Asked on Mar 18, 2013

Septic drain clogged?

Woodbridge Environmental Tiptophouse.comRachel ZKMS Woodworks


When we moved in this house 3 years ago, we had to dig up the septic tank, empty it & replace the drain pipes from the toilet to the septic tank. Well it just started backing up quite badly again. When we flush it, the bowl fills up but takes a few hours for the water level to go down. We dug up the septic tank today and there's hardly anything in the tank, so it's gotta be in the lines. Is there any way to fix this without digging up the lines?
9 answers
  • Decor 8
    on Mar 18, 2013

    Although I am not a plumber I do live in an area where septic tanks are common and generally if the tank is not full and you are having trouble with the lines it means they have gotten crushed somehow or roots have grown into the lines which is usually the kiss of death and you will need to dig up the lines. I would suggest you call a septic pumping company and ask them who they recommend as an expert to diagnose your problem and possibly install new lines for you.

  • Sounds as though the line from the house to the tank has plugged or perhaps has collapsed. I would suggest having a professional plumbing company snake the line from the house to the tank, then using a camera check the inside of the line to see if there are any obstructions or perhaps damage. I think this is just a normal plug from to much paper etc going down the drain at once.

  • KMS Woodworks
    on Mar 19, 2013

    I second the "inspection route" first. Most homes have a "clean out" or two placed in the main line so you do not need to pull a toilet or something to gain access. If a clean out is not present now would be a good time to install one. You may also want to evaluate your use practices. When my daughters were much younger they tended to use a lot of paper. Imagine baseball sized wads every time the went pee. I trained them that an "arms length" was more than enough.

  • Rachel Z
    on Mar 19, 2013

    We did the snake luck. Our septic tank placement is the absolute worst...we're considering getting a new one and placing it right since this one is uphill from the toilet :/ I don't know what a clean out is but the septic tank is only 8 ft from the house. It's really old (2 small septic tanks jointed together). We redid the drain when we moved in and most of the lines are new except a couple clay tiles coming out of the tank itself. We are bringing in the backhoe tomorrow to dig up around the lines...

    , This shows how close the tank is to the back door which is to the right of our bathroom
  • Is there a tank? OR brick/block walls creating a tank? The photo looks as though there is a cesspool system installed. Can you provide some additional photos as gross as they may seem. A photo of the top of the tank and pipes entering is very useful here. The clean out is a pipe that has a cap on it that allows the plumber to access the interior of the pipes to allow for cleaning or the use of a camera. At this point your beyond worrying about the clean out. If your saying you redid your drains are they pitched properly? If not this can cause back ups. Also inside the tank should be a separation baffle. This prevents the sludge from the tank from backing up into the drain line. The photos are some samples and general information about septic systems. If you have opened up the tank top you should see the pipe that enters into the top of the tank from the house. If that pipe is below the water/sludge line you need to correct this, the water must flow freely into the tank, if not it will back up slow the drain and cause plugging of the pipes leading to the tank. If you have a seepage pit, or cesspool system and it has failed, you will need a complete engineering evaluation, and a new septic system including the field. This can be very expensive. Check with your home owners policy to see if you have any coverage for this type of issue. Some do cover it, many do not.

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  • Rachel Z
    on Mar 19, 2013

    No it's a septic tank (this time we only opened the first manhole cover where the drain pipe enters the tank, which is why only one lid is shown lol). I think the reason why we have no leech field is that there's not enough space. I do know that there is a line coming out of the 'exit' of the septic tank and goes down along the side of the corn field below the house. It empties into a ditch. In that area there are also some small drilling wells about 20 ft down from it in the woods. We don't have a basement and not much of a crawl space. One bathroom, so the drain of the toilet goes directly into the ground and up and over to the tank.

  • You said that the bathroom goes into the ground then up into the tank? All drains must only be pitched one way only. So any toilets, or sinks should be piped so just before the drain leaves the crawl space the pipes are below the soil level by at least three feet. And you should see the pipe entering into the tank, at least a foot lower then that assuming your around 10 feet away from the house. If not your issue is the drain pipes are not pitched properly and no replacement septic system will fix a plugging issue. Verify the pitch of the drain line and be sure that the drain is at least three feet down below the outside soil area to prevent freezing in the winter. Just before the pipes leave the house there should be a U shaped pipe, it most likely will be buried in the ground with just two caps perhaps showing in the crawl space. this U shaped pipe also has a drain vent attached. You may see this as a round pipe with a mushroom cap near the surface or a round metal grill about four or five inches round somewhere on the side of the foundation wall. This U pipe is a trap to prevent septic gasses from entering into the houses plumbing system. It is common for these to plug so your issue also may be there. This is normally were the access clean out is located. Lastly you stated that the discharge effluent pipe is exiting out into a ditch? Whether it is gray water or black water your in violation of code., NO sewer water, gray or black should be exposed to the surface at all. That must be corrected for health reasons. I would suggest that you get a licensed septic engineer into the mix and have them evaluate your system properly and make suggestions on what to do. Please also understand, there are many other factors that go into a proper operating septic system and or sewer system. So my advice should be only used as a guideline as I am not there to see it and some explanations can be mixed up to mean something entirely different.

  • Rachel Z
    on Mar 19, 2013

    My dad bought this house...I am just finding out all this crap to help him out. I tell him what he needs to do, but he doesn't want to hear it. I am trying. In this area, nothing is to code, I'm finding out...just for the fact that it hasn't been updated since the 50s. It frustrates me very much that he is unwilling to do what needs done.

  • Well it is great even if you think he does not want to hear it. I had parents the same way. But deep down inside they are grateful for your help. Just do not give up. As folks get older (yuck) we often get set in our ways thinking that we can survive without any changes. Often it has to do with money. They worry to much about running out so they live in conditions that most would not tolerate. Very common, I see this all the time when family's call me in to help them with a parent. So your not alone.

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