January 14, 2020

7 Signs Your Septic Tank Is Full & Needs Emptying

Owning a property that relies on a septic tank brings its own unique challenges. If you forget to empty your septic tank it’s a little but more serious than forgetting to take the bins out.

If you've owned a septic tank for a long period of time you may begin to notice there are some tell-tale signs when your tank might need to emptied.

If you're new to owning a septic tank, the symptoms listed below will be the key things you need to look out for and how to check septic tank is full.

How to tell your septic tank is full and needs emptying

There are 7 telltale signs that can indicate your septic tank is full. These are:

  1. Pooling water
  2. Slow drains
  3. Odours
  4. An overly healthy lawn
  5. Sewer backup
  6. Gurgling Pipes
  7. Trouble Flushing 

What Does A “Full” Septic Tank Mean?

Before we discuss the 7 signs you need to keep an eye out for it's important to understand what a "full" tank can mean. There can be three different definitions of full.

1. Normal Level - This simply means your septic tank is filled to the level it was designed to hold. This means the intake and outtake valves allow waste and wastewater to flow in and out of the septic tank with no issues. When a tank is pumped it will be emptied, but as it’s used it will return to the normal level of “full”

2. Accumulation of Sludge: This is a common problem faced by septic tank owners. Overtime sludge can build up and become trapped. This sludge will not disappear on its own and will have to be removed.Waste water will continue to flow out to the drainage area.

3. Over Filled Tank: It will get to a point where the drainage field stops accepting water. When this happens water will back up into the overflow tank. Water levels will rise to the very top of capacity.

So now that we know the different ways a septic tank can be full, we can delve into the 7 warning signs you need to look out for.

1. Pooling Water

First thing to look out for is pools of water forming around your septic tanks drain field. This is a key sign of an overflowing septic tank. 

It goes without saying, if it hasn't rained recently and you’re seeing a lot of standing water, it's probably your septic tank.

This mainly happens when your tank is at full capacity and there could be solid water blocking the system. This will then force liquid up to the top of the ground.

2. Slow Drains

Throughout your house, be it your sink, bath, or toilet, if you see these draining slowly or difficulty flushing, take note. This could either be a sign of a clog in your septic system, or your system is full and needs to be emptied. Either way slow drains are a sign you don't want to ignore.

First point of call might be to use septic friendly drain cleaner, but if the problem persists it will be best to get it emptied. In addition, if you see any of these other warning signs get it booked in to be emptied as soon as you can.

3. Foul Oudors

As all the waste water from your home will be going into your septic tank,you know it's not going to be a pleasant smell. And it's definitely going to be a smell you will notice.

If you start smelling foul odours around your septic tank this is another sign it is either full, or getting close to it. It could also mean you have a leak so it's best to have a quick check.

The other side of odours is that it won’t just be you that can smell it.Your neighbours might be quick to complain as well. With that said, it's best to find a solution as quickly as you can.

4. A Reallth Healthy Lawn

A somewhat positive side effect of a full septic tank. The grass above your septic tank could be the healthiest bit of grass you've ever seen. We're talking luscious green grass.

It will out shine other pieces in your garden, so you'll be able to notice.If you do notice this it's another warning sign to take note of.

If it’s by an area near your septic tank this may mean that water is coming out of your system, so it's either leaking or it's full.

Either way, it's time to get it looked at.

5. Sewage Backup

You won't be able to miss this one, and it's definitely one you don't want to happen. It's the most obvious, and also the most damaging.

Keep an eye on the lowest drains in your house, if these show signs of sewage backup you need to get your tank emptied pronto. You don't want raw sewage hanging around.

6: Gurgling Water

If you notice gurgling sounds in your pipes you shouldn't ignore these.Especially if they are consistent. It's again another sign your septic tank might be full and needs to be emptied.

7: Trouble Flushing

Linked to slow drainage, if you're noticing all toilets are struggling to be flushed, or have a weak flush your septic tank might be full.

If this symptom is displayed across all toilets in your household this suggests it's more than just a local clog being the issue.

The Important of Septic Tank Emptying & Maintenance 

The best thing you can do to understand when your tank needs to be emptied is to keep a schedule. It's a simple but effective fix. If you can determine proper emptying intervals you may not even see any of the above-mentioned warning signs. 

Emptying intervals will depend on the size of your septic tank and the number of people using it.

It's recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency that septic tanks should be emptied every 3-5 years for optimal efficiency. The exact timing will depend on a couple of things.

The below factors will determine the proper emptying intervals of your tank:

  • Household Size
  • Septic Tank Size
  • Amount of Wastewater Generated
  • The volume of Solid Waste

If you've recently bought a home with a septic tank make sure to ask the previous owners if they have a schedule. Or at the very least ask them when they last had the tank emptied so you have a rough idea.
If this information is not available to you it's best to be on the safe side and get it emptied straight away. This will give you a clean state, and provide a new start for your own schedule.

Staying on top of your septic tank maintenance will also help you in the long run. It will keep the tank running smoothly, avoiding any big problems in the long run. So, if you notice any of the above signs get someone to empty your tank as soon as you can

Otherwise you may find that you are having a major problem as well as a major mess on your hands and everywhere else. 

You may also find yourself with a hefty bill or fine to pay in worst case scenarios!

What to do next?

If you find yourself noticing some of these common signs your septic tank is full then it will be best to get your septic tank emptied fairly soon. If you leave a full tank for too long things with eventually begin to get very bad.

You may be able to ask for your local septic tank company to check how full the tank is before booking anything in, you may find another issue and that your tank, not that it needs to be pumped

Related Services

Septic Tank Emptying Service

Further Reading

Signs you septic tank needs emptying

How often should you empty a septic tank

What is a septic tank & how does one work

How much does septic tank emptying cost


Christian Heritage

After joining the business at the end of its first year of trading, Christian has been involved in all aspects of the business.
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