Cottagers around the province are about to learn a hard lesson about their septic system. With COVID-19 keeping Canadians home and cottage bound for the foreseeable future, many cottage owners are going to be faced with the challenge of a failing septic system designed primarily to handle only weekend and vacation use. This means that due to the increased strain on your septic system, it may be time for a much needed upgrade – especially if you want to keep your property free of sewage backup.

It’s important to note that your septic system might simply need some TLC, rather than a complete replacement. Replacing your septic system can be an expensive affair, so it’s important for you to be able to make an informed decision so that your time and money is spent wisely. Before you panic and decide on a replacement septic system, here’s how you can know if it’s time to replace it.

How old is your septic system?
It’s not unheard of for a septic system to last more than 40 years with regular maintenance. Septic systems can be extremely resilient, and can last for decades without many problems. Older homes and cottages, however, may require a replacement septic system sooner rather than later. If your system is getting up there in age and you’ve noticed that you’re pumping it more often than you used to, or that you’re constantly experiencing issues with it, your septic may simply be on its last legs. Additionally, it may be possible to repair the septic bed rather than replacing the system entirely, which is far less costly. You really only want to replace it if your septic system professional says it is beyond repair and/or you have outgrown its size.

Have you outgrown your system?
If your cottage is seeing an uptick in use, you may have outgrown your septic system. Since septic systems have a limited capacity, a significant increase in its use can mean that it’s time to replace your system with something that better accommodates the use of your cottage. This also applies to cottages that have recently seen expansions or additions, causing your water usage to overwork your smaller septic tank. For example, if you had no dishwasher when you moved in, and added one, that could be enough to tip over the capacity of an older septic system. Replacing your system will prevent future headaches and let you enjoy your time at the cottage distraction-free.

Puddles in your yard and foul odors
If you’ve recently noticed standing water in your yard, it could be a sign that your septic system is failing – especially if it hasn’t rained or snowed recently. Puddles in your yard near where your septic tank is buried may mean that wastewater is backing up and flooding your property. It could also force raw sewage to backup into your home and around your property. Smelling a foul odor near your tank or drain field is another sure sign that your septic system is failing and that sewage is being backed up into your yard. An additional sign that your septic is starting to go (this usually happens before you see puddles and backups) is if you walk over your septic bed and the ground is soggy during the height of the summer. If you’re experiencing any of these problems, get a septic system professional to assess the situation to see if you need a repair or replacement.

Greener grass in your yard
One of the less discussed signs of a failing septic system is that you may suddenly notice that the grass around your septic tank or drain field is greener than the rest of your yard. This is usually caused by a failing system, causing excessive moisture levels to seep into the soil, which can cause greener grass. You may also notice that the grass around where your tank is buried is growing faster than the rest of your yard. This is usually caused by backed up sewage acting as a fertilizer, causing grass to grow quicker than normal.

Replacing your septic system is generally a worst case scenario measure – especially if your use hasn’t outgrown the capacity of your system. If you think that your septic system may be experiencing issues, it’s best to schedule an inspection by a professional, who will be able to properly diagnose your problems and recommend the best course of action.

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