How often should I pump a septic tank, and how much will it cost?
Under normal conditions, you would pump a septic system every 1-3 years...
1-2 people in the house=every 3 years
3-5 people in the house=every 2 years
6+ people=every year
You may want to talk to your local contractor regarding your individual situation.
It will usually cost from $75 to $200 for to pump a septic tank (however in some parts of the northwest it can run up to $300+). Now lets say it costs you $150 and you are having it done every 3 years, that is $50 per year of sewage treatment. If you are having it every 2 years it is $75. On the other hand you would pay the city $300 to $800+ for that same year of treatment. Thinking about it like that, pumping the tank is pretty cheap.
A good septic pumping & inspection will consist of the following:
- The contractor will look over the drainfield to look for tire tracks or signs of heavy foot traffic.
- They will then dig-up and expose the manhole cover and look at the contents of the tank. They will be looking for bad items like kotex, tampex, wet-wipes, condoms, etc, that will not break down in the system. They will also look for low bacterial activity indicating an over-use of chemicals.
- They will then pump the septic system while looking for a large amount of water draining back from the drainfield which can indicate a slow or failing drainfield.
- They will then check to make sure the in-let and out-let baffles are in place and of the proper size.
At this point they should give you an assessment of the system and suggest any changes in your usage patterns, i.e. keep the kids off the drainfield with their 4 wheelers, stop flushing the kotex, tampex, wet-wipes, condoms down the drain and cut back on your chemical usage. Also at this time they could suggest a few other things like:
- If they see potential problems, they could jet (clean) the lines in the drainfield.
- An effluent filter could/should be installed that will take the place of the exit baffle.
- If the tank is more than 2 feet deep, they could install riser bring the lid closer to the surface for easier access next time.
This is the proper way to pump a septic system, however not many contractors go into this detail. To contractors, time is money so many simply stick the hose down the pipe, suck it out, grab the check and head out of town. This is why you want to ask the contractor (up front on the phone) if they will do these things. You may pay a little extra for this service, but it is well worth it because if it catches something in the beginning before it becomes a major problem, it could save you thousands of dollars down the road. On the other hand, if your exit baffle falls off and you don't catch it, solids will plug your drainfield and you won't find out until the sewage is pooling in your yard and/or backing up into your house. Now you may be paying for a whole new drainfield and the damage to your yard that goes with it.
Once you have the riser and effluent filter installed, these are one time costs so you don't have to pay for this again and the pumping/inspection is easy and simple.
Finally, please be aware that there are no substitutes for pumping or miracle products which "eliminate pump outs forever."
As you may know from researching this topic, failing septic systems are a major financial and environmental problem in this country. Expensive septic repairs can often run from $5,000 to $20,000 or more and a large number of systems are failing throughout the country.