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What to Do If You Have a Full Septic Tank?

Septic tanks are a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly way to dispose of waste. When maintained properly, they can last for decades.

Like any aspect of homeownership, septic maintenance is part of the deal. A septic tank might seem like something you can leave to do its job. In reality, they have a limited capacity.

Failing to check a septic tank can lead to disaster. A full septic tank tends to create an exceptionally horrific mess. Backed-up sludge in your household fixtures and on your lawn is only the beginning.

If you have a septic tank, are thinking about buying a home with a septic tank, or aren’t sure whether you have a septic tank, this article is for you. So read on!

Do I Have a Septic Tank?

Don’t feel bad if you don’t know where your water goes when you turn on the sink or flush the toilet. It’s not always evident. Here are a few signs your home likely functions on a septic system.

If you use well water, you likely have a septic system. Check with your neighbors. If they’re on septic, chances are you are too.

Another way to find out is to check your home’s waterline. Does it have a meter? If not, you probably have a septic tank.

The easiest way to find out whether you are on the city’s sewer system or septic is to take a look at your property tax bill. If you aren’t getting charged for sewer, you’re on septic. 

What Happens Inside a Septic Tank?

A septic system collects wastewater from homes and separates it into solid waste, liquid waste, and scum. Solids settle at the bottom of the tank, where bacteria consume them.

The scum floats to the top of the tank because it is lighter. In the middle of the tank is the water effluent layer. This layer leaves the tank through pipes under the ground that leads to drainage or a leach field.

The bottom of the leach field or drainage area has some form of filtration, like rocks or gravel. This purifies the wastewater before it mixes back in with the groundwater.

Benefits of Septic Tanks

Septic tanks are a great way to handle your household waste. They are more environmentally friendly than sewer systems. They also make it possible to live outside of busy cities.

Septic tanks save you money in the long run. You won’t have to pay to get connected to the public sewer system, and you’ll save money on property taxes. Plus, septic tanks can last up to 40 years with proper maintenance.

How to Tell If My Septic Tank Is Full?

With time and use, the amount of sludge that builds up in a septic tank will impair the ability of the bacteria to break down waste. That’s why it is essential to maintain your septic system.

If you don’t get your septic tank pumped out regularly, it has a unique way of letting you know it’s full. Surprisingly, a foul odor may not be the first indicator that your septic tank is full or malfunctioning.

Other signs of septic backup include wastewater in your household drains. You might also find pooling water and mud around your septic system and inside your basement.

Should I Pump a Septic Tank?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that septic tanks should get inspected every two to three years. They recommend getting your septic tank pumped every three to five years.

If you have a smaller septic system, you may need to service your septic tank more frequently. This may also be the case if your septic system gets heavy use.

Other aspects that come into play when determining how frequently to pump your septic tank include:

  • The size of your household
  • The amount of wastewater your household generates
  • The volume of solids in your wastewater
  • The size of your septic tank

In addition, it’s essential to have any electrical and mechanical parts of your septic system inspected once each year. These parts tend to fail more often and can cause your entire system to malfunction.

Septic Tank Pumping: What to Expect

The process of getting a septic tank pumped is uncomplicated, but it should only be handled by a professional. It involves removing the sludge from the bottom of the tank before it blocks the outlet pipe to the drainage field.

A septic system professional will begin by using a muckrake (like a very long hoe) to churn up the sludge at the bottom of the tank. This makes it easier to remove the sludge.

They will also make efforts to break up the layer of floating scum on the top of the tank. This should take just a few minutes. Then it’s time to start pumping.

The pump operator connects a series of vacuum lines to the tank and starts the pump. They will continue to use the muckrake to keep breaking up the sludge and scum layers while the vacuums are working to pump it out.

It’s also common practice to mix septic effluent into the tank to aid in the removal of sludge. The pump operator will usually shut off the pump and do this about halfway through the pumping process.

This pause is also a good opportunity for the septic system expert to listen for any concerning sounds that might indicate a mechanical or electric malfunction in the system.

After listening for issues, the operator will turn the pump back on and finish emptying the sludge from the septic tank.

Get Regular Septic Tank Maintenance

The best way to avoid septic tank issues is to have it inspected and maintained regularly. The cost of having your septic tank pumped is pretty minimal, only about $300 to $600.

A yearly inspection will tell you if you risk ruptured or clogged pipes or even a flooding drainage field. Catching these malfunctions before they happen can save you a lot of trouble.

Always keep an eye out for backflow, slow drainage, and offensive odors coming from your septic tank.

Full Septic Tank Services

Septic tanks are a lifesaver and a money saver, especially for rural communities. In addition, they are a benefit to the environment and very rarely require replacement.

They require regular maintenance to function well and avoid ending up with a full septic tank. For all of your Central Indiana septic maintenance issues, use a trusted septic system service.

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