Not only is a backed-up septic system repugnant, but it can be an expensive problem to fix. Your septic system collects and stores all of the waste material that exits your home through the toilets and drains. The material then decomposes in your septic tank with the aid of beneficial bacteria, leaving behind a thick, dark sludge. Over time, this sludge builds up. If it is not removed, it can damage your septic system and cause your septic tank to back up. Before you start budgeting for repairs, however, make sure that your septic tank is actually backing up and that the problem does not lie elsewhere.
Consider how long it has been since you last had your septic tank pumped. The average septic tank should be pumped every three to five years to remove sludge that has built up in the tank. If your last pumping was within this time frame, it is unlikely that your septic tank is backing up.
Run water into a sink or bathtub on the lowest floor of your home and watch how quickly the water drains out. A backed-up septic system can cause water to drain slower than normal.
Investigate the area around your septic tank for odors. A backed-up septic system will often give off the distinct odor of raw sewage as it leaks into the ground in the surrounding area.
Search for unexplained wet patches in your yard. If your septic system is backed up and leaking, patches of earth in your yard may be soggy for no apparent reason. Because the drainage field for a septic tank is so large, these patches may be located a fair distance from the actual tank itself.
Note any incidents of murky, foul-smelling water rising up into the sinks, bathtubs and toilets on the ground floor of your home. If your septic system is backed up, this can occur without warning or when you run water into the drains on the upper floors of your home.