How Do You Know a Main Drain Clog vs. a Backed Up Septic Tank?
Is it a Main Drain Clog or a Backed Up Septic Tank?
The drains in your bathroom or kitchen aren’t draining, are very slow or clog way too often. You’re seeing, and even smelling, a problem. Is it the drain line itself or the septic tank backing up or failing? Either way, you need the problem identified and solved. Sometimes, stopped up drains or sluggish drains can be fixed by getting rid of the clog in the pipes inside the building. If the real issue is the septic tank, though, it’ll be a waste of time trying to unclog a drain or the pipes. How do you know what to do?
Signs it’s a Main Drain Clog
It may sound strange, but the sounds from your plumbing could tell you what you’re looking at. Some sounds can point you in the right direction of the cause of the problem. If you’re hearing the unfortunate “blub blub blub” when water should be draining well out of a drain, it could mean one of the following.
- There’s a partial drain clog or blockage. The water being forced through a restricted, clogged area is causing the sound of bubbles, air or hissing.
- There’s a venting problem in the drain. Inadequate (or missing) plumbing vents can develop a gurgling noise. There is a poor flow as a result of entrapped air or a vacuum being caused. If you have blubs or gurgling at one drain when another fixture is being used, for example, a toilet gurgles and doesn’t drain right when the shower is running, the venting could be the big issue.
- There’s a chance you’ve run into past amateur plumbing mistakes. Past owners, with varying success, were their own plumbing DYI’rs. They tried “less than pro” solutions or standards such as running waste lines at strange angles that go against gravity. Problems like this cause odd sounds and pools of water which won’t flow properly. This increases the chances of clogs, leaks and corrosion. It can also lead to nasty, lasting odors.
- Maybe the sounds are just sounds. Plumbing drain sounds might not actually mean anything about functionality. Some pipe products make sounds different or quicker than others such as plastic compared to iron. An answer could be better insulation, but you should contact a professional plumbing technician to find the noises and put in the proper sort of insulation.
If you have one fixture which is clogged, slow or a problem, and it’s only that one, the septic tank or whole system is likely not the issue. If your entire home is draining poorly or waste is backing up into numerous fixtures or places, it’s time to have the whole septic tank and system checked.
Signs it’s a Backed Up Septic Tank
You might see a septic tank as a single component. Really, it is a system made up of drains, waste pipes, drainage fields and the tank.
- Sludge in the tank forms a layer of naturally degradable material below the pipelines. This stops or slows the waste water from leaching into the ground. Septic tanks need to be pumped out about every three years to get rid of the sludge. Proper maintenance stops this before it becomes a problem.
- What if a septic tank has been pumped, yet backups are happening? It could be the pipes from the fixtures in the house to the tank are blocked. The first thing to do is have these lines properly cleared out. Plumbers can run a video camera down the line to locate any obstruction due to sludge, breaks or splits in the pipe, or roots. This treatment might likewise identify if the septic system is functioning appropriately.
- Does the issue happen during wet weather? If so, you may need a professional evaluation. Your septic tank drainage field must be five feet under the top of the high water table. If this field is incorrectly set up, it may be the field is too wet and can’t take on the discharge from the system. If this is true, you may be polluting the area’s groundwater with waste and flow from your tank. This is certainly not a DIY job.
- When a drainage area fails as part of a septic system, there are just two options. One is construct a completely new drain field. Two is add more branches to the existing field to improve its capacity.
- While trying to assess the issue between the drain lines and the septic tank, you find standing water in the pipe in between both. You, or an expert, could find the drain pipe broken from ground erosion, rust or cracks. At the same time, the tank has scum or sludge. Both problems need to be fixed.
- The pipes are clear and the septic tank has been pumped yet there is still a back-up into the building. This is generally a drain area issue. The effluent sludge in the tank builds, runs up out of the tank, into the drainage field and causes flow to back up. This can happen when the area is poorly pitched or laid out. It then becomes wet and swampy just from rainwater and ground water. Therefore, the waste circulation is prevented from effectively leaching as it should.
South End Plumbing specializes in video drain inspections, so remember, we are just a click away. We also specialize in leak detection – give us a call! South End Plumbing is one of the only companies that will give you a free estimate. Call us at 704-919-1722 or fill out the form online to schedule a visit.