Yes, septic tanks and the components attached to them can certainly freeze during the winter if the temperature drops below zero for an extended period of time. But if the septic tank and the septic line are buried deep enough and properly installed you may have a good chance of avoiding this problem.

If you live in an area that gets a good amount of snow then you may be provided with some protection. You see, fresh snow can be a very good source of insulation and if it can accumulate to 12 inches then your septic tank will have a good amount of protection from the freezing temperatures.

But of course - snow doesn't last forever - especially here in Georgia, but we do get enough winter weather to cause a few days of temperatures below zero, especially in the northern parts of Georgia. So the freezing temperature and frost can penetrate the ground and affect your septic tank and it's components.

The parts of the septic tank that are most vulnerable to freezing temperatures are...

  • The plumbing pipe that runs from the house to the septic tank
  • The plumbing pipe that runs from the septic tank to the drainfield
  • The septic tank itself
  • The soil treatment system

Any one or several of these components can freeze and cause the homeowner a good amount of headache and expenses.

How Can You Tell If Your Septic Is Frozen?

There are some clear tell tale signs that let you know that your septic tank has frozen over.

  • Your toilets stop working. They won't flush at all.
  • The drains throughout the house stop draining. The reason is that the frozen pipes are basically creating an "ice clog" preventing anything from passing through.
  • Your washing machine and dishwasher will not work because they also cannot drain water.
  • Bathtubs and showers also will not drain water.

If you notice any of these signs during winter weather then we recommend that you contact a professional plumber immediately to help you fix the problem. Most likely, the issue is that your septic tank has frozen over.

Why Did My Septic Tank Freeze?

There are quite a few reasons as to why your septic tank may have frozen over. Some have to do with the installation of the tank and others have to do with your maintenance of your septic tank system.

So, let's take a look at 6 possible reasons why your septic tank froze.

  1. Your septic system was not properly insulated. If you live in an area where winter weather can dip below zero for several days or more then it's prudent to make sure that your septic tank is insulated properly.
  2. The septic system and it's plumbing lines were not buried deep enough in the ground.
  3. The septic line wasn't pitched correctly causing water to remain in the pipe which can then freeze during cold temperatures.
  4. A leak anywhere along the septic system can turn into frozen ice.
  5. The septic system is not used on a regular basis. This normally happens if you are away for some time from your home.
  6. The soil above the septic tank is compacted which allows the cold temperature to penetrate the ground and affect the septic tank system.

Any one of these or a combination of these reasons could have caused and/or contributed to the problem of a frozen septic tank.

How Do You Keep Your Septic Tank From Freezing?

So now that you know that your septic tank can indeed freeze and you know the trouble that it can cause, we urge you to not wait for winter to roll around before you take the necessary precautions to protect your septic tank from freezing.

  • If you just purchased a home with a septic tank and you are not sure if it was properly insulated we recommend that you have an inspection right away. In fact, it would not be a bad idea to go ahead and get the tank pumped as well during this time.
  • During this inspection you'll be able to learn about the type of septic system you have, if the lines were buried deep enough, if there are any cracks or leaks, etc.
  • If you have a septic tank at a home where you do not live full time or perhaps you travel often for work then we recommend that you place a 12 inch layer of insulating material such as mulch over the area where you tank is and extend the area at least 5 feet beyond the perimeter of the tank. Make sure the material is loose and not compacted.
  • Another option if you are going to be a way from your home for a while is to have someone come in and use the hot water in your home.
  • If the septic tank is located in an area where you tend to drive over it - we recommend that you do your best to avoid this. The reason is that it can compact the ground over the tank which as you already know, allows the freezing temperatures to penetrate the ground and of course, affect the septic tank.
  • Use your system as much as possible. You can do this by using the dishwasher every night, do a small load of laundry every day, take a hot shower every day, anything that you can do to use hot water will help.
  • Make sure you do not have any existing leaks throughout your home.

Keep Your Septic System Well Maintained

In addition to doing all you can to prevent your septic tank from freezing, you will also want to keep to a maintenance schedule to help it last as long as possible and working well. A well maintained septic system can last 20 to 40 years depending on if it's a stell tank, a plastic tank or a concrete tank.

Follow these tips to keep your septic system in tip top shape.

  • For households with 4 people or less, have your septic tank inspected every 4 years.
  • For households with 5 people or more, have your septic tank inspected every 2 years.
  • If you use your garbage disposal several times a day - have your septic tank inspected every 2 years.
  • Your sewer lines should be cleaned out every 18 - 22 months.
  • Your septic tank should be pumped out and cleaned every 3 - 5 years.
  • You'll also want to follow these following recommendations as well to keep your septic tank as healthy as possible.
  • Use septic safe toilet paper which should be biodegradable.
  • Use low phosphorous liquid detergents
  • Avoid using chemical drain cleaners
  • Avoid putting non-biodegradable food items in your garbage disposal. Here's a list of what NOT to put down your garbage disposal.

We hope that you do not have any problems with your septic tank but if you do, call Atlantis Plumbing today at 770-443-8229. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.