Identifying Common Septic Tank Problems & Maintenance Tips to Avoid Them

Even though the septic tank is hidden underground, it’s something that’s important not to forget about. Anyone who has a septic system, home and business owners alike, need to know when there’s a problem going on with their septic system and how to fix it, especially relating to the septic tank or structural components of your system. If you experience any problems with your system, it’s smart to call a septic professional who knows how to fix septic issues right away. If you see signs of septic tank problems and you don’t take action right away, “fixing it later” could be costly.

Residential septic systems can get clogged, disrupting the flow of treated wastewater. This leads to septic tank problems like backups, slow draining sinks, unpleasant septic odors, pooling of water around the septic tank area, and potentially costly repairs. Often, these problems are caused by incorrect waste management practices, like flushing inorganic matter down the toilet or dumping it down drains. But sometimes these septic tank problems happen because of a flawed or broken system. The issues that result, from slow drains and gurgling sounds to wastewater backup, if left unaddressed, compromise the septic system’s treatment process, leading to even more problems and damage, like drain field clogs and potential groundwater contamination. But how can you tell if you’re experiencing a minor system problem that can be addressed with septic treatment products or if your septic system needs professional help to fix major issues?

Understanding Tank Damage and Structural Issues in Septic Systems

If you have a septic system, you know how vital it is to keep your septic system well-maintained and running efficiently. As with all systems, proper septic tank maintenance and attention to detail can be the difference between smooth operation and unwelcome problems. Among the various concerns you may experience, septic system damage and structural issues can become a costly problem, especially if left unattended.

Septic tanks are designed to hold waste temporarily while solid debris settles at the bottom. As bacteria inside the tank break down solid waste, it’s turned to sludge. Issues that will compromise your septic system include:

Cracks or Leaks

Many septic tanks are made from concrete, which can crack over time, or due to external forces. These cracks allow wastewater to leak into the surrounding soil, potentially contaminating groundwater, oversaturating the drain field, or causing bad odors to arise around your yard or home.

Blocked Inlet or Outlet Baffle

A blocked inlet or outlet baffle, whether blocked from a clog or damage, prevents wastewater from entering or leaving the tank, leading to backups or overflows. Check out one of our articles on the more specific issues that happen with Inlet Baffles and Outlet Baffles if you think you’re experiencing an issue. 

Collapsed Tank

This is a severe form of structural damage. A collapsed tank is a significant hazard and requires immediate attention. Call a professional immediately if you believe or have identified that your tank has collapsed.

In our experience, these problems don’t just cause immediate inconvenience but compromise the septic system’s treatment process and their ability to do their job. The solids, not properly settling at the bottom of the tank, end up in the drain field, causing premature clogging, foul odors, and even potential groundwater contamination.

Causes of Tank Damage and Structural Issues in Septic Systems

So what leads to a damaged or malfunctioning septic system? If the problems arising are from improper installation or faulty system parts, there’s not much you can do besides call a professional to assess the damage. With regularly scheduled septic maintenance, an expert should catch these issues before they develop into more concerning problems. But septic systems become damaged from a variety of other factors as well. Understanding the root causes of damage will guide prevention efforts and help you know when it’s time to call a professional. Here are five of the main causes:

1. Tree Roots
Trees or large shrubs planted near the septic tank can extend their roots, causing cracks in the tank or blockages if they crush or grow through pipes, vents, or other vital parts of the system.

2. Chemicals
Harsh chemicals, when flushed down drains, corrode the tank’s walls over time and kill the essential bacteria inside that break down waste. When the tank’s walls have been corroded they’re more vulnerable to cracks or even collapse.

3. Overloading
Continuously using excessive water or not pumping out the tank when needed strains the system, leading to structural problems.

4. Ground Pressure
Over time, the earth’s movement, or heavy vehicles driving over the tank area, creates strong pressure above the tank, leading to cracks or even collapse. As we’ve previously mentioned, if the tank has collapsed, you need to call an expert immediately to assess the damage and begin the repair process.

5. Hydrogen Sulfide
In the presence of water vapor, hydrogen sulfide produces sulfuric acid which is extremely corrosive. Hydrogen sulfide is produced by bacterial breakdown of plant and animal material, like common waste from your garbage disposal. A quality septic system treatment, like Hotrod Septic, extends the life of the septic system by lowering ammonia & hydrogen sulfide gasses that deteriorate the septic tank over time.

So, What Can You Do About It? Preventing and Fixing Septic Tank Damage

Preventing septic tank damage requires more than just regular pumping. Here are a few ways to ensure your septic system is avoiding issues and operating at peak performance.


If you want to add landscaping to your yard, it’s important to make sure trees and shrubs are planted at safe distances from both the tank and drain field, to avoid any potential growth of roots into the septic systems as these plants grow.

Professional Septic System Maintenance

Routine professional inspections and pumpings will preemptively take care of sludge buildups and early-stage issues before they become bigger and more costly..

Septic Tank Biological Health

It’s also crucial to minimize the use of harsh chemicals and cleaners, especially going down your drains, that disrupt the bacterial ecosystems inside your tank or erode its structure.

Be on the Lookout for Signs of Septic Troubles

Watching for early indicators of  a problem, such as slow-draining sinks, yard odors, or unusually lush lawn patches, will help you catch system problems before they get unmanageable. 

If you have discovered or even just suspect damage or a structural problem with your septic tank, here’s what you should do:

Limit Water Usage

Try to limit the amount of water you’re sending down the drains to prevent overloading the system until repairs are done. 

Septic System Maintenance Products

Use a trusted additive to help break down solids and debris in the system, but make sure you do your research as some products that claim to help, actually make problems much worse. Emulsifiers, for example, only break up solids in the tank, creating fodder for drain field clogs instead of fully breaking down these materials. HOTROD Septic Treatment is an expert-trusted solution that uses patented technology to digest solids and build up in the same way our own digestive system works. Our patented formula introduces 26 essential enzymes and bacteria strains into your system to boost the biological ecosystem inside and keep it running all year round.

Contact a Septic Professional

The safest course of action to take is to contact a local septic professional. Because of the risk to your health and the environment around you that a malfunctioning septic system poses, it’s important to get expert help. They’ll know how to properly evaluate your septic system problem and the correct solutions to recommend. 

Avoid DIY Septic Repairs

On the same note, it’s important to avoid DIY repairs. Septic systems are complex, and DIY repairs often exacerbate the problem instead of actually solving it. Unless you’ve had the proper training and experience, don’t attempt fixes on your own. 

For homeowners with a septic system in place, vigilance paired with proactive measures like using our expert-approved septic treatment products can be the recipe for long-lasting and efficient operations. It’s not just about solving immediate issues; it’s about ensuring peace of mind and that your home remains a place of comfort, not problems.

So, if your home is your haven and your septic system an essential part of it, resolving and preventing septic tank problems by ordering HOTROD Septic Treatment products will be one of the smartest decisions you make.

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