Septic Tank Pump Out FAQs

A person pumping out a septic tank.

Many houses have plumbing that moves sewage through a publicly owned system. There are, however, some homeowners who use their own septic systems. A septic tank is a gigantic container that holds household sewage. They can range in capacity from 1,000 to 1,500 gallons. While the tank holds the household waste, there are also several other components to the septic system including the filter, pump, and alarm.

These privately owned tanks require regular maintenance to ensure they're operating properly; a septic tank pump out service is an important component of maintaining your entire system. Following are some answers to commonly asked questions about pumping a septic tank.

Why is a septic tank pump out service so important?

During a septic tank pump out appointment, your service professional will remove sludge, preventing it from creating clogs which can lead to a system failure. It will also reduce the potential for an overflow situation. Without a regularly scheduled pump out service, it's possible for pollutants to adversely affect your water.

Regular maintenance of your system will keep it running at optimal levels. It will reduce the chances of developing slow draining and septic backup problems in your home. It will also prevent the potential for a major problem developing that could lead to expensive repair work or the replacement of your weeping bed.

How often should I have my septic tank pumped out?

Your septic tank pump out appointments will depend on the size of your tank, its condition, and how much the system is used. Generally speaking, you should schedule a pump out appointment if the bottom of the floating layer of sludge is about six inches from the outlet pipe.

If you're unable to determine how full your tank is, it's recommended that it's pumped out every two years. This will ensure that the sludge level is kept low, reducing the potential of sludge getting into the weeping bed. Regular pump out service appointments are a good preventative measure and will save you money on costly repairs.

Is there a time when tanks should not be pumped?

A man walking on soggy ground with his dog.

It's not advisable to have your tank pumped out immediately after a heavy downpour, a hurricane, a tornado, or any other event would make the water table rise. Pumping out your tank when water levels are higher than normal risks breaking your pipes, which are expensive to repair.

If you have moved into a home in which the septic tank has not been pumped out for many years, you will need to have a professional inspect it before having it pumped out. Your old tank could collapse from pumping out the contents. A professional service person will pump out smaller portions at a time to reduce the chances of the entire tank collapsing.

Is there anything I can add to my septic system to pump out the tank myself?

There are no additives that can be put in a septic tank to pump it out. A service professional must do the work for you.

What can I do to maintain my septic tank and system?

A roll of toilet paper on a wood floor.

You can maintain the health of your tank by making sure the natural bacteria within the system is not disrupted. This can happen by putting harsh chemicals down your drains and through your system. Chemicals such as bleach, drain openers, and toilet cleaners can lead to an unhealthy balance of organisms and bacteria in your system. So, be sure to read the labels of any chemical products you might be using to make sure they are septic-safe. Cotton swabs, cigarette butts, feminine products, and diapers can also create blockages in the system, so don't put those down your drain either.

Ensure that all of the access lids and ports are properly secured. Lids and ports that are not fully closed could lead to a water overload in your system.

How much will it cost to have a service professional pump out my tank?

The cost to have your septic tank pumped out typically ranges from $150 to $250. The price will depend on the work required to access your system. Systems that are difficult to access cost more money to pump. For homeowners who are unsure of the exact location of their septic tank, there will be a fee to locate the access point.