Common septic tank problems

Common septic tank problems

Common septic tank problems

Common Septic Tank Problems

Septic tanks are an essential part of many homes, particularly in rural areas where municipal sewer systems are not available. They provide a means of treating and disposing of household wastewater. However, like any system, septic tanks can develop problems over time. This article will explore some of the most Common septic tank problems, their causes, and potential solutions.

1. Clogged Pipes

One of the most Common septic tank problems is clogged pipes. This can occur when non-degradable items such as diapers, wipes, or feminine hygiene products are flushed down the toilet. Over time, these items can build up and block the pipes leading to the septic tank.

Another cause of clogged pipes is the buildup of fats, oils, and grease (FOG). When these substances are washed down the sink, they can solidify and stick to the sides of the pipes, eventually leading to a blockage.

2. Overloaded System

An overloaded system is another common septic tank problem. This can occur when too much water is being used in the home, exceeding the capacity of the septic tank. This can cause the tank to overflow, leading to unpleasant odors and potential health hazards.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day at home. Roughly 70% of this use occurs indoors, with the bathroom being the largest consumer (a toilet alone can use 27% of household water).

3. Poor Maintenance

Poor maintenance is a significant cause of septic tank problems. Septic tanks need to be pumped out regularly to remove the buildup of solid waste. If this is not done, the tank can become too full, and waste can back up into the home or leak into the surrounding soil.

The EPA recommends that septic tanks be pumped every three to five years, depending on the size of the tank and the number of people in the household. However, a survey by the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association found that 70% of septic systems are not maintained properly.

4. Tree Root Invasion

Tree roots can cause significant problems for septic tanks. They can grow into the pipes leading to the tank, causing blockages and potential leaks. Tree roots can also damage the tank itself if they grow too close.

A study by the University of California Cooperative Extension found that tree roots can grow up to three times the height of the tree. This means that even trees that are not directly above the septic tank can potentially cause problems.

5. Ground Movement

Ground movement can also cause problems for septic tanks. This can occur due to natural processes such as soil erosion or human activities such as construction. Ground movement can cause the pipes leading to the septic tank to crack or break, leading to leaks and potential system failure.

Solutions to Common Septic Tank Problems

While these problems can be serious, there are solutions available. For clogged pipes, a professional plumber can often clear the blockage. To prevent future clogs, homeowners should be careful about what they flush down the toilet and pour down the sink.

To avoid overloading the system, homeowners can reduce their water use by installing low-flow fixtures and appliances, fixing leaks promptly, and spreading out water use throughout the day.

Regular maintenance is crucial for preventing septic tank problems. This includes pumping out the tank as recommended and having the system inspected regularly by a professional.

Tree roots can be dealt with by removing or relocating trees that are too close to the septic system. If ground movement is a concern, a professional can assess the situation and recommend appropriate measures such as installing a stronger pipe material or rerouting the pipes.


Septic tanks are a vital part of many homes, but they can develop a range of problems, from clogged pipes and overloaded systems to poor maintenance, tree root invasion, and ground movement. However, with proper care and attention, these issues can be prevented or resolved. By understanding the common problems and their solutions, homeowners can ensure their septic system remains in good working order for many years to come.


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