Common Septic Tank Problems

Learn what a septic tank is and what to do when it malfunctions.

Closed septic tank cover in a backyard

Homes located in rural or remote areas of a city may be unable to be served by a municipal sewer system because of their distant location. As a result, these homes are often equipped with with their own septic system.

If your home is one of the more than 21 million U.S. households with a septic system, you’ll need to develop a basic understanding of how the system works, common problems it can face and how to fix them.  

What is a Septic Tank?

A septic tank is an underground cylinder container that treats your household’s wastewater and sewage. It is part of a septic system that consists of a tank and a network of pipes that handles your waste. Every drop of water from your home flows through the septic tank to be processed

Three Common Septic Tank Problems and Solutions

Slow Draining Water or Backups

If your sinks and bathtubs are draining very slowly or water is coming back up, this could be a sign of a clog or block in your septic system. 

To resolve either issue,  you will need to get your tank professionally pumped. Pumping will help clear existing blocks in tanks. It is recommended homeowners get their septic tanks pumped every three to five years.  

Overgrown Tree Roots 

Be cautious of trees and roots near your septic tank. Large underground tree roots can disrupt your septic system. They can grow under or over pipes creating strong pressure, leading to cracks or leaks. 

There are a few solutions to clear tree roots. One is to use a plumber’s snake pipe to break up the tree roots into smaller pieces that can easily pass through the drain. You can also flush granular copper sulfate down the toilet. It will easily dissolve tree roots.


A leaking or cracked septic tank is a very serious problem. Being exposed to wastewater is dangerous for you and your family. If you see an unusually lush or green area on your otherwise dry lawn, it could be a sign of a septic tank leak. To minimize your exposure to hazardous conditions it is best to have a professional fix the leak. The certified inspectors at AmeriSpec can examine your septic tank and advise on the best course of action.

Septic Tank Maintenance Tips

The following maintenance tips will help you keep your septic system in good working order. 

Beware What You Flush

Never flush any foreign objects down your toilet. This includes feminine hygiene products, paper towels, dental floss, diapers and cigarette butts. These products can damage your septic system causing clogs or overflow. Only flush human waste and toilet paper. 


Careful What You Pour Down the Sink 

Similar to smart flushing, you want to be careful what you pour down your sink. Minimize the amount of food scraps that can go down the kitchen sink, regardless of whether you have a garbage disposal. Don’t pour cooking oil, grease or chemical products. These can severely harm your septic system. 

Schedule Regular Septic Inspections

To avoid issues with your septic tank, schedule regular maintenance with a certified inspector. AmeriSpec’s septic inspectors can perform a comprehensive examination of your system. Inspections help you be aware of the current condition of your system and avoid serious issues in the future. 

You may also want to consider scheduling regular sewer scope inspections. Sewer scopes are detailed examinations of your home’s sewer and pipelines. If a strange odor is permeating through your home or you experience any of these four sewer-related problems, schedule a sewer scope immediately. Waiting to schedule an inspection can exacerbate a seemingly minor issue into an emergency.

What Happens During a Septic System Inspection?

During a septic system inspection, an AmeriSpec inspector will open the septic tank cover to check the water level. The level results will indicate if the water is draining properly. The inspector will also run water in your home to ensure there is a smooth flow from your house to the tank. Other aspects of the inspection include pumping water to make sure there are no clogs or backups. Once the inspection is completed, your AmeriSpec inspector will provide you with a detailed report and advise on the best course of action.  

Schedule a Septic Tank Inspection

It is stressful when your septic tank isn’t working properly. Help keep it in good condition with a septic system inspection. With more than 150 locations across North America, there’s an AmeriSpec inspector near you. Contact us today to schedule your septic system inspection or learn more about our services.