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3 Common Septic Tank Problems and How to Fix Them

When you turn on the faucet or flush the toilet, it's easy to disregard the path the water will take once it enters your drainage system. However, if you have a septic tank, it's important that you ensure everything is working properly at all times.

Septic systems are complicated, especially to the untrained eye. When there is a problem, it's not always obvious where it's originating from. Promptly diagnosing the issue is important to ensure it doesn't get worse or cause any problems for the people in your home who need to use water.

If you're experiencing septic tank problems, there's a good chance that it's one of these common concerns.


One of the first questions to ask yourself when your septic tank gives you trouble is when was the last time the septic tank was pumped out? Septic tanks gradually fill with solid waste. The grey water is allowed to pass through the tank and out into the underground drain field lines in your yard. Once the tank is full of solid waste, you may experience sewage backups in the toilets or slow drains in tubs and sinks. The frequency of pumping depends on a few factors. First, the number of people live in the house. Second, how much wastewater goes into your septic tank? Do you take extra long showers or do an unusual amount of laundry? How often does the dishwasher run? Each of these fixtures / appliances drain into your septic tank.

If your septic tank was pumped out in the last year or two, it is unlikely that it is already full. So in you most likely have some sort of a clog between the house and the septic tank - or even in one of the branch drainage pipes between rooms and plumbing fixtures. You’ll need to determine where the clog might be. If all of your drains are draining slowly, the clog is probably in the pipe leading away from the house, which is usually a 6-inch diameter pipe, but in some areas could be a 4-inch or even an 8-inch pipe. Sometimes, they become clogged with items that should not have been flushed such as tampons, wet wipes, condoms or paper towels. If sewage is backing up into your home or surfacing around the septic tank, you might have a problem with the outlet baffle or effluent filter. Finally, check the inlet baffle to the tank if you have access to it. You'll be able to clearly see a clog here, and you might be able to free it up using a pole pushed through the access port on top of your septic tank. You may have to dig down to find it.

Tree roots

Tree roots are incredibly resilient. They have a tendency to wrap around or drill right through whatever is in their way. If you're not careful, your septic system could end up being in the wrong backyard at the wrong time.

Tank or line leak

They say the grass is always greener on the other side. But greener isn't always better. If you have oddly green grass - healthy grass when all other vegetation is dead or dried up, or especially brightly colored grass - it could mean your septic tank has a leak in it or your lateral lines are receiving far too much wastewater downstream from the septic tank and are saturating your yard. You might even find puddles or raw sewage on your lawn, which is a dangerous environmental hazard.

If treated and maintained properly, your septic system will last you several decades. However, it's important that you don't let common septic tank problems decrease the system's life span. If you suspect a clog, tree root infiltration or a tank leak, reach out to your local Roto-Rooter for help. Not every Roto-Rooter location provides pumping services but most locations do septic tank repairs. Many even provide full installation and replacement services. Check here to locate your local Roto-Rooter office.