Septic Tank: 5 Signs Yours Needs Emptying

It's the dirty secret no one wants to talk about, but if you have one, it's one of your home's most important components. Of course, I'm talking about the septic tank.

As a suburban gal who moved to a rural town, I can tell you first-hand if you forget the method of waste removal in your home, you'll end up with an unpleasant mess to contend with. Luckily there are some very easy ways to tell if your septic system is getting full, so you can get it looked after before the stench starts.

How to tell your septic tank is full and needs emptying

  1. Pooling water
  2. Slow drains
  3. Odors
  4. An overly healthy lawn
  5. Sewer backup

1. Pooling water

Areas of pooling water in your lawn after a heavy rain is one thing, but a mini lake on or around the drain field of your septic system could mean it's overflowing. When your tank reaches capacity, solid waste can clog the drain field piping system and force liquid to the surface, so if this is what you see on the lawn, it's best to have your system pumped.

2. Slow drains

Slow moving drains in your home could mean a legitimate clog. However, if they remain slow even after unclogging measures, such as using drain cleaner (septic safe, of course), the system may be full. Same goes for slow flushing toilets too!

3. Odors

A septic system collects not only waste but also all the gray water that comes from showering, washing dishes and doing laundry, among others. Combined with the black water from the toilets, this creates an odorous mixture that would have the neighborhood skunks plugging their noses. If you catch a whiff of any unpleasant odors in your yard, it may be time to call for service.

4. An overly healthy lawn

Contrary to popular belief, the grass over your septic bed should look the same as grass elsewhere on your lawn. If it appears overly green and lush in that area, this could indicate your septic system is leaching liquids and either needs to be emptied or checked for leaks.

5. Sewer backup

Likely the most obvious tip on the list, if not the grossest, a sewer backup is a sure sign that your tank has reached capacity. Look for sewer backups to occur in the lowest drains first, such as a basement bathroom. If this happens, call a professional immediately.

Septic systems are a wonderfully green choice, which saves on any local sewer charges that would normally appear on your tax bill, and are relatively easy to care for if you keep on top of it. Simply remember that anything you put down the drain will end up in the septic tank, and not all of it will be healthy for the system. Always ensure you're using green cleaners and paper products that are septic-safe, and refrain from overloading the system with other contaminants. Being present for the septic pumping process can actually be beneficial as well, as most septic professionals can inspect the contents of your tank as it's being pumped and give you an idea of how well your system is working so you know how to keep it in tip-top shape.

Image Credit: Flickr, Flickr

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