Septic system problems can take many forms, from clogged drain fields to house sewer line issues. Unfortunately, a leaking septic tank can often be one of the most severe problems faced by homeowners. This type of failure is more than just a minor inconvenience. A cracked tank can lead to expensive repairs or even hazardous conditions on your property.
Although cracked tanks are not especially common, cracks due occur from time to time. Learning about their symptoms and the steps required to repair them can help you recognize and address this problem before facing a waste disposal nightmare.
The Causes and Signs of Cracked Tanks
Septic tanks typically crack as a result of either user error or changes in the local environment. Like your drain field, your septic tank relies on the ground above it remaining relatively free of heavy objects. Building new structures or leaving vehicles parked above the septic tank can create enough pressure to crack a concrete tank.
Changes in environmental conditions are another common problem, although one that's certainly not under your control. Periods of prolonged drought or heavy rainfall can cause the ground around the tank to shift and settle. Although tank installers take these possibilities into account, improper installation, age, or severe changes in soil conditions can all lead to potential failures.
The symptoms of a cracked tank can vary considerably depending on its severity. For severe or ongoing leaks, you may notice pools of water or smells in your yard. Less severe leaks can cause the tank effluent level to drop. Since your septic system relies on a relatively constant effluent level in the tank, chronically low levels can prevent your drain field from operating efficiently.
How to Fix a Cracked Tank
Once you've had a professional confirm that the problem is a cracked tank, it's time to take the necessary steps to correct it. Although severe cracks may require you to install an entirely new tank, you can usually repair cracks when the system is an otherwise good condition. The first step to fixing any leak is to drain and dry the tank, so be prepared to go without using your drains for at least a day.
After your contractor can safely enter the tank, they will assess the situation and attempt to determine where repairs may be necessary. Your contractor should be able to repair most cracks in a concrete tank so long as the tank's structure has not shifted. After the repair is in place, expect your drains to remain out of commission for a little longer while the filler concrete hardens.
Remember that septic tanks are incredibly hazardous environments. If you suspect a leak, contact a septic system repair company right away. Never attempt to drain or enter a septic tank on your own.