Septic tank overflowing? Here's what to do....

Septic tank overflowing? Here’s what to do….

So there you are, sat in your garden enjoying a nice leisurely cup of tea (or glass of wine, if it’s that time already). The birds are tweeting and the sun is shining. Lovely.

And then you get a whiff of something. Something really quite unpleasant. Has next door’s dog made it through the gap in the fence again, and taken advantage of your flower bed?

Or is it something worse than that? The smell seems to be coming from your septic tank. Urgh.

If you have septic tank problems, your tank may start to overflow. If your property has a soakaway, and that has become blocked, the nasty stuff might start to pool above ground in your garden. But that’s not the only sign of trouble, you might find your toilets slower to flush than usual. Or worse, the contents of your septic tank might start to back up into the toilets and sinks in your house.

If your septic tank is overflowing you’ll probably be thinking two things. Firstly, how on earth do I get rid of this problem, and secondly how much is it going to cost me?

With any luck, it will be quick and easy to fix. Follow our checklist below on what to do if your septic tank is overflowing:

  1. Turn Detective to see if you can work out where the problem might be.

What evidence is there? Is the actual tank itself overflowing, either through a manhole or by dirty water pooling above the ground? Are your toilets taking longer to flush, or your showers and baths taking longer to drain away?

If you can’t physically see any nasty stuff pooling in the ground near your septic tank or soakaway, but your toilets are taking longer to flush then there’s a chance that there is simply a `soft’ blockage in the pipe that runs from your house to the tank.

This is the easiest problem to fix. (Phew.) Call a local drainage clearance company and with any luck they will be able to clear this for you.

In the meantime, make sure that nothing is being flushed down the toilets or put down the sink that shouldn’t be. As a general guide, you should never flush these things down your toilets if you have a septic tank or any other off mains drainage system:

  • Sanitary products
  • Disposable nappies
  • Wet wipes (some of these claim to be `flushable’ – but it’s best not to take any chances)

You’ll also need to avoid putting any of these down your sink:

  • Fats or cooking oil – these in particular can cause some serious soakaway problems if your property has one
  • Antibacterial products like kitchen cleaners and handwashes – these can kill off the good bacteria in your septic tank

If you think that someone has flushed something they shouldn’t have done down the toilet, it’s best to have a polite word with them and request that they stop doing it (or advise them that they will be the next inappropriate item to make its way into the tank).

  1. When did you last have the septic tank emptied?

Most septic tanks need emptying once a year. And most good tanker companies will remind you each time when your next empty is due. It’s best to keep a record of when you’ve had your septic tank emptied for future reference, so dig out your receipts and see if an empty is overdue.

If you’ve only very recently had the tank emptied, and it seems to be overflowing again, this could be a sign of a problem (sorry!). But let’s deal with the better news first - it’s not always the case that the septic tank or soakaway is actually damaged. If there has been a lot of heavy rain of late, or if you’ve had a big party at your house (don’t worry, we’re not offended that you didn’t invite us), then this can overload the drainage system.

Either way, if your septic tank is overflowing or seems to be backing up, check when it was last emptied and get straight on to your local tanker company to ask them to come back out and empty it again.

  1. Get an expert out to investigate

Emptying your septic tank will give relief to the immediate overflowing problem, but if there’s something more sinister going on with the tank or the soakaway, you really want to know exactly what it is.

Ok, so nobody wants to have to deal with problems with their drainage system, but ignoring it could make things worse, and could end up costing you more money to put right.

Check through your last receipt from when you had the tank emptied – did the tanker operator note anything unusual with the tank? Any notes about a dip pipe or baffle? Anything about root ingress or water trickling in?

Hopefully they will have spoken to you about this at the time, but if not it could give you an idea of what’s causing the problems. Either way, a septic tank inspection is what’s needed, and this is always best done when the tank is emptied. So, give us a call on 01628 788600 and we will arrange for one of our team to pop out alongside your tanker company.

  1. Don’t pay for anything you’ve already paid your buildings insurer to cover.

Most people don’t know that the majority of buildings insurance policies provide cover for damaged septic tanks and soakaways. Check out our article here for more information on what you might already be covered for.

As luck would have it, it just so happens that at UKDP we are the only specialist claims management company in the glamorous world of septic tanks and soakaways! So if there is any damage to your drainage system, don’t hesitate to call us. We’ll fully inspect the problem, check your policy for the right cover and manage everything on your behalf. We know that it can be stressful (not to mention unpleasant) when your septic tank has problems, and we do our best to take the stress away from our customers as much as we can.

If you need any advice or guidance when your septic tank is overflowing, call our friendly team on 01628 788600 or email us We’re happy to help.

0800 028 9903