If your septic tank stops working, it can cause all sorts of nasty problems – both for your nose, and sometimes for your bank balance. If you've started to experience septic tank problems, you might be wondering if it’s possible to repair a septic tank? Or will the tank need to be replaced with a new one?
The answer to whether a septic tank repair is possible depends on a number of different factors. Firstly, let’s look at some of the ways in which a septic tank can become damaged. Here are some examples of the typical types of damage our engineers see:
Roots from trees and shrubs located near to the septic tank can be strong enough to physically break through the walls of a septic tank – or to cause damage through the external pressure applied to the tank. Once tree roots have caused cracks and splits in the wall of a septic tank, water from the surrounding ground can enter the tank, which can cause havoc with its proper functioning.
A baffle or dip pipe are internal parts of a septic tank which are there to help the tank separate out the wastewater that enters it, and to prevent the `wrong' type of waste from leaving the tank and entering the soakaway system or outlet pipe. Essentially, they ensure that solid waste material is retained within the tank, and if they become damaged then there can be serious consequences for the entire system. This type of damage can often be caused accidentally during a routine emptying of the septic tank – an emptying suction hose operates under a huge amount of pressure and has a powerful `kick’ when it’s switched on and off. This can cause it to move around within the tank, occasionally causing damage internally and usually without the tanker operator having any knowledge that the damage has occurred.
This type of damage can be caused by a number of different things, from localised ground movement to a tractor driving over the top of the tank. Vehicle damage can be a more common cause of splits or fractures when septic tanks are located on farmland or under driveways.
Occasionally, pressure from ground water surrounding the tank can be so high that it can also cause the walls of the tank to split.
This might sound far-fetched, but it happens more often than you might think! If there is a sudden increase in the amount of water in the ground, the pressure from the water can literally force the septic tank up and out of the ground. This can be pretty catastrophic for the entire drainage system, as the pipe leading to the tank is often sheared off when it pops out of the ground. This ultimately means that the waste from your property spills straight out of the pipe and creates a huge headache as well as a huge mess!
Here are some photos of typical damage to septic tanks:
Now that we’ve looked at what can cause damage to septic tanks, the question is whether a damaged septic tank can be repaired? How easy is it to fix a septic tank versus needing to replace it?
The short answer is that it depends on what the damage is. It also depends on how much of a long-term solution you're looking for. Often, a repair can be a bit of a `patch up', and it can be difficult to guarantee how long it will last for.
Just to complicate things further, sometimes the damage that has been caused to a septic tank can have a knock-on effect for any soakaway system or drainage field it connects to. This is because a septic tank works by separating the waste that goes into it into three layers or zones. The liquid separated layer is the only one which should leave the tank and into the soakaway system. If the tank is damaged, it can mean that a lot of ground water is able to get into it. This effectively churns everything up inside the tank, and all the wrong kind of waste (the lumpier stuff) gets allowed out into the soakaway system. This in turn blocks the soakaway system, which can stop it working permanently.
So, even if a septic tank repair was possible, there may be greater problems with the soakaway system or drainage field which might need to be sorted out too.
Here at UKDP, we manage insurance claims for damaged septic tanks. We often have with insurance companies who might prefer to fix a septic tank instead of replace it. Understandably some might want to explore this route first, as on the surface at least it might provide a more economical solution to a full replacement. But does a septic tank repair provide a viable long term solution? There are various repair methods we've seen recommended. For example, re-attaching broken dip pipes back on to the tank wall. Or lining the inside of a tank in an attempt to make it watertight again. There are several challenges with each of these methods, and as I mentioned above, the key issue is that often a repair won't actually solve the whole problem if the damage in the tank has caused issues within any soakaway or drainage field pipework. So, it might be possible to reattach broken dip pipes, but if the soakaway has become blocked by the wrong waste entering into it, the system will still not work even after the repair. It is for this reason that any area of damage to a septic tank should never be looked at in isolation. It is crucial that the whole drainage system is assessed through a septic tank inspection to be certain of the nature and extent of any problems within the system caused by the damage. Undoubtedly, if you're seeking a permanent solution, then it is better to replace your septic tank, instead of trying to repair it. A repair in many instances will simply paper over the cracks of the problem, and not solve the septic tank problems at the property. If you have a drainage company recommending a repair instead of a replacement, especially if they have been appointed by an insurance company, it’s important to know exactly what you're getting yourself into. Ask them how long the repair will be effective for, what guarantees are they offering, and can they give you case studies of similar repairs that have been undertaken successfully? Also, what effect would any repairs have on any warranty you might have on your septic tank? Often, warranties can be invalidated by any repairs or modifications to a septic tank, so this is something you need to be aware of.
If your septic tank has been damaged, then there is a good chance you might be covered for the costs of replacing the damaged system through your existing buildings insurance policy. Most policies provide this cover under the section `accidental damage to underground services’, although presenting and negotiating a claim with your insurer can be a very daunting prospect.
If you are having any septic tank problems and you think your damaged septic tank is in need of repair, call our friendly team today for advice and guidance. We know that it can be confusing and stressful if your septic tank stops working, and we will be on your side to help get things sorted. The UK Drainage Professionals are specialists in septic tanks and other off mains drainage systems, and we are also authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to manage and negotiate claims on behalf of policyholders. Our expert team can manage everything from start to finish:
If you think your septic tank is damaged, complete our eligibility checker to find out whether you might be covered by your insurance policy! For any advice and guidance on septic tank repairs, call our team on 0800 028 9903 or contact us here.
Sam's career prior to UKDP was spent in the marketing and service industries, so she is focused on making sure we look after our customers – and getting the UKDP message out there! Sam has overall responsibility for business operations and for delivering the best customer service we can.