Smelling Sewage? It’s a Sign That Your Septic Tank Needs to Be Powered

If you smell sewer gas around your home, it’s a sign that your septic tank needs to be pumped. This will help prevent sewage leakage and protect the health of your family, pets, plants, and neighbors.

Septic Tank

Most septic tanks look like large metal boxes underground, with inspection ports and manholes for pumping. For more information, visit

A septic tank is a buried, watertight container that receives wastewater from all your home plumbing connections. It holds the waste for a time, allowing heavy solids to sink to the bottom and form sludge. Lighter waste, such as oils and grease, floats to the top and forms scum. Compartments and a T-shaped outlet prevent the sludge and scum from exiting the tank and traveling into the drainfield area where they can clog pipes and damage soils. The liquid wastewater, known as effluent, exits the tank through a pipe. Bacteria in the tank partially treats the liquid waste before it flows into the drainfield, where septic soils filter and purify it even further.

Wastewater that enters a septic system contains many contaminants, including dangerous bacteria and viruses that can infect people, animals and plants. A septic system helps protect human health and the environment by eliminating the need for municipal or county sewer systems, which can be expensive to install and maintain.

As the waste in a septic tank collects, it separates into three layers: sludge, scum and effluent. The heavier, solids settle to the bottom of the tank, where microorganisms decompose them. The scum layer is composed of lighter waste, such as cooking grease and soaps, that floats to the top of the tank. The middle layer, called effluent, flows through a network of underground perforated pipes into the drainfield, where septic bacteria continue to partially treat it.

In the drainfield, the untreated wastewater seeps through a series of gravel and septic soil layers to naturally remove bacteria, viruses and other contaminants. It then seeps back into groundwater aquifers or underground streams.

The septic tank must be pumped on a regular basis, and the frequency depends on how much water is used in a home, how many people live there and whether or not a garbage disposal is installed. Using a garbage disposal can cause the septic tank to fill more quickly, because it sends more solid waste into the tank. In addition, using too much household chemicals can also cause problems because these products kill bacteria that break down wastewater contaminants.

Septic Tank Size

The size of septic tank you need is a factor of both how much water your household uses daily and how many people live in the house. A general rule of thumb is that you need a tank that can process two days worth of wastewater. If you want to get more specific, consider a water meter that can help you monitor your home usage. This way, you’ll be able to measure exactly how much water your family uses every day. This will allow you to make sure that your septic system is sized properly to accommodate your household’s needs.

A septic tank can be made of concrete, fiberglass or plastic and come in a wide variety of sizes. Precast concrete tanks typically have a minimum capacity of around 5,000 gallons, while fiberglass and plastic tanks usually max out at about 1,500 gallons.

In addition to size, septic tank size considerations can also include whether or not your home has a septic pumping chamber. These are often required in areas with harder or heavier soil, as they help to reduce the amount of sludge that builds up in the drain field.

Local rules and regulations about septic tank size vary by region, so it’s always important to check with your local governmental agencies for guidelines on the right septic tank size for your property. Your installation professional will also likely be familiar with local requirements, so don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions.

It’s worth mentioning that you’ll likely be estimating your septic tank size in terms of cubic feet rather than gallons, since these dimensions account for the thickness of the septic tank walls. One cubic foot contains about 7.481 gallons, which makes for an easy conversion factor to help you figure out how big your tank should be.

Septic Tank Maintenance

A septic tank is a buried, water-tight container made of concrete, fiberglass or polyethylene. It is designed to hold wastewater long enough for solids to sink and form sludge, while oil and grease rise to the top and float as scum. Compartments and a T-shaped outlet prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank to enter the drain field. Once the liquid waste exits the tank, it is absorbed into the soils in the absorption field.

If a home’s septic system is not properly maintained, it can cause sewage to back up into the house and surrounding area. It can also overflow into the ground surface or the drain field, contaminating the environment.

It is important to have a professional perform regular inspections and maintenance to ensure that the system works properly. During an inspection, the professional will check the condition of the septic tank and all piping. They will also look for signs of a malfunction, such as a leak in the tank or cracks in the septic pipe. If a septic system is found to be damaged or in need of repair, a professional plumber can recommend the necessary repairs.

A septic tank needs to be pumped periodically to remove the buildup of sludge and scum. The amount of time between pumping a septic tank will depend on the size of the tank and the number of people living in the home. A septic tank that is not pumped regularly can become full of sludge, which can clog the drain lines leading to and from the septic tank.

Foul sewage odors from the home or yard can indicate that the septic system is overflowing. This is because the septic system gases, such as methane and carbon dioxide, are escaping through a clog in the ventilation traps.

Keeping up with routine maintenance can help prevent costly septic tank repairs and extend the life of the septic system. To help keep the system working properly, never flush anything other than human waste and toilet paper. Items to avoid include: cat litter, coffee grounds, paper towels (even the “flushable” variety), diapers, tampons, condoms, dental floss, cooking grease and oils, cigarette butts and medical and household waste.

Septic Tank Installation

A septic system is not easy to install and requires the assistance of a professional. It involves multiple chambers, valves, baffles and other important parts. It also needs to be installed in a location that will allow service technicians access to it in case of any problems.

The tank itself is a large underground container that allows wastewater to sit and undergo a settling process. Solid waste, like sediment and sludge, sinks to the bottom while oil and other liquids float on the top. Over time, bacteria break down these materials and make them less dense so they can drain away easily.

Once the septic tank is installed, it links to a drainage field, or leach field, through a pipe that is buried underneath the ground. The drain field helps to process the wastewater from the house and then slowly releases it into the soil and watercourses.

The size of a home typically determines the tank size needed. A small two-bedroom home may be able to use a 1,000-gallon tank, while a larger four or five-bedroom house will require a much bigger one. Working with a professional will help ensure the right system is installed for your household size and usage.

Proper installation is critical to the long-term performance of your septic system. If the tank is not placed properly, it can move and become damaged over time. To avoid this, a firm, level base is required under the tank. This can be sand, gravel, clean dirt or cement.

Another important factor in septic tank installation is the size of the opening on the top of the tank. This must be big enough to accommodate the inlet and outlet pipes. The tank should also be located on a site that is level and free of any obstructions that could interfere with its proper operation.

Once the septic tank is in place, it should be backfilled and compacted using the manufacturer’s installation instructions. It is a good idea to deflect surface runoff from the tank area, especially after heavy rains. This will help to reduce the risk of sewage seepage into the groundwater and watercourses.