Click on photo to Link to Further Information
Click on photo to Link to Further Information

If you are buying a cottage, a rural home or lot, for the first time, chances are you are going to want to know about septic systems.  Simply put, a septic is a management system to treat your wastewater—anything that is put down a toilet and anything that goes down your drain.  Waste flows down from the house to the tank, and down from the tank to a “title bed”.  A traditional septic system is a completely passive system (there are other systems, but that’s a topic for another blog).

Basically, you have a tank that is buried in your yard.  As per the diagram below, wastewater flows into the tank from your house at one end (A) and leaves the tank at the other (E).


As new water enters the tank, it displaces the water that’s already there. This water (C) flows out of the septic tank and into a “tile bed”.  A tile bed is made of perforated pipes buried in trenches in your yard.  This water is then naturally filtered through the earth.

Anything heavier than water, sinks to the bottom of the tank, this is called sludge (D). Soap suds and fats form a floating layer at the top known as “scum” (B).

The organic material in your wastewater is broken down by bacteria, which is a by-product of human waste.  This is a natural process which helps to reduce any scum and sludge from leaving with the water that flows into the tile bed.  Scum and sludge are what must be pumped out so that they do not begin to leave the tank with the water and plug up the tile bed.  You should pump out every 3 to 5 years depending on use.

Here’s an overhead view of the system of your house (A), tank (B), distribution box (C) and tile bed (D), in a traditional septic there are usually 5 runs in the tile bed.


It is important to limit the use of soaps and bleaches that may make their way into your septic tank as these can kill off the bacteria needed to reduce scum and sludge.  Avoid chemicals and reduce the amount of toilet paper used.

To keep your system healthy you need to understand it and be able to educate your family and guests.  A good slogan for everyone using your system is:  “If you didn’t eat it, don’t flush it”.

Here are some links for further information on septic systems:

Septic system brochure:

Septic system guide:

Northern Bruce Peninsula Septic Guide:


Kathy Dimaline is a Real Estate Broker for RE/MAX Grey Bruce Realty Inc.  The comments on this Blog are the opinions, only, of Kathy Dimaline and do not constitute any legal advice or legal opinion and does not represent the interests or opinions of RE/MAX Grey Bruce Realty Inc., brokerage.