Your Location: Nashville Change Location
We're Available 24 Hours a Day!

The Difference Between Septic and Sewer

How Do Septic Systems Work

If you’ve just moved to a new home, you’ll need to learn how all the systems within it work. For example, understanding the difference between septic and sewer systems is one way to prevent a plumbing nightmare.

The Basic Difference

Both septic and sewer systems remove what you flush down the toilet, drain, and pipes into holding tank for processing.

The basic difference between septic and sewer systems is where the contents of your waste pipe end up.


With a septic system, the waste pipes empty into a holding tank buried below ground.


With a sewer system, wastewater is piped to a treatment plant operated by your city or county.

Maintenance Differences

One of the key differences between the two is the extent of your involvement.

Septic tanks are privately owned treatment systems, leaving you responsible for upkeep and maintenance.

Municipal sewers manage the entire process, and your responsibility generally only extends to paying your utility bill in a timely manner.

How Do Septic Systems Work

With a septic system, waste is piped to a septic tank buried on your property, where it keeps it from polluting the groundwater. You’ll find the tank by looking for the access cover.

Inside, the waste separates into three layers: scum, wastewater, and sludge. The scum and sludge must be pumped out by a service technician.

The wastewater empties into the leach field, which consists of distribution pipes that release it into the soil where it is further broken down by oxygen and soil microbiology.

Usage Difference Between Septic and Sewer

Septic system require extra care. While you should always dispose of waste materials properly, septic systems are less forgiving than city sewers.

Sewers can accommodate some food scraps with the use of a garbage disposal, but that’s a big no-no for septic tanks.

You’ll need to keep an eye on how much water you use. Depending on the tank size, you may need to reduce wash loads or showers if the tank isn’t big enough for your family’s needs.

An undersized tank means more frequent service calls for pumping. Alternatively, however, you may want to consider having a greywater system installed to reduce the number of service calls.

Pros and Cons

Both septic and sewer systems have their upsides and downsides. A sewer is more convenient but comes with a monthly fee that adds up over time. A septic tank requires service, but the cost is usually low.

Neither needs to be a deal-killer when you’re looking for a new home. You just might find you don’t have any choice.

Next Steps

If your dream home means coming to grips with a septic system, there’s no need to worry. Make an appointment today with the pros at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing in Nashville. We’ll help you figure out a maintenance plan that will keep it trouble free for as long as you own your new home.