What Are the Symptoms of a Full Septic Tank?

A clogged toilet is one symptom of a full septic tank.
A clogged toilet is one symptom of a full septic tank. (Image: toy toilet image by Wayne Abraham from Fotolia.com)

A septic tank is large, underground container that collects sewage. Septic tanks are used primarily in country homes and on farms, rather than in cities. When you flush your toilet, the sewage flows to the septic tank, where it settles. Solid waste settles to the bottom of the septic tank, while watery fluid drains out of the tank through small drainpipes and is absorbed in nearby fields. Septic tanks require little maintenance but must be pumped every three to five years. If your septic tank becomes full, the drain pipe may clog, resulting in tank failure.

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Your Toilets Back Up

One of the primary symptoms of a full septic tank is slow toilet drainage or clogging. Your normally well-functioning toilet may begin to back up, spilling sewage into your home, or it may require several flushes to completely drain.

A Wet Area Appears Above the Septic Tank

When your septic tank is properly functioning, the area above and around the tank will be dry. If a wet, sludgy area appears above the tank, your septic system may be full and overflowing into your yard. You may see sewage or even toilet paper floating in your yard in extreme overflow cases.

It Has Been More Than Five Years Since the Last Pumping

You should have your septic tank pumped every three to five years to prevent the tank from clogging or overfilling. If it has been more than five years since the tank was last cleaned, your septic tank may be full.

Your Septic Tank Smells

Normal, properly functioning septic tanks are odorless. If you notice a foul, rotting odor outside around your septic tank or inside your bathrooms, your tank may be full. The smell may be persistent or may occur only in hot weather.

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