A septic tank usually needs to be pumped out every few years, but there are a number of things that can affect the timeline. It's a good practice to set up a schedule with your local septic system service to have your tank pumped out so that your tank is maintained properly. If you don't know how long it's been since the tank has been pumped, or it's filling faster or slower than expected, here are some things to consider.
Have the Septic Service Measure the Contents
If you have no idea how full your septic tank may be, a septic service can measure it to find out. This can be done with a measurement tool that's dipped into the tank. Measurements are taken of the scum layer that floats on top, as well as the sludge layer that accumulates on the bottom. If either of these is at a certain depth, it's time to have your tank cleaned out. If your tank needs to be cleaned, ask the septic professional for an estimate of when the tank might need to be cleaned out again. A rough estimate can be made based on the size of the septic tank and your family size.
Have the Tank Checked for Leaks
If it's been several years since your tank has been pumped out, or if it's been so long that you don't remember when it was pumped last, then you may want to have it checked for a leak. The septic service may check the level of waste in the tank first, and if it's low after several years, a leak could be a possibility. When a septic tank leaks, the sewage often comes to the surface of your yard. You should notice a sewer odor or see a wet spot in your yard. You may even see sewage in your yard at times. It's also possible that you wouldn't notice a sewage leak if the sewage stays underground.
A leaking septic tank is a toxic situation that needs to be repaired. Although a septic tank normally drains into the soil, it's only the water that drains. A cracked tank might leak out solid contents, too, and contaminate the soil. If your tank is cracked or there is some other reason for the leak, you may need to have a new septic system installed if it can't be repaired.
Learn to Protect Your Tank
If you have the opposite problem, and it seems like your tank needs to be pumped out too often, then your septic tank might be too small for your family size. The problem might also be that you and your family send too much excess waste through the drains. A garbage disposal can send a lot of waste if you use it frequently. Also, flushing things besides toilet paper will cause the solids to build up quicker. By conserving water and limiting the use of your garbage disposal, you might be able to stretch out the frequency of your septic tank service.