Intermittent Clogs In Your Septic System? Here's Why Your Inlet Baffle Is Likely The Problem And What You Can Do To Fix It
You're faced with a mysterious problem with your septic system. After using your home's plumbing for a while, everything suddenly stops draining. All of your drains are clogged for a while until they eventually start to go down. When you start to flush water down your drains again, the problem returns.
What could be causing this? It's a good bet that the problem lies in your septic tank's inlet baffle. In older septic tanks, the inlet baffle sometimes becomes corroded and fails. Read on to understand more about the function of your septic tank's inlet baffle, why this problem keeps happening and what you can do to fix it.
Why Do Septic Tanks Need an Inlet Baffle?
First, you'll need to know a bit about what's inside your septic tank.
The contents of your septic tank are separated into three layers: sludge on the bottom, effluent in the middle and scum on the top. The sludge layer consists of solids that are heavier than water, so they sink to the bottom. Effluent is the water that's flushed into your septic system when you use your home's plumbing. Scum is anything that's lighter than water, and it mostly consists of oil and grease.
The reason why septic tanks require an inlet baffle is to prevent the scum layer at the top of the septic tank from clogging the inlet pipe. When a septic tank is installed, the bottom of the inlet baffle is placed lower than the expected level of the scum layer. This prevents scum from entering the inlet baffle.
In essence, the inlet baffle acts like a tunnel that lets wastewater pass into your septic tank without having to break through the scum layer.
Why Does a Missing Inlet Baffle Cause Intermittent Clogs?
As you use your home's plumbing and flush wastewater into the septic tank, the scum layer will rise. When the inlet baffle is damaged or missing, this allows the scum layer to block the inlet pipe in your septic tank. The grease and oil that comprise the scum layer have a fairly high viscosity, so the scum layer will block solids from entering the tank.
However, wastewater will slowly exit your tank through the outlet pipe and cause the level of the scum layer to go down. Once the scum layer is low enough, pressure from the water inside your inlet pipe will push the solid clog through into the tank, allowing the plumbing in your home to drain freely.
Why Do Inlet Baffles Fail?
Older septic tanks made of steel or concrete typically have wall baffles. These are vertical pieces of steel or concrete that were attached to the top of the septic tank. The problem with wall baffles is that they're susceptible to corrosion. Eventually, the wall baffle will either detach from the top of the septic tank or the submerged portion will be corroded through. In either case, there's no longer an inlet baffle in the septic tank to prevent scum from blocking the inlet pipe.
How Can You Repair a Broken or Missing Inlet Baffle?
Call a septic repair service to check the inlet baffle in your septic tank. If it's missing or damaged, they can dig up your septic tank and replace your inlet baffle with a sanitary tee. These are made from PVC. Unlike the older wall baffles, sanitary tees won't be corroded by wastewater. After the septic tank repair, your intermittent clogs will be solved and you'll be able to fully use your septic system again.