Septic tank maintenance is extremely important. I am often asked how to tell when a septic tank is full and needs emptying. I have compiled all of the most common signs so that you can tell the next time your tank is reaching capacity.
Your septic tank is full when you begin to notice draining issues with your toilets, sinks, or showers. You can also tell your septic tank is full by noting any changes in the condition of your lawn. Finally, if you notice an increasingly strong, foul odor from the tank, it is likely full and needs to be emptied.
The rest of this guide will detail these common signs of a full septic tank as well as provide information on estimated costs and service schedules.
How To Tell Your Septic Tank Is Full And Needs Emptying?
You can determine whether your septic tank is full and needs emptying by observing the behavior of your plumbing and changes to the condition of your lawn. Plumbing issues like trouble flushing your toilet or a toilet that constantly overflows could indicate a full septic tank.
Audible gurgling from the drains in your home is another strong indicator that your septic tank needs to be emptied. Your yard is also another good way to identify a full septic tank. If there is significant water pooling in your yard or your grass looks healthier than usual, these are signs your tank should be emptied soon.
Finally, one of the most significant signs that your septic tank is full and should be emptied is a strong smell of sewage coming from your yard. Paying attention to all these signs can help you time the next time your septic tank needs to be emptied.
It is also important that you are aware of the average time it takes for a septic tank to fill up. This will be covered more in the section below.
How Long Does It Take For A Septic Tank To Fill Up?
On average, it takes around five years for a septic tank to fill completely. Keep in mind that the exact timeframe will vary depending on the tank size, water usage, and how much waste is produced. The less your septic tank is being used and the bigger it is, the longer it will take to fill up.
Once your septic tank begins to fill, you may be wondering exactly when you should consider having it emptied. This will be covered more in the section below.
How Often Should A Septic Tank Be Emptied?
It is recommended that you have your septic tank emptied at least once every three to five years. The exact amount of time in between emptying will depend largely on how much it is used and how well-maintained it is.
For example, a single person in a household could go up to ten years without having to empty their septic tank, while a family could wind up needing to empty theirs every year. It is advised that you make a note of the interval between emptying so you can create a schedule going forward.
When it is time to empty your septic tank, you may be wondering how much you can expect it to cost. This will be covered more in the next section.
How Much Does It Cost To Empty A Septic Tank?
You can expect to pay an average cost between $250 and $550 to have your septic tank emptied, depending on the size and location of your tank. The more gallons of waste present in your tank, the higher the cost will be.
The price break downs to around $0.25 to $0.40 per gallon of waste. You can check out the table below to help you estimate your cost based on the size of your tank.
|Septic Tank Size(Gallons)||Cost|
|1250||$280 – $450|
|1500||$350 – $575|
|1750||$425 – $68|
Now that we have discussed the price, it is important to understand the different meanings of a “full” septic tank. This will be discussed more in the section below.
What Does A “Full” Septic Tank Mean?
A full septic tank can be defined by three different states of your septic tank. Depending on the fullness of your tank, you may have some extra time before it becomes critical to empty it. These three states have been outlined in the sections below.
A normal full level simply indicates that your septic tank is nearing the capacity that it is intended to house. A septic tank that is filled to the normal level will be able to process waste and water without any issues. After being emptied, your septic tank will begin to accumulate to normal fullness levels.
Accumulation Of Sludge
High levels of sludge can build up over time in your septic tank over time and cause issues with the water flow if left unchecked. This is common for all septic tanks, and many are designed to handle this accumulation with no issues with water flow.
Over Filled Tank
Eventually, the tank will begin to reach maximum capacity, causing the drainage fields to stop accepting water. An overfilled tank will need to be emptied down to normal levels to ensure proper water flow. Now that you understand the different fullness levels, you can explore the different things that will happen as your tank fills up to capacity.
What Happens When A Septic Tank Is Full?
As your septic tank begins to fill, there are certain tell-tale signs that will show up around your yard and plumbing system. These events will be detailed in the sections below.
