a perforated 4″ PVC. More recently EZ drain is becoming one example of new products to facilitate your job (click here to check it).

EZ drain photo
EZ drain system in a trench to help water drain out of the foundation

Always remember that a clogged French drain can be a very tough situation.  So if you have French drains it is very important to have a filter to catch debris before it clogs the underground drain.

On the other hand, remember that the water always will fall from your roof, even if you live in very dry counties. Rain gutters are also an important part of the drainage system around your house. If your gutters are leaking and in poor repair, or if the downspout empties right beside your house, you could experience a huge problem in the future.

Gutters need to be installed properly so they will catch the water coming off of your roof and channel it at least 3-4 feet away from your home. To ensure your gutters are working as they should, you may need to just wait for the next rain storm, go outside and take a look.  If the rain is overshooting the gutter as it leaves the roof, then your gutters are not doing their job.   Gutters should have a downward slope towards the downspout to ensure they drain completely.

At ground level, the water from your downspout should be directed at least 4 feet away from your house. It’s best to have the water flowing through a tipout on the ground, or onto a splashguard designed to drain the water away from your home.

The goal of your home’s exterior drainage system is to simply move water away from your home – mainly from the foundation.  During the next rain storm pay attention to all the parts in this system.  If you discover any problems, getting them fixed immediately is critical. And if you are buying a new home don’t save money on gutters, and always ask your builder how was the system used near the foundation to work on the water drainage out of the foundation.