More than one in five homes in the U.S. rely on a septic system for waste management. Understandably, preventing septic tank backups is a topic that can benefit quite a large audience. Avoiding septic tank backups is impossible if you don't understand what causes them in the first place. This guide will cover four common causes of septic tank backups.
1. Neglected Maintenance
Pumping your septic tank regularly is the most important thing you can do to prevent backups. Pumping is necessary because septic tanks gradually fill with solid waste that cannot be expelled in the leach field. When the bacteria inside your septic tank can no longer break down waste quickly enough, it will fill until the tank can no longer withstand the pressure and a leak occurs.
Knowing when to pump your septic tank can be tricky because there are many contributing factors. You must consider the size of your septic tank as well as the number of occupants in your home. Your tank may need to be pumped less frequently if your home has low-flow toilets or more frequently if you have a garbage disposal. The EPA recommends that you pump your septic tank at least once every three years.
2. Chemical Cleaners
Some homeowners falsely believe that commercial drain cleaners are all they need to keep their drains healthy with no downsides. In reality, homeowners who rely solely on chemical cleaners are putting their septic systems at risk. The caustic ingredients of chemical drain cleaners can kill the anaerobic bacteria in a septic tank that help to break down solid waste.
Instead of chemical drain cleaners, rely on manual techniques for DIY drain clog removal. A drain snake will remove clogs more quickly and reliably than chemical cleaners without damaging your pipes. For stubborn clogs that you can't tackle on your own. Professional plumbers can use advanced techniques such as hydro-jetting to remove even the most stubborn clogs without damaging your septic tank.
The specialized bacteria in a septic tank cannot break down materials other than solid waste. Any foreign objects that enter your septic system will remain there taking up space until the tank is pumped. Avoid flushing sanitary wipes and other paper products that claim to be flushable on the packaging.
Even some types of food waste can increase the risk of a septic tank backup. Grease is the most frequent offender; liquid grease will harden and form stubborn blockages after it cools inside your plumbing or septic system. Coffee grounds and tough fruit and vegetable skins are also prone to clogging up septic tanks.
4. Tree Root Intrusion
Because your septic tank and leach field distribution pipes are buried underground, damage can sometimes occur due to overgrown tree roots. Roots can produce enough force during growth to penetrate septic lines or even the septic tank itself. This problem is compounded by the fact that roots are attracted to the nutrients and moisture inside a septic system.
If roots are starting to invade your septic system, you may notice slow drains in your home or standing moisture in your yard. Wastewater that is blocked by tree roots will either back up into the home or leak into the surrounding soil.
A technician can inspect your septic lines with an extendable camera to determine the severity of the problem. Your septic tank repair company may use an auger to cut the roots if damage to the system isn't severe enough to necessitate excavation.
Septic tank backups are messy problems that also pose a risk to your family's health. Remember to contact a local septic tank service if you notice signs of a septic backup in your home.