How to know when to pump your septic tank?

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Every homeowner with a septic system knows he should regularly call professional services to pump out his tank. The pump-out period depends on the size of the house (number of bedrooms), which directly affects the gallon capacity of the septic tank. Generally speaking, you should pump out your tank every 3 to 5 years.

The pump-out period may vary depending on the property size, the number of people and their daily water usage. All the water from showers, toilets, sinks, washing machines and dryers goes inside the tank for primary waste treatment. 

If you generate more waste than your tank is prepared to treat, you might need to pump it out prematurely. It’s essential to know what are the signs and how to know when to pump your septic tank to prevent septic system failure.

The toilet is clogging, and the sink water won’t drain

Clogged toilets and sinks full of water are one of the first signs you’ll notice if the time to pump out your septic tank has come. You know perfectly well how quickly the water goes down the toilet when you flush it or that the water in your sink is not supposed to stay inside. 

If your septic tank has reached its total capacity and cannot take in any more waste, the toilets inside the house start looking clogged, and it starts taking too long for the water to drain down the pipes. 

Plumbing problem or a septic system problem?

Of course, it’s possible that you have to deal with a simple pipe problem, but be cautious about such signs. Undrained water can harm your pipes and the entire plumbing system by putting extreme pressure on them and exceeding their holding capacity. 

If unclogging doesn’t help the water flow rate, it’s time to consider the septic system as a root cause.

What will happen if we don’t take measures?

If overlooked, the abovementioned signs can escalate into a bigger problem: a sewage backup. A sewage backup is something no homeowner wants to deal with. It is a highly unpleasant situation and a considerable health risk. 

There are lots of bacteria inside sewage water which you don’t want inside your drains and sinks. It typically occurs first on the lower levels of the property, meaning basements and ground floors. If you notice sewage backup, you should immediately call a septic system service specialist to visit your property.

A foul odor and unpleasant smell

Everybody has heard that a prominent sign of a full septic tank is the occurrence of foul odor and unpleasant smell around the entire property. You can notice the smell inside the house and when walking around your lawn or the backyard. 

There are two main reasons the smell starts spreading outside the septic system.

Less space for the gas

Your septic tank has a specific capacity. If the liquid waste starts taking too much of the tank’s space, the space for the odors (gasses) gradually reduces. 

However, the gas cannot disappear and therefore starts finding its way back up the plumbing system and the pipes or outdoors through the drain field. The odor enters your house by going up the pipes, making it unpleasant for inhabitants and guests.

A waste spillage outside the tank

Another possible reason for foul odors is waste spillage outside the septic tank. That is a highly undesirable situation because the wastewater is left untreated before entering the drain fields and starts contaminating the entire area. 

It isn’t easy to notice a spillage itself because it cannot always be seen and doesn’t always affect the surrounding grass and plants. However, in case you notice such smells, you should contact a septic operator, no matter if the smell is inside or outside your house.

Overflow and water pooling

Drain field overflow and water pooling often occur when there’s a storm or considerable rainfall. The drain field gets soaked, thus unable to receive more treated wastewater from the septic tank. 

The septic tank cannot extract its contents anymore and starts overfilling. Another possibility for water pooling is when the septic tank is full, and the pipe to the drain field gets clogged by solid waste. 

In such cases, you start noticing water pooling around the location of the drain field or the septic tank. Small or large puddles of water start forming on your loan, which is a clear sign that you need to check your septic tank levels. 

Please do not underestimate the importance of overflows since they will possibly escalate in clogging the drains and sewage backup.

Your alert system is going off

What is a septic alert system?

A septic alert (or alarm) system is installed inside the septic tank to monitor the level of its contents. In pump septic systems, they typically work in combination with a timer, controlling the time and amount of wastewater released into the drain field. 

The alarm system detects too elevated or too low levels of waste inside the tank. It is an excellent way to prevent unpleasant situations related to tank overfills, such as water backing up the house and foul odors around the property.

What to do if your septic alarm system goes off?

The alarm systems are designed to give you a heads-up before a real problem occurs. That means you should not immediately panic if it goes off. 

You have an entire day (and sometimes more) to call a septic system service provider and pump out your septic tank after it happens. In the meantime, try to limit water usage as much as possible. You might want to try and use fewer dishes or leave your laundry for after the pump-out.

Other signs that indicate it’s time to pump out your tank

Another sign that indicates a full septic tank is when you notice that the grass over your drain field area is significantly greener and better-looking than the rest of your lawn. The reason the grass is thriving is that it receives more waste liquid that acts as a fertilizer. 

At this stage, you won’t necessarily observe puddling and water pooling but somewhat greener and faster-growing grass or patches of grass.