Emptying household septic tank. Cleaning sludge from septic system.

Winter is here, and a particular cold monster named Jack Frost is circling your septic tank. Be very afraid because this monster has the power to cause quite the nasty mess, like making it impossible to flush your toilet and allowing dirty water to stand in your sink for hours. 

Is this the kind of house you want to live in? 

Probably not! Hence, we recommend year-round septic tank care, even when you are on a month-long vacation. 

Understanding the Septic Tank System 

The septic system has 4 main components that are vulnerable to freezing: 

  1. The tank 
  2. The pipe that connects the septic tank to the house 
  3. The soil treatment system 
  4. The drain field, which is the pie that connects the soil treatment system to the tank 

Did you know that snow itself is an insulator? It keeps the soil intact around the tank. However, when there’s heavy commotion over the ground under the tank, the snow goes in deeper. Now imagine your septic tank is full. It is surrounded by snow from top to bottom and on both sides. The liquid and waste inside the tank will slowly freeze, and any incoming waste will go back up the pipes — yuck! 

Symptoms of a Frozen Septic Tank 

  • Faulty Toilet: When the septic tank freezes, the toilet is the first hardware that stops functioning. You will see water backing up in the bowl as you try to flush it. 
  • Clogged Sinks: You will see water draining slowly from the kitchen to the bathroom sink and any other sinks in the house. This slow draining happens because the drains are clogged with ice. 
  • Clogged Laundry Room Line: If you spot the first two symptoms, refrain from washing clothes because by now, the laundry room line and the shower and bathtub drain lines have clogged as well. 

Situations in Which the Septic Tank Freezes 

Some of the situations listed below are not signs of a frozen tank but are related to the abovementioned reasons. Hence, you need to check all the areas that are related to the septic tank: 

  • A septic tank located underground and its position is too low will freeze fast. 
  • If the septic tank is covered with compacted soil, it will freeze slowly. It happens because certain soil types cause freezing when they go deeper underground. 
  • The septic tank should be insulated to keep the waste flowing and lines warm. You can use vegetation and grass as insulation. 
  • When the septic tank is in continuous use, it stays warm. However, if your home is more like a vacation spot, then the lack of use can cause the system to freeze. 
  • The continuous water source can freeze the septic tank if you have a leaky faucet or a faulty furnace that drips condensation into the drainage system. 
  • If the septic tank’s line is not pitched properly or the line has low spots, then water won’t be able to exit the line, and this will cause ice to build up. 

What to Do When Your Septic Tank Freezes? 

You can’t exactly fix your septic tank with a Google Search. This system is complicated, and if anything goes wrong, you could be looking at a costly repair. The best thing to do would be to call a professional. In the meantime, if the tank is causing too many problems, here’s a simple trick you can try: 

Run hot water down the drains to warm the pipes. Don’t forget to shut off the pipes to prevent any water leaks. 

Here’s what you shouldn’t do: 

  • Do not add salt, any additive, or antifreeze into the system 
  • Do not light a fire outside the septic tank to thaw snow 
  • Do not force sewage and wastewater onto the ground 
  • Do not pour multiple buckets of boiling water into the drain, or this may damage the pipes 

Preventing your Septic Tank from Freezing 

Inspect the Lines 

Find out if the tank is buried underneath the frost line and what kind of insulation it has. 

Add Insulation 

Layers of leaves, mulch, and hay over the tank, with a depth of 8 inches, will keep the system warm in winter. 

Look for Plumbing Leaks 

Adding warm water from time to time in the septic tank pipes will prevent it from freezing. However, ensure that the water isn’t trickling continuously due to leaky faucets. 

Now that you know what’s causing your septic tank to freeze, you can take the appropriate measures to keep it warm. If you find the tank frozen after you come back from a long vacation, call a professional for the repair. 

Cooke’s Plumbing and Septic Services provide 24/7 emergency assistance for Port St. Lucie, Stuart, Fort Pierce, Jensen Beach, Tequesta, and Jupiter residents. For emergency pipe bursts and leaks, call on (877) 28-70651, and to talk to a technician, dial (772) 287-0651.