Is it possible to fix a septic tank?
If your septic tank stops working, it can cause all sorts of nasty problems - mainly for your nose, but also sometimes for your bank balance. If you've started to experience septic tank problems, you might be wondering if a septic tank repair is possible? Or will the tank need to be replaced with a new one?
There are a few different ways that a septic tank can become damaged. For example:
- Tree root damage to the septic tank - in which roots from local trees or shrubs grow through the sides of the tank itself
- A damaged baffle or dip pipe - these are the internal parts of a septic tank which are designed to help the tank separate out the waste water that enters it, and to prevent the `wrong' type of waste from leaving the tank and entering the soakaway system or outlet pipe
- Splits or fractures in the walls of the tank - these can be caused by a number of different things, from local ground movement to a tractor driving over the top of the tank (we have seen it happen!)
- The septic tank popping out of the ground - this happens more often than you might think! For example, 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. It can be pretty catastrophic, as the pipe leading to the tank is often sheared off - meaning that the waste from your property spills straight out creating a horrible mess.
Here are some photos of typical damage to septic tanks:
Should you repair or replace your septic tank?
So, 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 done 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 repair was possible, there may be greater problems with the soakaway system which might need to be sorted out too.
Here at UKDP, we manage insurance claims for damaged septic tanks. We often have a lot of conversations (occasionally we could refer to them more as `healthy debates'!) with insurance companies who might prefer to fix a septic tank instead of replace it. There are various repair methods we've seen recommended, from sticking dip pipes back on to the tank, to lining the inside of a tank in an attempt to make it watertight again. There are a number of challenges with each of these methods, and as I mentioned above, often a repair won't actually solve the whole problem. In our experience, an area of damage to a septic tank should not be looked at in isolation. The whole system needs to be assessed through a septic tank inspection before a solution to the problem can be recommended.
So in our experience, I would have to say that if you're seeking a permanent solution, then it is better to replace your septic tank, instead of trying to repair it. If you're just looking to extend the life of a damaged system for a few years, then there may be some repair options available to you. But if you have a drainage company recommending a repair instead of a replacement, know exactly what you're getting yourself into. Ask them how long it is likely to 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 really careful with.
If you are having any septic tank problems, 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. It's all part of what makes UKDP different.