March 11, 2020

11 Common Septic Tank Problems & How To Fix Them

If you have a septic tank, you'll be well aware of the joys they bring to your life. I mean, how else do you expect to live in a beautiful rural area with no sewage connection? 

That's exactly what septic tanks allow you to do.

Now as a homeowner who relies on a septic tank one of the last things you want is a faulty or overflowing septic tank. It's probably your worst nightmare.

Most of the time thankfully though they stayed buried and out of sight, probably out of mind. But when things go wrong, boy do they go wrong.

There are some best practices you can follow to keep your septic tank in tip-top condition. Simple things like sticking to a regular emptying schedule or keeping an eye out for those regular signs that it's full.

But there are some things that are just out of your control, things you can't stop going wrong.

So, with that in mind, we're going to highlight some of the most common septic tank problems and solutions.

Septic tank warning signs you shouldn't ignore

First things first, septic tanks have some common warning signs you need to keep a look out for to spot any potential problems. These include:

  1. Water and sewage from drain, sinks and toilets draining very slowly. Worst case, backing up into the property.
  2. Very unpleasant odours around the septic tank and drain field
  3. Damp spots or standing water near the septic tank area
  4. Bright green, lush grass growing around the septic tank area even in the summer
  5. Gurgling sounds coming from the plumbing system.

11 Common Septic Tank Problems Explained

1. Ground movement.

Even the smallest nudge could have a big impact. Any change in ground movement can point a tremendous amount of pressure on your septic tank. This can potentially cause fractures or even cracks in the walls of your septic tank.

If this happens bigger septic tank problems can arise.

  • The septic tank may back up and need to be emptied much more often. This can impact your current emptying schedule, and be thus more costly for you.
  • If groundwater can squeeze its way through these cracks your tank will no longer be able to separate the liquid from the solid waste effectively.
  • Ultimately you may need to replace your septic tank.

2. Damage from tree or plant roots.

This is always a tricky one and is not always the easiest to plan for. You never really know where those roots are going to grow. Tree roots are capable of pushing through most obstacles they come across over time.

If your septic tank is located too close to trees and shrubs this can cause problems as the roots can actually grow through the tank walls. They may even get through the pipes that lead from the tank to your house.

Again, this can cause problems because the roots may allow liquid from the tank to escape and water from the ground to get in. Both of which prevent the septic tank from working properly.

Not to mention all of this will create a horrible mess in the surrounding area.

4. A collapsed baffle.

Nope, this isn't a medical condition. However, this is a very serious septic tank problem.

The baffle is actually a barrier within the tank. It makes sure none of the lumpy stuff escapes into the septic tank soakaway system. With a collapsed baffle that solid stuff (effluent) could get into your soakaway system and cause a blockage. This could then mean all the raw sewage and liquid waste backs up into your house. Which is a big fat no.

5. Lack of consistent maintenance

This is probably the most common problem, and it's the easiest one to avoid. It is essential to get your septic tank emptied regularly.

The exact schedule will vary from tank to tank, for some it's once a year, but for others, it could be 4-5. For some, the septic tank system may never need to be emptied. Nevertheless, regular emptying will keep your septic tank in the best condition, and prevent any more common septic tank problems from popping up.

It's important to keep on top of your schedule, most septic tank emptying companies will be able to schedule you in. If you know it's yearly, just book the same date every year with the same company and you're sorted.

6. A Damaged Dip Pipe.

Depending on the type of septic tank you have will dictate whether it has dip pipes, a baffle or both. Dip pipes perform a similar function to the baffle we touched on earlier. It makes sure the correct type of waste flows into the soakaway system and drainage field.

In case you forgot, no lumpy stuff.

Sometimes during inspections, the dip pipe is often found chilling at the base of the tank. (It's not meant to be chilling).

This can happen for a variety of reasons, most commonly it's been knocked off during emptying. When this happens, the wrong stuff gets into the septic tank soakaway system, and you guessed it, can get back into your house.

7. Vehicle damage.

As septic tanks are underground it's not always obvious where they are. When you're on the ground level you wouldn't even notice it's there.

