How Can You Know If Your Septic Tank Requires Repairs?

Septic systems are, by design, intended to remain as out-of-sight and out-of-mind as possible. Most homeowners install septic tanks below ground, with only an access riser accessible from the surface. This approach avoids having unsightly waste management equipment visible on your property, but it also means that detecting problems can be challenging.

Many homeowners only become aware of septic problems when they create a messy situation on the surface or cause easily detectable and unpleasant odors. However, septic tank problems such as leaks or deteriorating baffles can be much harder to detect. This guide will provide three indications that your septic tank may require repairs, even if you can't examine it yourself.

1. Low Liquid Effluent Levels

Septic tanks contain three general waste types: grease and fats, liquids, and solids. The design of the septic tank and the septic system provides time for these wastes to separate into distinct layers, leaving most of the tank occupied by liquid effluent in the center. In a properly operating system, liquid levels remain relatively steady as waste flows in through the home and out through the drain field.

When pumping your tank to remove solids and grease, your septic contractor will usually check the levels in your tank. A low liquid level in the tank usually points to a leak. The leak allows untreated wastewater to escape, creating an environmental hazard. You will need a professional septic service to examine your tank and determine if the leak is in a repairable location or if you need a new tank.

2. Frequent Drainfield Clogs

The primary reason to pump your tank and remove solid waste is to prevent drainfield clogs. Maximizing the life of your system's drainfield means ensuring that only liquid effluent reaches the distribution box and drain tiles. Solids will quickly clog these components and may cause permanent damage to the drainfield by creating an anaerobic environment for bacteria.

Your tank baffles help to protect against clogs in between pumping. The baffles limit the likelihood of solid waste or grease entering the tank outlet. Unfortunately, concrete baffles are prone to deterioration and failure. Frequent clogs in your drainfield may indicate a baffle issue. Fortunately, a pumping and examination of your tank can reveal this issue, allowing you to conduct prompt repairs.

3. Noticeable Septic Odors

The smell of sewage on your lawn is a sure sign of a problem with your septic system. In many cases, sewage odors indicate that your drainfield is overloaded, and you'll often also notice wet spots as effluent works up to the surface. But what if you can smell sewage on your lawn and don't notice any signs of flooding?

These smells can indicate a problem with your septic tank's lid or access risers. A cracked lid or damaged riser can allow odors to escape, even though waste should remain contained. Note that a cracked lid can be a serious hazard since it may eventually fail and collapse. Anytime you smell sewage on your property, you should contact a septic expert to investigate the problem and suggest a repair.

For more information on septic tank system repair, contact a professional near you.