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Septic tanks are a crucial element of every Cleveland, TN, property, and when you start to notice issues, it can be quite alarming. Not every septic tank repair issue will lead to a full replacement. This can give you peace of mind if you’re worried about costly repairs. In this article, we’ll highlight the common signs of septic tank malfunction and give you some idea of what to expect regarding the level of repair required. But first, we’ll provide a quick overview of how septic tank systems work and the first steps you should take if you find yourself experiencing a septic tank emergency.
How Do Septic Systems Work?
To get a better understanding of what may be required to get your septic tank functioning at full capacity after an issue occurs, a rudimentary understanding of how septic systems work is beneficial. Septic systems generally consist of two main components: the septic tank itself and the drainfield. Wastewater from the house; from the shower, sink, bath, washing appliances, etc., drain from the home into a septic tank through one main wastewater pipe. It’s the septic tank’s job to hold the wastewater long enough to separate the solids from oils, greases, and water. Only the liquid wastes will exit the tank into the drainfield, where it naturally mixes with the soil, where harmful bacteria, viruses, and nutrients are removed. As you may expect, this sort of setup can lend itself to clogs and septic tank repairs if the tank itself is not maintained and flushed out at regular intervals.
If not maintained effectively, you may even see sewage backups. When sewage backs up into your home, or you start to notice unpleasant odors while out in the yard, it’s a typical indicator that something is wrong with an element of your septic tank system. Depending on the root cause, you may find yourself with some tough decisions about whether you should opt for septic tank repair or replacement service. Broken pipes, for example, could be patched rather than replaced, but if the drainfield needs a replacement or you need to install a new treatment system, you will be looking at more expensive septic tank repair services.
But before you even consider the level of repairs you need to take, is there anything you should do in a septic emergency that can assist your local septic tank repair specialist and prevent the damage from spreading? Yes!
If a sewage backup occurs, for example, one of the steps a Cleveland, TN, septic tank repair company will take is to lift the lid on your septic tank and check the water level. If the water level is lower than the septic tank outlet, this is a crucial indicator there’s a clog somewhere in the pipe that runs between your home and your tank. You’ll need a plumber to investigate where the clog is occurring. Luckily, plumbers often have high-tech video line inspection tools and technology that can quickly locate and remove blockages, so there’s no need for DIY attempts.
If the water level in the tank is higher than the outlet, there’s often an issue with the tank or something beyond it. Getting your septic tank pumped can give a little more time to discover the source of the matter; professionals undertaking this service can often identify if your septic tank repair issue is as simple as a clogged outlet screen.
If there’s been flooding and your drainfield is saturated, it’s often recommended that septic tank pumping is delayed until the flooding subsides. Call a professional to determine whether it’s safe to book a septic tank pumping service to resolve your septic tank repair issue. Pumping the septic tank while the drain field is already saturated can cause pipe breakages and more mess!
If the drainfield in your yard is soggy or smelly, try to keep people and pets away from any standing water or waterlogged soil to prevent sickness. Temporarily fencing the area can help to deter young children and pets from exposure. Also, try to cut back on water use, as the less that’s pumped into the drainfield, the less the unpleasant odors should increase.
Common Signs of Septic Tank and Drainfield Malfunctions
As expected, if your drainfield is overloaded with too much liquid, flooding occurs. This results in sewage flowing to the soil’s surface, causing waterlogged areas. Not only can saturated drain fields result in wet yards, but you may also notice that wastewater backs up through household drains. Strong, unpleasant odors may emanate from your yard, and unexpectedly bright green, grassy areas may develop on the drainfield, indicating that more nutrients than usual are present in the soil bed. Note if this is happening during particularly dry weather or occurs directly above your drainfield, as this indicates leaks that need to be addressed during a septic tank repair service. Inside your home, if the malfunction is particularly severe, you may even see sewage backups occurring in sinks, toilet bowls, and around your septic tank.
While septic tank pumping, for example, can clear issues with the septic tank, it isn’t a long-term solution that can repair problems with your drainfield. Common signs that a septic tank hasn’t been pumped often enough are:
- Thick scum levels inside the tank
- Deep sludge layers inside the tank
- Solids and greases present in the drainfield
- Unpleasant smelling water pooling in the yard
However, drainfield failures aren’t always caused by neglect. Naturally, over time, the microbes in the soil around the drainfield can become so abundant thanks to the constant supply of food present in septic tank wastewater can become so plentiful they eventually hinder the soil’s ability to absorb the wastewater effectively. According to the National Small Flows Clearinghouse, a non-profit agency that many in the septic tank industry rely on for guidance, drainfields will need replacement after approximately three decades, even if everything has been done right! When this occurs, you won’t have another choice; your drainfield will need replacement.
