Septic Tank Vs Cesspool: Costs, Installation & Maintenance

A lot of times, conversations around septic systems seem to blur the difference between septic tanks and cesspools. These words are often used interchangeably that can sometimes be confusing.

Here, our goal is to make clear distinctions as well as comparisons between the two.

As you read through the key similarities and differences between septic tank Vs cesspool, you should be more knowledgeable to always know the distinctions.

Before we get into the main details, it will be necessary to first define what each of these septic system components is.

Comparing Cesspool With Septic Tanks

To make this article reader-friendly, we’ll need to first define what septic tanks and cesspools are. It’s no secret that these are important systems that have some similarities as well as differences.

  • Septic Tanks

Septic tanks can also be called holding tanks because they hold wastewater which is then transferred to the leach field after being separated into phases.

These phases include scum, effluent, and sludge.

Effluent or wastewater is the part that gets further treatment as the leach or absorption field. Impurities are removed from the water during filtration before it joins groundwater.

A septic tank will have to be pumped after some time as the sludge levels get higher.

Septic tanks are constructed from different materials.

These range from concrete, steel, fiberglass, and plastic. These have varying degrees of durability and also come in different sizes.

You’ll need to make your pick based on your preferred size and the tank material among others.

  • Cesspools

Unlike septic tanks, cesspools are designed to drain through holes found on the sides.

This constant drainage means cesspools hardly need to be pumped. With cesspools, frequent maintenance is necessary to ensure they’re in good working condition.

These are also called leaching pools due to how they drain their contents.

Here, there’s no need for a leach field as the contents are leached directly from the tank. These pits possess concrete or cement walls with holes through which drainage occurs.

Septic Tank Vs Cesspool: Which Is Better?

One of the most asked questions by many has to do with efficiency.

Here, the question of which is best between the two systems springs up. Each system serves its own purpose. However, there are obvious benefits of one over the other.

For cesspools, these are pits designed to receive all sorts of wastes basically made up of liquid wastewater and scum. The wastewater gets absorbed over a restricted area. This system of wastewater treatment is quite different from how wastewater is treated in a septic system.

In the case of septic tanks, treatment follows a process that includes holding wastewater long enough until it’s separated into three phases. As mentioned earlier, these consist of scum, effluent, and sludge.

To further treat wastewater, it has to leave the septic tank through a drain line to the drain field.

Once it reaches the drain field, wastewater is evenly distributed and absorbed. This absorption by the soil doubles as filtration where harmful or toxic substances are removed before it joins groundwater.

So, in terms of which is best for the environment and safer between the two, septic tanks come tops. This clear advantage should serve as a guide for homeowners. There’s a possibility that you currently have a cesspool and wonder if you should replace it with a septic system.

Consider seeking expert opinion if you’re unsure or not fully convinced what action(s) to take. The expert in this case will be a licensed septic technician or a reputable septic company.

Cost of Installation

One of the things you’ll have to face when deciding between a septic tank or cesspool is the cost of installation. Because the septic tank has obvious benefits, a lot of people will prefer replacing their cesspool systems with septic tanks.

If you fall into this category of homeowners, you’ll need to understand certain basic things. Based on the number of persons or the size of your household, replacement cost is likely to be significantly higher or lower.

The number of users directly impacts the size of the septic tank required. The bigger the tank, the more it will cost you to have it replaced. Larger homes will incur replacement costs ranging from $5,000 to $10,000.

Note that replacing a cesspool with a septic tank typically costs higher than the first-time installation. The reasons are obvious. To replace cesspools, the entire system will have to be removed or dismantled.

Safe dismantling of the system can be quite challenging and costs money.

Having successfully uninstalled the existing cesspool system, adequate preparation is made for the septic tank to be installed. This includes building a drain or leach field which was earlier non-existent due to the nature of cesspools.

Here, you can see that a lot goes into replacement and will cost you money. However, the benefits of the septic tank are obvious and way higher than a cesspool system.

As expected, the septic system requires less inspection and is better managed than the cesspool.

Maintenance Frequency

Comparing the two systems; septic tank and cesspool, the latter requires more frequent maintenance than the former. Cesspools will need to be regularly inspected by redirecting additional water sources such as rainwater.

Other maintenance actions include avoiding the use of garbage disposal and being careful about what goes into your drain.

While these maintenance actions apply to both types of systems, septic tanks will require less maintenance.

Pumping Frequency

Septic tanks will need to be pumped once every three to five years.

Before then, consider carrying out a yearly inspection to detect issues as early as possible and have them fixed. In the case of cesspools, there’s no waste processing or treatment.

This calls for more frequent emptying of the system. The frequency depends on the number of users as well as tank size. The more users, the more such system should be pumped.

The same can be said for smaller cesspool tanks as they get filled up faster and need frequent pumping.

So far, we’ve been discussing the similarities and differences between cesspools and septic tanks. As observed, both systems have fewer similarities and more differences.

Now that you know, you can make your pick based on the analysis made above.

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