the sky floor

How My Misguided Attempt to Save the Plumbing Created a Flood of Trouble

March 28, 2023

We relocated two years ago from city water and sewer service to well and septic. If you’ve always lived in urban/suburban areas as I have, that comes with a bit of apprehension; in the city, some of your problems belong to the local government, but on well-water and septic, it’s all on you. Admittedly, I was worried about several related home responsibilities, but none so much as not clogging up the drain field and damaging my system. 

Everyone knows you should stay off WebMD, or you might diagnose yourself with stage 4 illnesses when you have a minor ache that will pass. But we should probably offer up the same advice to homeowners. I turned to online research. In researching septic systems, I discovered many people who recommend filtering your laundry drain for fibers. That sounded like a no-brainer, so I bought the filters and hooked them up. Now I could sleep easy at night, knowing my system will never fail at the drain field! Right? 

Day two quickly taught me that resting was far from an option. As our laundry ran a spin cycle, I noticed a huge puddle of water gushing into our living room from under the wall. Hmmmm. That isn’t good. So I checked the filter, and while it has fibers, it isn’t exactly choked with threads, but I replaced it nonetheless. All set. Wait – another load later, and here come the waterworks again. The filter still doesn’t appear full enough to be causing this, so I worry my drain pipe is clogged. Nothing comes from hunting that down, so I realize I must constantly change these to prevent flooding! But how often?

After testing and trying other fixes and yet another mini-lake forming in the house, I fire up Google again to look around the web for help. This time I discover that only synthetic fibers clog the system; cotton and other organic fibers will decompose and break down over time. Luckily we intentionally buy natural fiber clothing. So I ditched the filters, and we have yet to repeat the living room river. 

Why the lesson in countryside plumbing?

Why am I divulging my foolish anxiety over particular home systems and how they wreaked havoc? To teach a more important lesson: don’t fix problems that aren’t problems yet! 

The truth is, I didn’t know we were going to have drain field problems, but I tried to solve that concern anyway. I was like a person who replaced their three-year-old car’s steering system because one day it might break – but today, it is just fine. 

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I think we have all done this before in some capacity or another. We anticipate an issue so far in the future that we waste time and effort getting ahead of nothing. Back to the car, by all means, get an oil change regularly as maintenance, but you don’t need to solve invisible crises. 

When you do that, a few things happen:

  1. You introduce new complications. See Exhibit A flowing through my living room. 
  2. You distract from other work, maintenance, or tasks that can use your attention. 
  3. You lose priceless time and energy to worrying. 

You still have to think ahead. Nothing is wrong with anticipating issues, but wait until they develop to give them real engagement. 

A Happy Ending

Over a year has passed since I removed the filter, and we haven’t had any more overflows, and the drain field is working perfectly. (We even got to test that more directly, thanks to someone placing our septic tank backward.) More importantly, I learned that conjuring problems from thin air can result in a domino effect of needless work and new issues!

Don’t be like me: you should wait to solve problems until you know they will be or are already one. Once you know about the issue, solve the problem as soon as you can!