It Is Time For Regular Maintenance
This may go without saying, but a full septic tank will trigger the need for regular maintenance to drain the tank. This will clear the tank of any grime buildup and lower the fill level to normal. Of course, there are other things to look out for that you will likely experience once your septic tank fills up.
Slow Flushing Or Slow Drains
Once your septic tank begins to fill to capacity, the toilets and sinks in your house will begin draining slower than normal. This could also indicate a blockage in the drainage system. This is one of the first things that you will notice when a septic tank is close to being full.
Bad odors are another thing you will begin to notice. This will be discussed more in the section below.
When your septic tank is full, you will begin to notice an increasingly strong, foul odor emitted from your septic tank. This is due to the wastewater building up in your septic tank as it becomes unable to process the water properly.
Pooling water is another thing you will start to notice as the tank begins to fill over overcapacity. This will be discussed in the next section.
When your septic tank is full, you will begin to notice large pools of water in your yard around the location of your septic tank. Water than cannot be held in the full reservoir of the tank will begin to spill over into the yard, causing unsightly puddling.
Gurgling water is another thing that you will notice as the tank begins to have trouble processing the water pushed through it.
As your tank begins to reach capacity, you will begin to notice gurgling water from your drains and toilets more frequently. This is a strong indicator that a water backup will occur in the near future and should be addressed as soon as possible.
Sewer backup is the most serious thing that could happen when your septic tank fills up. This will be covered more in the section below.
One of the most unfortunate things that can happen when your septic tank is full is a sewage backup. Sewage backups occur when a full septic tank is not emptied and allowed to continue to fill up with water and sewage from your home.
When this happens, the sewage can back up and flood through the toilets, showers, and drains of your home. Sewage backup can also be caused by a blockage in your septic tank’s drainage system. No matter the cause of your issue, it is important to have your septic tank serviced when it gets full to avoid these types of issues.
Your Lawn Is Too Healthy
When your septic tank is full, your lawn will grow far healthier due to the increased nutrients from the sewage leaking out of the tank. Your grass will be much greener and more vibrate to indicate that the tank has reached maximum capacity.
Finally, the nitrate levels of your soil will increase, potentially causing issues. This will be discussed more in the section below.
Well Water Has A High Nitrate Content
If you use well water, a full septic tank could leech high levels of nitrates into the well, making it unsafe to drink. This will cause bacteria and other contaminants to be introduced to the well water. You will need to test your well water before drinking it if you suspect a septic tank leak.
The Importance Of Septic System Maintenance
It is important that you set a schedule for routinely emptying your septic tank. This will ensure that you avoid any costly issues caused by allowing a tank to fill past capacity. As previously mentioned, it is recommended that you empty your septic tank at least once every three to five years.
If you have recently moved into your house and inherited a septic tank from the old owners, ask them if have been on a schedule and pick up where they left off. If they have not been keeping a schedule or are not sure, it is best to get it emptied so you can start your own.
To determine the intervals between emptying your septic tank, you will need to consider your household size, the size of your tank, and the amount of wastewater generated. If you begin to notice any of the signs above, you should have your tank serviced as soon as possible.
What Should You Do If Your Septic Tank Is Full?
When your septic tank is full, it is important that you have it emptied by a professional as soon as possible. This will help you avoid costly issues and, in some cases, fines caused by an overflowing tank. A septic tank service in your area will be able to tell you more about the process of emptying your tank.
While you could technically empty the septic tank yourself, it is generally not advised that you do so. This is because a licensed professional will be much better equipped to deal with any potential issues that may arise during the emptying process.
A full septic tank can be easily identified by several different key signs, including changes in yard condition, plumbing issues, and bad odors coming from the tank. When you begin to notice these changes, it is important that you get your septic tank emptied as soon as possible.
This will help you avoid costly issues in the future, such as sewer backup and a blown septic tank. You should contact a septic tank service in your area and start a routine schedule for emptying your septic tank in the future.
Ruben has a diverse background in the home services industry, with experience running a construction company, a kitchen and bath showroom, and a moving and relocation company. This breadth of experience has provided him with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various areas of home improvement in general and specifically in the heating and plumbing niche.