Residential Services

Septic Problems: Backup, Odor & Clogs

We get calls every day where the customer knows little more than wastewater is coming UP from the drain rather than going DOWN the drain. While the symptom is almost always the same, the causes for a clogged drain could be many. Our approach is to ask the customer a few key questions and to send the most applicable technician to the site to further diagnose the septic system problem. It is important to remember at this point that the technician is still trying to diagnose the situation. We do our best to take care of septic tank problems as promptly as we can.

Good news – no matter what the problem may be causing your septic tank backup, we have a tech who can find the solution. Sometimes it just takes boots on the ground and a trained eye to see what is going on. Call us at 804.232.6774 to get started on solving your septic system problem today! If you need emergency help, we are available after-hours at 804.641.5942.

Common Septic System Problems


Drain Clogs: A clogged drain is by far the simplest problem to fix. A clogged septic tank or drain is caused by a number of things:

  1. An obstruction in the line caused by a buildup of pressure between the object and the inner circumference of the pipe. An example is a diaper stuck in the sewer drain line. There is simply too much diaper to fit through the line at once!
  2. An obstruction caused by a buildup of material at the location of an imperfection in the pipe. The imperfection could fall into a number of different categories.
    An intrusion (barb, pipe fragment, root) in the pipe which may “catch” debris
    A “belly” in the pipe, where the slope of the pipe is so little that gravity no longer carries waste debris away.

A collapsed or separated sewer line – this may go unnoticed for longer than most people think. Over time, the sewer line may collapse entirely. Learn about our trenchless pipe repair to find out how to reduce your repair costs by thousands of dollars.


Sewer Odors
When you experience a sewer or septic tank odor, you know right away something is wrong. Odors can be caused by a number of things:
Clogged plumbing riser-vent: These are the PVC (in most cases) pipes sticking out of your roof. Sometimes leaves or other plant material can get stuck in the vent and instead of your plumbing fixtures using fresh outside air to equalize, the air in your sewer is used to fill the vacuum created by the various fixtures around your home.
Sludge build-up in the septic tank: When a septic tank goes years and years without regular tank cleaning and maintenance, sludge builds at the top and bottom of the liquid stored in your tank. This is very bad for your system for a number of reasons. First, the scum layer at the top of the liquid can make its way into your drainfield and solidify along the drainlines. Once this happens, your drainfield stops working and cannot be repaired. Second, the lower scum layer reduces the amount of effluent in your tank, forcing the top layer of scum to rise up and over the outlet tee. This, once again, introduces solids to your drainfield which will eventually cause it to fail. Third, a tank with a thick scum layer can sometimes clog the influent side of the tank, causing a sewage backup into the home and potential water/sewage damage if not noticed immediately.

Septic Tank Backup
See Sludge build-up above.

Soggy Yard
A soggy yard indicates a septic tank drainfield problem. If the drainfield is a conventional gravity drainfield, the soil and/or drainage system is not operating. There is very little that can be economically done to fix this. If the drainfield is a low-pressure or drip dispersal drainfield, there could be a leak in the drip pipe and/or a bad emitter which can be easily replaced. Preventative maintenance is key in protecting your drainfield. You know what they say about waste… it flows downhill. Make sure you take care of the upstream system so the drainfield can remain intact over the full life of the system.

Don’t live with that septic tank odor or clogged septic tank any longer. Give us a call at 804.232.6774 Monday-Friday, 8am to 4:30pm. We’ll ask you a series of questions and then send a technician to your home to diagnose and fix the issue. If you need emergency help, we are available after-hours at 804.641.5942.