Common Causes of a Failing Septic System

by Ri Industries Ri Industries No Comments

A failing septic system is a concern shared by many homeowners. Repairs, or replacement, can be costly. But what might be even worse, is living in a home when the septic system is not working as it should. 

Although it’s unlikely that homeowners think about their septic system every day, they do benefit from its function each and every day. When a septic tank is mentioned, most people immediately think of toilets. And yes, the septic tank is extremely important to manage human waste disposal, but it’s responsible for handling so much more in the house. Showers, laundry, dish washing, anything that produces wastewater in the home will use the septic tank. It’s easy to see why it’s important to keep it flowing smoothly and functioning well. 

One of the most common causes of a failing septic system is heavy water usage in the home. To help understand why, let’s take a simple look at how the septic system works: 

  • Wastewater flows from the inlet to the outlet in the septic tank. 
  • Solids and liquids of different densities are separated. 
  • Scum rises to the top, sludge sinks to the bottom, and the watery effluent stays in the middle. 
  • The effluent then flows out of the septic tank into the drain field. 

The size of the septic tank and the drain field will dictate how much wastewater can be processed at a time. If too much wastewater overwhelms the system, it will not be able to break it down properly and can result in clogging the system.

The septic system may be overlooked when plans are made to remodel a home. If space is being added to allow additional people to live in the home, you will want to speak with a professional to help determine if the current septic tank is large enough to handle the extra use. 

The drain field plays an important role in the septic system. Be careful where trees are planted to help avoid clogging due to tree roots. Also, be sure no one drives over the drain field. The weight of the vehicles could compact or crush underground pipes. 

Human waste is the only matter the septic system is designed to break down. A common cause of a failing septic system is the introduction of other materials such as paper towels, cigarette butts, feminine hygiene products, nappies, and even ‘flushable’ wipes. Bacteria is unable to break these products down and can result in forming a blockage in the system.

An often-overlooked cause of a failing septic system is the use of cleaners or antibacterial agents which disrupt or kill the bacteria that is responsible for breaking down the wastewater. 

Now that we know about some of the common causes of a failing septic system, let’s talk about common signs to help homeowners contact the experts when needed:


  • Unexplained slow drains (sinks, bathtubs, and showers)
  • Sewage backup into your home (sinks, bathtubs, showers, laundry)
  • Wet or spongy spots in the yard (that are not due to rain or other water source)
  • Grass that is unusually green over the septic system 
  • Foul odor near the septic system

The experts at Ri-Industries can help homeowners determine the proper size tank needed for their home and will ensure it is properly installed. To learn more please visit our website or call us at 8444 8100.

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