The good news is that a new drainfield is often only required once in the lifetime of your property’s septic tank system. When the second drainfield is installed and used, the abundant bacteria on the old drainfield site will die off because it stops receiving food. In a few decades, when the replacement drainfield clogs up and becomes unusable, it’s as simple as switching back to using the previous drainfield, which any professional septic tank repair specialist can arrange for you.
When To Repair Septic Tank Issues
Some issues with your septic system can be resolved relatively quickly and can be done as and when necessary. As previously mentioned, with some septic tank services such as septic tank pumping, it may be advisable to wait until standing water clears. Professionals can isolate leaks in pipes, and lines can be patched or replaced to avoid more water leaking into the areas surrounding the drainfield. These repairs can often be done at any time as part of an emergency septic tank repair service.
If you’re using an aerobic septic waste treatment unit that relies on aeration to break down waste faster, the bacteria in your tank may have died off. If you’ve been away from home for months at a time, for example, you may find that on your return, your tank is not functioning as it should because the bacteria has disappeared. In these cases, you can sometimes rely on frugal use of your septic tank system while the bacterial population rebounds. At this point, you can also arrange for the artificial top-up of beneficial bacteria as part of septic tank repair if you want to return to full usage immediately.
When to Replace Septic Tank Components
As previously noticed, you can artificially improve your bacterial population in the septic tank when required. Sometimes, however, there are no shortcuts to return your septic tank system to full operational capacity, as is the case with failed drainfields. When this occurs, you’ll find that you need to replace some, if not all, of your septic system.
To make it a little more cost-effective, though, you can combine drainfield replacements with other landscaping projects or prep the ground for future building projects. For example, you can replace your current system with a more compact design to enable enough space to build a garage for your vehicle or plan drainfield replacement alongside landscaping changes.
Even in the worst-case scenario that your drainfield is up the creek without a paddle, so to speak, if your septic tank itself is okay, you can still reuse the tank and keep part of your yard intact during the drainfield repair service.
If your septic system is old and there are consistent absorption issues, replacement is often the best route. When it comes time to replace, you may want to consider an aerobic system if you don’t already have one. A good time to upgrade your system and replace it with a newer, more efficient model is when your septic tank requires a severe or costly repair. In Tennessee, particularly, if there’s a lot of rocky soil or soil with a large amount of clay, you’ll notice newer aerobic systems will be far more productive and meet current septic tank regulations. In contrast, older septic tanks that were grandfathered in may not be up-to-snuff.
How to Be Septic Smart
The key to maintaining septic tank systems to avoid regular repairs is to be what we like to call ‘septic smart.’ Conserving water, for example, will obviously decrease the pressure put on your septic tank. When leaks occur in your Cleveland, TN, home’s plumbing, consider replacing them with more water-efficient fixtures to avoid overloading the system. You can also simply stagger the number of water-generating activities that are happening in your home at any one time, such as avoiding running the dishwasher or washing machine while the shower is running. Avoiding several laundry washes in one day can also reduce the pressure on your septic tank and reduce the time between septic tank repair services.
Looking after your drains is also recommended. Even in Cleveland, TN, there are known issues with waste treatment centers being overloaded with inherently unflushable or non-disposable items ending up in the septic tank systems and wastewater lines. Avoid pouring toxins down drains where possible, and limit the use of incredibly sudsy soaps or detergents. Getting a professional to clean clogs with drain snakes or boiling water is much more septic-safe than using many off-the-shelf drain cleaners.
Common Septic Tank Repair Tasks We Undertake
At Metro Plumbing, Heating, Air and septic in Cleveland, TN, we are responsible for maintaining and repairing thousands of septic tanks in the area. When it comes to conventional styled septic systems, we have experts capable of undertaking the following:
- Pump tank service
- Cleaning and draining
- Baffle repairs
- Tank fracture repairs
- Septic tank replacements
- Pipe, vent, and line replacements
- Drain field repairs
- Septic field excavations
- Septic tank installations
- Septic tank service contracts
- Septic inspection services
However, we’re also well-versed in aerobic septic tank repair. We have been regularly called upon to safely install, repair, or replace a wide variety of aerobic system components, such as:
- Tank floats
- Aerator pumps
- High water alarm control panels
- Pump motors
- Drain fields
- New systems
At Metro Plumbing, Heating, Air and Septic, we’re not just a team of professionals capable of septic tank repair; we’re a family-owned and operated company that’s proudly served Cleveland, TN, since 1989. Being locally owned, we care for Cleveland as much as you do and are proud to install, fix, and repair any heating, plumbing, or HVAC systems. We understand true safety, and our septic tank repair specialists will do everything they can to keep not just themselves but you and your family safe. If you experience a septic tank repair emergency, we’re on your side. We offer 24/7 emergency services, including same-day servicing and honest, upfront, affordable prices, even for after-hours assistance. With a 5-year warranty on many of our septic tank repair services, what are you waiting for? Call our specialists for a friendly chat about your repair concerns today!