Septic tank pumping is not one of the most glamorous topics of discussion, although if you do own a septic tank, care and maintenance are some of its most important features. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a septic tank should be inspected every two to three years. There is a large number of components in a septic tank (float switches, for example) that require regular inspection every year.
You should also aim to undertake a full mechanical pumping to empty the tank every five years. If your septic tank is undersized or uses particularly heavy use, you may need pumping more frequently – potentially even every year.
Refers to the act of removing the solid sludge waste that has accumulated at the bottom of the septic tank. Over time, this sludge layer builds up, and it must be removed before it rises to the level where it covers the outlet pipe. If it does, liquid waste cannot filter out into the drain field, causing major problems with your septic tank. As with many maintenance and repair processes, it can be difficult to understand the value involved in the process, particularly if there is no noticeable problem.
However, you need to think of the hypothetical alternative to pumping the tank – eventually, the septic tank will be unable to function, and will begin leaking. It varies from model to model as to where the leak will take place, but nowhere is a leaking septic tank a pleasant experience; nor is it a cheap problem to fix.
Pumping the septic tank is only one part of the ongoing maintenance. With a septic tank, you should always aim to follow a ‘stitch in time saves nine’ approach. You should do obvious maintenance and upkeep such as:
- Inspecting the pump frequently
- Use water efficiently
- Always properly dispose of your waste
- In addition to this, however, you should also ensure that your drain field is also properly maintained so as to ensure outflow is adequate.
Doing this also ensures that you will get an advanced warning of your tank needing to be pumped since the drain field will not be receiving the water outflow it usually does.
Other times a septic tank may need to be pumped
Although pumping is also a regular part of the maintenance of a septic tank, there are other factors that may require a pump. For example, if you have an excess of floating scum in your septic tank, it can block the outflow pipe, requiring a full pumping to lower the level. In addition, generally clogged pipes will require pumping.
Some of the other problems that require you to have your septic tank pumped are:
- The ground is saturated after heavy rainfall (thus preventing the water from leaching into the ground).
- A cracked or broken drainpipe, leading to too much water being released into the field.
- A crushed drainpipe, which can lead to a sewage backflow into the home.
If you suspect any of these to be the case, then it’s time to call in the professionals, who will be able to pump the septic tank. Below is a guide to how much you can expect to pay for the process.
OVERALL PUMPING COSTS
There is a great deal of variance when it comes to the cost of a septic tank being pumped.
THE OVERALL COST
The average across the United States is for a spend of $375 for a full pump and clean (most contractors only offer both services combined). The general range is somewhere between $295 and $610.
However, perhaps the biggest determinant is the size of your tank. For a small tank (somewhere around 750 gallons), you can spend as little as $250. For a larger tank, perhaps around 1,250 gallons, you can end up with a bill of $895.
However, these figures represent a fairly solid ballpark you can use as the basis for your calculations. For a more detailed breakdown, the figures below will give more information depending on the size of your tank (this also includes extremely large tanks, usually used only on a large, commercial scale).
|TANK SIZE||COST FOR|
|$175 – $300|
|Up to 1,000|
|$225 – $400|
|1,250 to 1,500|
|$275 – $500|
As mentioned above, a key factor is the frequency with which you will need the septic tank to be cleaned. This depends on both size and usage.
- For example, if you have a small tank that receives heavy use, you can expect that you’ll need an annual pumping, meaning you’ll pay roughly $300 per year.
- For a large tank that receives little use, you will pay $895 but this will be once every five years, working out to $179 per year.
Although it is not possible (or at least not advisable) to attempt to save money on the frequency of pumping, it does show that the raw size and cost of the tank being pumped is not the only figure you should consider, particularly when it comes to buying the septic tank in the first place.
In addition to the core costs listed above, there are certain additional costs that you may have to pay depending on your specific circumstances. All of these run in addition to the costs above so should be factored into your overall budget.
If you need to have the tank cleaned, for example, if the outflow has become blocked by sludge, then this will run you an additional cost.
Generally, you’ll expect to pay somewhere between $400 and $1,000 for this service. If the tank had to be fully drained and emptied, you’ll pay $250 to $450. If you are cleaning a septic tank on an RV, then you’ll pay somewhere between $150 and $300.
Almost every jurisdiction will require some level of inspection as a condition of having a septic tank. This is to ensure that the septic tank is not leaking into the groundwater, or in any other way potentially harming the environment around it. For an inspection, you will pay the following:
- $250 to $500 for an initial inspection
- $100 to $150 for any subsequent inspections (i.e. annually, if required)
- $250 to $900 if a camera is required to assess any blockages
As part of the pumping and cleaning process, it may be the case that you are required to get some repairs done. If that is the case, you will need to pay an additional amount for the parts and labor. If you do need repairs done, the price will depend on what exactly needs to be done. You might also want to look into a septic system warranty.
The most common repairs and prices are as follows:
|Filter Replacement||$200 – $300|
|Soil Loosening||$1,110 – $4,200|
|$5,000 – $11,000|
|$3,500 – $11,000|
|$500 – $1,200|
|Soil Fracturing||$1,000 – $2,000|
As the table above shows, there is real scope for prices to begin to escalate once something breaks within a septic tank. As such, it’s well worth paying for the annual inspection even if not required, as it is likely to head off these problems before they cost thousands of dollars.
Pumping out a septic tank may not be the most exciting way to spend money, but it is far better than the alternative (not spending the money and having to deal with a leak). Not only will a leak cost a great deal of money to get fixed, but it will also be extremely unpleasant to have to deal with.
As the above has shown, there is a great deal of variance in the cost of pumping a septic tank – when this is combined with the different frequencies required, you can end up spending either a lot or only a little on your septic tank. Generally, however, this is proportional to your usage, meaning that one that gets a lot of heavy use will cost more than a smaller tank that is used only infrequently.
As with so many other features of home maintenance, it is far better to spend the money and upgrade equipment; it is a false economy to attempt to save money by holding on to older equipment. It is far more liable to break and end up costing you repair costs.
In addition, since you pay less to pump out a tank that is less full, you actually have a financial incentive not to leave it until the last minute. Like only putting $10 of gas in a car each time, you don’t change the fuel economy and can end up damaging the engine, so letting your septic tank fill up before pumping will not change the overall cost of pumping and may do more damage to the fittings.
So use the guide above to help determine your budget and think about whether saving or spending money is the best financial course of action. And remember, the ultimate goal is to avoid a broken, leaking septic tank – and think about what you’d pay to avoid that.