A septic tank riser provides easy access to your septic tank for inspections, pumping, and maintenance. Risers transform the septic tank into an accessible component of your septic system. Installing risers on your buried septic tank is a straightforward DIY project that can save you money compared to hiring a contractor.
This article will walk you through the entire process of installing septic tank risers, from locating your tank to sealing the risers in place. Follow these steps to add risers to your septic tank and keep your system running properly for years to come.
Why Install Septic Tank Risers?
There are a few key reasons to install risers on your septic tank:
Access for inspection and maintenance – Risers allow easy access to the interior of the tank for inspection and pumping without having to dig up the lawn.
Meet code requirements – Many counties require risers on septic tanks as part of their onsite sewage system codes. Check with your local health department.
Safety – Accessing an underground tank is dangerous. Risers improve safety by providing above ground access.
Reduce cost – Installing risers on your existing tank is far less expensive than replacing the entire tank.
Improve system function – Risers make it easier to monitor your tank and pump it when needed, improving overall system function.
Septic Tank Riser Materials
You’ll need the following materials to install risers on your septic tank:
- Tank adapter ring – Fits over tank opening to adapt to smaller risers
- Riser extensions – Assembled to desired height
- Riser lids – Domed or flat lids with security screws
- Butyl sealant rope – Creates watertight seal between components
- Concrete patching compound – Bonds and seals risers to tank
- Stainless steel screws – Secure lids
Other supplies like PPE, tools for cutting PVC, and items for digging up the tank are also required.
Step 1: Locate the Septic Tank
Start by locating your septic tank. Reference an as-built drawing if available. Otherwise, probe the ground with a metal rod around the expected location of the tank until you hit concrete.
Use flags or spray paint to mark the edges of the tank once located. Call 811 before digging to avoid hitting underground utilities.
Step 2: Expose the Septic Tank
Carefully dig out and expose the entire length and width of the septic tank’s top. Remove any dirt or debris from the top of the concrete tank.
Locate the inlet and outlet openings which will each need a riser. The inlet is typically closest to the house. Remove existing concrete lids.
Never leave an open septic tank unattended due to risk of falls and poisonous gasses.
Step 3: Assemble and Size the Risers
Follow manufacturer instructions to assemble the riser components. Use butyl sealant rope between pieces to create watertight seals.
Cut extension risers to appropriate height with a jigsaw. Risers should extend slightly above or flush with ground level when installed.
File and sand cut PVC edges smooth. Dry fit the riser assembly over the tank openings to test fit.
Step 4: Bond Risers to the Septic Tank
Thoroughly clean tank top and opening edges. Apply concrete bonding compound around the tank opening and base of risers.
Lower assembled risers into openings and press firmly to adhere risers to tank. Add more concrete mix around base if needed.
Allow concrete bonding compound to fully cure before backfilling dirt around risers. Install lids and secure with stainless screws.
Tips for Septic Tank Riser Installation
Follow these tips for a smooth and successful DIY septic tank riser installation:
- Check condition of old tank – Replace entire tank if needed
- Assemble risers dry first to test fit
- Clean surfaces thoroughly before bonding
- Avoid over-tightening stainless lid screws
- Backfill gradually around risers to support
- Consider installing at time of pumping
- Hire help for heavy lifting if needed
Why Hire a Pro?
Installing your own septic tank risers can save money, but there are a few reasons you may want to hire a professional:
Locating buried tanks – Not all systems have accurate as-built drawings. Underground utility locating equipment can precisely find tanks.
Tank replacement – If your tank is too deteriorated, a pro can replace the entire tank.
Heavy lifting – Contractors have equipment to safely lift and position heavy risers and lids.
Tricky installations – Experienced pros can handle tricky situations like tanks under patios.
Get quotes from septic contractors to decide if DIY or pro installation is your best bet.
Septic Tank Riser Maintenance Tips
Once risers are installed, just a bit of periodic maintenance will keep them functioning properly:
- Inspect condition of lids and seals annually – Reseal if any leaks are found
- Lubricate lid bolts with penetrating oil to prevent seizing
- Clear overgrown vegetation and soil from around risers
- Replace broken or severely UV degraded lids
- Keep riser extensions glued together and tank adapter sealed
Installing Risers on Other System Components
Septic tanks aren’t the only components that benefit from access risers. Consider installing risers over:
- Pump Chambers – For float, pump, and alarm access in advanced treatment systems
- D-Boxes – To monitor sewage distribution between drain lines
- Tank Baffles – If your tank has separate inlet/outlet access covers
Just follow the same basic process of locate, expose, assemble risers, and bond risers for other system components.
Adding risers to your buried septic tank provides huge benefits for system access, safety, and maintenance. Following the steps above will allow you to successfully DIY the installation in most cases. Consider hiring a professional if your system layout or conditions are complex.
Be sure to take safety precautions like calling 811, using a buddy system, and avoiding open tanks. Investing a day’s labor into installing risers will pay off for years by keeping your septic system operating at peak performance.