How to Prevent a Septic Field from Freezing

What You'll Need
Protective barrier

A septic field that has become frozen can create difficulties and problems for a homeowner. There are many factors that can contribute to a frozen septic system, or that may contribute to the septic field, alone. These factors may include a lack of snow cover in extreme cold temperatures. Snow typically acts as an insulation, so when there is cold weather without this snow insulation (and no moisture in the soil), there are likely to be problems of septic system freezing. However, you can prepare your septic field in advance for extreme winter conditions:

Step 1 – Preventing freezing

To prevent the freezing of your septic system during the cold winter months, be sure to use your system as often as possible. A system that is not used will be much more likely to freeze than one that is used frequently. If you plan to be away from your home for several days or weeks, place mulch over your septic field as an insulation. The mulch should be at least 1 foot deep and cover the soil over your tank. Better yet, extend it another 5 feet or so beyond the tank edges.

Step 2 – Keeping Your Drain Field Dry

Keep the soil above your tank in the drain field as dry as possible. If, when inspecting the drain field, you determine that it the soil is moist, or even soggy, you should take action to have a septic system expert inspect your drain field. It may be evidence suggesting that the effluence, or waste, coming from your home is not penetrating the drain field as it should. Ask a septic system adviser to examine your drain field to make sure there are no serious problems.

Step 3 – Mulching Your Drain Field

A septic field that is left with only bare dirt and no grass is more likely to freeze than one covered with grass. Therefore, it is important that you grow grass on top of your drain field. During the colder months of the year add mulch on top of the grass. Pay particular attention to applying mulch around pipes, risers, manholes and the distribution boxes of your system.

Step 4 – Protecting Your Drain Field Against Traffic Damage

Protect your drain field from traffic that includes people, animals and vehicles. But during the cold winter months place some type of barrier around the drain field to prevent vehicles from driving over your field and to keep animals or people from walking over it. Snow on the drain field will protect it, but the more dense and the more packed the snow becomes from traffic of any kind, the less protection you can expect from its insulating properties. If you plan to plow snow, be sure to avoid plowing snow on your septic drain field. Not only for insulation properties the snow can provide, but to prevent it from being packed down with snow removal equipment. The more dense the snow, the less value it will have as an insulation.