Most properties that rely on septic tanks are out in the lovely countryside. It can sometimes, (on rare occasions) be that farm vehicles such as tractors drive over your septic tank. Again, depending on where your septic tank is, someone could also park on it.

This extra weight can put enough pressure on your septic tank and cause some significant damage. Possibly even causing it to collapse. So make sure septic tanks are clearly marked to avoid any extra weight, if you use a soakaway system it's best to keep this contained and marked out as well.

8. Pressure of the Hydro-static variety.

This is a very rare occurrence, but it can happen. Hydro-static pressure occurs when the volume of water beneath the tank is so high it causes the tank to "pop out of the ground".

If this happens it's a very serious problem and needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible by trained professionals.

9. Your tank is old.

Believe it or not, some tanks can be very old. We're talking 100 years old. These can vary drastically to new models. For example, they would not have had dip pipes and would often have been a single instead of double chamber structure.

Now if you're tank is this old it will still be doing its job as best as it can. However, older systems will be nowhere as efficient as a newer model. Due to its age, it may be more susceptible to clogs, breaks, and other types of damage.

10. Septic system not installed properly.

Your septic tank could have been doomed from the start. Correctly installing a septic tank or soakaway is not an easy job, and there's always a chance of human error.

As you can imagine there could be a handful of problems arising if your septic tank is not installed properly. However, the biggest issue will be if the system does not comply with legislation.

If this is the case the owner of the property can be prosecuted. So, it's no joke. No one wants to go to prison over a dodgy septic tank.

There are two things you need to ensure.

  • Make sure a percolation test is undertaken. This can be used to ensure that the ground conditions are suitable for a soakaway. It will also help determine the correct size and depth of the septic tank soakaway.
  • Make sure your installation complies with applicable British Standards or Environment Agency legislation.

11. Change to ground conditions

The soil surrounding your septic tank can also cause your septic tank problems. Before septic tank systems are installed a percolation test must be carried out, this is to ensure that the ground conditions at the property are appropriate.

For example, if the ground is too wet soakaway systems won't work properly. As you can imagine over the years conditions will change, and the ground may be more saturated with standing water. This means the original soakaway system installed may no longer be suitable for the new conditions it finds itself in.

How to fix these common septic tank problems

Septic tanks can cause owners all types of problems, if you're new to the world of septic tanks it will be best to get an understanding of these common problems. One thing is for sure you don't want your septic tank effluent appearing anywhere it shouldn't be.

Some of these common septic tank problems are hard to avoid, and some are completely out of your control.

The easy answer is you will not be able to fix these yourself.

Various repairs could resolve your septic tank problems; however, this could also be the equivalent of putting a plaster over them. It's always best to not take any chances with septic tanks as the results can be very damaging to your property, your wallet and the environment.

To ensure your tank is properly repaired it will be best to book a septic tank inspection. This will uncover any issues and fixes needed.

If you decide to repair or replace your septic tank, make sure you stick to a regular emptying schedule to ensure your septic tank is properly maintained.

How to avoid common septic tank issues

As mentioned above some of these issues are out of our control, but there are certain things within your control that you should be doing to ensure a healthy septic tank.

  1. Ensure you have a regular maintenance plan. Septic tanks need emptying and maintaining.
  2. Only the correct type of products go into the septic tank. Be careful what you flush! Wet wipes, toilet paper etc can all cause problems.
  3. Keep an eye on your kitchen sink drain. Oil, grease and food can all cause issues.
  4. Avoid using too much water. Using too much and flooding the system will reduce the amount of time the tank has to process solid waste.

The importance of septic tank maintenance

The easiest way to avoid these septic tank issues is to look after your septic system. Sticking to a regular maintenance schedule and getting your tank pumped will allow you to stay on top of any problems before they literally back up.

At D-Tox we have over 30 years of experience in carrying out septic tank emptying, operating in the UK we cover most of the West Midlands. We are a registered waste carrier which means all effluent is correctly handled and delivered to a trusted sewage treatment plant.

If you are in our coverage area and think you may need your septic tank emptying give us a call!

Related Services

Septic Tank Emptying Service

Further Reading

Signs your 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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