Your septic tank does a lot of work: it holds wastewater for bacteria to break down, and it stores undigested solids to be removed later. This is done by pumping the septic tank. If a septic tank is not pumped, the solid waste will build up in the tank and the amount of waste the septic tank can hold will decrease. If the problem is left for too long, the solids will eventually cause a clog, and wastewater will back up into your home, causing all sorts of other problems. Plus, regular pumping and maintenance will help increase the lifespan of your septic tank. So: do you know what the signs are of a full septic tank?
1. It Has Been Awhile Since It Was Last Emptied
Although this one really only “counts” as a sign if you wrote it into your calendar, time should be your first key indicator that your septic tank would use a pumping. Depending on the number of users and size of the tank, you may need to empty your septic tank every year, or you may be able to wait up to five years. Your septic service provider is the best person to recommend how long to go between pumping, but if your regularly scheduled maintenance day is coming up on your calendar, you can bet that your septic tank is getting full.
If you have recently purchased a home with a septic tank, check with the previous owners regarding when they last emptied the tank and if they have a recommended schedule or service provider. If you are not able to get in contact with the previous homeowners, or if they are unable to provide that information to you, then the safest course of action is to empty the septic tank immediately. This will provide you a peace of mind and provide a new start to your schedule.
2. New Sulfur or Sewage-Like Odors
If you (or, perhaps, your neighbors) notice new odors that smell like sulfur or sewage, you need to immediately contact a septic service provider to have your tank pumped. As your septic tank fills with waste, the gasses that cause the odors have nowhere to go. This results in odors releasing the only way they can – by coming up from your toilets, drains, and drain field. A properly working septic system will trap the foul odors within the system and underground, so new smells are a sign that your septic tank is full.
3. Slow Draining or Flushing
If you have noticed that your tubs, showers, washing machines, toilets, or other apparatuses are draining water slowly, that can be a good indication that your septic tank is full and needs to be pumped. Before pumping your septic tank, check to see if the drain is merely clogged. But, if after using your preferred unclogging methods, your tubs/shower/toilet/etc. continues to drain water slowly, the septic tank needs to be pumped. This warning sign is unique because you will likely notice that all your drains start to slow down, rather than just one or two, because the blockage in the septic system will affect your entire home.
4. Noisy Pipes
When pipes start making noise, it is good practice to have them looked at. This is especially important in homes that rely on a septic tank. If your pipes are consistently making noise, or if they are making gurgling sounds, it may be another sign that your septic tank is full. If you have recently emptied your septic tank and are still hearing noisy pipes, you may have a larger issue on your hands, and you should definitely contact your septic service provider.
5. New Life in Your Lawn
Generally, the grass on top of your drain field should look like the grass in the rest of your lawn. However, if it is looking extra vibrant, green, or alive, that should raise a red flag. It could mean that your septic tank is full, and excessive waste liquid has been acting as an additional fertilizer for that part of your lawn. While healthy grass is generally a welcome sign, suspicious or unusually healthy grass in one area of your lawn should definitely raise some alarm bells.
6. Standing Water
When a septic tank is full, water can pool in a number of locations on your property. However, your best bet is to keep a close eye on the area around your septic tank and the drain field. While it can also be an indicator of larger issues, standing water is often a sign that you need your septic tank pumped. If your water is pooling and it has not recently rained, your septic tank is likely forcing wastewater to the surface because your tank has reached maximum capacity.
If you notice standing water in or near your septic system’s drain field, make sure everyone stays out of that part of the yard. It is safer to err on the side of caution and presume that the water is contaminated with human waste, which can be dangerous to pets and humans alike. It can also act as an environmental hazard, so it is best to address this issue immediately.
7. Sewage Backup
This should be self-explanatory, but if your waste is coming back up into your home, it is likely because there is no more room in the tank – i.e., your tank is full. The septic tank needs to be pumped immediately. Out of all the signs, this one is the hardest to ignore because it is the most obvious sign that a septic tank is full.
A regularly emptied tank is the best way to avoid potentially costly expenses and potentially messy (pun-intended) disasters. If you do not know when you need to empty your septic tank, contact your local septic service provider to have your tank inspected and assessed. It is best to find out before it becomes a larger, and potentially much more hazardous, issue.