Home & Garden: How Much Does Septic Tank Pumping Cost?

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Septic Tank Pumping Cost © Provided by Bob Vila Septic Tank Pumping Cost Photo: depositphotos.com

  • Typical Range: $287 to $555
  • National Average: $409

A small homestead may sound like a dream for many homeowners interested in off-grid living, but such a lifestyle comes with its challenges. For example, if a house isn’t connected to municipal sewer lines, affordable and safe waste treatment can be a serious hurdle. For many homesteaders, a well-maintained and routinely pumped septic system is usually the answer.

How much does it cost to get a septic tank pumped? According to Angi and HomeAdvisor, the average septic tank pumping cost falls within a typical range of $287 to $555, with a national average of $409. There are a number of factors that influence the cost, including tank size, tank usage, pumping frequency, and geographic location.

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Homeowners who are curious about the price of septic tank pumping can use this guide to estimate their tank’s pumping cost, spot signs that suggest pumping is needed, and save as much as possible on the job.

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Factors in Calculating Septic Tank Pumping Cost

Those considering a move to a home in the country might have a common question: How much does it cost to pump a septic tank? The truth is, it varies. The size of the tank, the frequency of pumping, and the geographic location all play a role in determining the cost of septic tank pumping, both initially and over time.

On average, though, septic tank pumping cost falls around $409, or within a typical range of $287 to $555. There are four top factors that influence the average cost of septic pumping.

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Tank Size

Tank size is one of the most important factors in determining how much septic tank pumping will cost. For example, pumping a smaller 600-gallon septic tank may cost as little as $175, but for a much larger tank that holds 2,000 gallons, a homeowner can expect to pay $600 or more.

The reason larger tanks cost more to pump is simple. The larger the tank, the more waste it can hold, and that takes longer to pump out. Professionals charge by job scope, so a job that takes longer will almost certainly cost more than one that takes less time.

Tank Usage

Septic tank pumping is an ongoing maintenance service. A tank that fills up frequently will need more maintenance than one that fills up more slowly. This may not incur a higher cost per service, but it will make septic tank pumping more expensive over time compared to pumping a tank with less usage.

While it makes sense that a homeowner who hosts a lot of parties or has frequent guests may have a tank with higher usage, the expense for septic tank pumping isn’t just about people or trips to the bathroom. A home that uses large amounts of water, such as for taking long showers, washing dishes, or pre-soaking clothes before putting them in the washing machine, is apt to experience high tank usage. Similarly, those who put food down the garbage disposal more than others generally experience higher tank usage as well.

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It’s important for homeowners to remember that septic tanks collect water from everywhere inside a home, including the toilet, shower, bathroom sink, and kitchen sink. So whether a homeowner and their guests flush a lot, or the dishwasher is run frequently, it’s more likely that a tank will need additional pumping compared to a home with minimal bathroom trips and fewer dishwasher cycles.

Pumping Frequency

In addition to tank usage, the frequency at which a septic tank is pumped will have an overall influence on how much it costs to maintain the system. Experts recommend that homeowners get their septic tanks pumped every 3 to 5 years, although some tanks may last 10 years before pumping is necessary. The more often a tank needs this maintenance, the more its lifetime pumping costs will be.

How often a tank needs to be pumped depends on several factors, the most important being tank size. Other influential factors include how wastewater is generated in the home, whether water-saving appliances and devices are installed, and whether composting food waste is part of the homeowner’s daily routine.

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While a septic system should be inspected annually, the number of people relying on the system often determines the frequency of pumping. For example, a home with a single resident may only need a pumping service every 5 years, while a home with two to three residents will likely need service every 3 to 4 years. A home with four or five residents will generally need to call a septic tank professional for pumping services within 2 years.

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Geographic Location

Septic tank pumping costs vary by geographic location. As a general rule of thumb, homeowners can expect to pay more in areas with higher costs of living. Septic tank pumping costs are usually higher in more populated areas than they are in more rural ones. This is usually good news for city dwellers, since septic tank systems are less common in heavily populated areas.

A few examples will help homeowners estimate septic tank pumping cost by location. In Jacksonville, Florida, the average septic tank pumping costs between $245 and $435; the price is generally the same in Long Island, New York, where homeowners can expect to pay between $275 and $515. Pumping services are more affordable in Denver, Colorado, with a range between $260 and $350. How much does a septic pump cost in Minneapolis, Minnesota? The average tank pumping session in the City of Lakes falls between $175 and $275. Homeowners in Portland, Oregon, usually face the highest average septic pumping cost by location, with a range of $440 to $750.

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Septic Tank Pumping Cost © Provided by Bob Vila Septic Tank Pumping Cost Photo: depositphotos.com

Additional Costs and Considerations

What is the cost to get a septic tank pumped? Besides tank size, usage, and pumping frequency, there are a few other considerations for homeowners to keep in mind when determining the cost of initial septic tank pumping and lifetime maintenance.

Maintenance

A homeowner should expect to pay between $100 to $1,000 for septic system maintenance, which includes inspections. A septic system should be routinely inspected every 1 to 3 years. It’s important to note that during these inspections, potential issues or problems may lead to an unexpected maintenance task or repair that adds to the overall cost.

A simple inspection costs between $100 and $900. Though every company’s process is unique, a standard septic tank inspection involves locating and assessing the septic tank, distribution box, and absorption area. All the system’s mechanical and electrical components are inspected, including septic lines, baffles, pumps, floats, alarms, and filters.

An inspection that goes well and doesn’t incur any additional costs might feel like a waste of money to a homeowner who paid for the appointment, but regular inspections are the first wall of protection when it comes to septic system maintenance and will help prevent issues down the line.

Clog Removal

Whenever a drain in a septic system is clogged, serious problems can quickly develop. There are many potential causes behind a clog, including improper materials that have been flushed down the toilet or excessive amounts of food that have been pushed through the drain. Another type of clog can occur within the tank itself. As soil filters the water and removes bacteria, the water heads through a pipe leading into the drain field. If this becomes clogged, the tank can begin to fill up without draining the water and eventually force it back into the home.

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One way to remove a clog is by jetting the system. This is a procedure that uses pressurized water at the end of a septic jetting line and cleans the clogged line quickly. Pressured water forces any debris within the lines to dislodge and unclog. The average cost for this process is between $150 and $450.

Sewer Line Inspection

A sewer line inspection is typically done with a sewer camera, which can get a close-up view of what’s going on throughout the system, even where human hands and eyes can’t reach. This is especially useful when checking out an older system that may not have been in use for a while or when trying to find the source of a clog. A sewer line inspection typically costs between $250 and $1,400.

Field Aeration

Field aeration is a process that involves injecting compressed air into a septic tank to break down solid waste and allow it to move more efficiently through the system. The technique involves a machine that shoots high-pressure water down into the soil. This creates fractures in the soil, which in turn allows for better water drainage. The technique is often used in areas with clay soils, where there may be an issue with slow wastewater flow.

It should be noted that field aeration for septic tanks should only be done by professionals and not homeowners. This process can be dangerous if not done correctly.

Aeration is typically performed every 2 to 4 years, depending on how many people are on the septic system and what kind of waste is being produced. Field aeration, sometimes referred to as soil fracturing or fracking, costs between $1,000 and $2,000.

Septic Tank Pumping Cost © Provided by Bob Vila Septic Tank Pumping Cost Photo: depositphotos.com

Tank Repair or Replacement

A tank repair can quickly increase the cost of a standard septic tank pump session. The cost depends on the type of repair needed, though the average septic tank repair costs between $750 and $3,000. In some cases, a septic tank may be beyond repair, and replacement becomes the only viable option. The average lifespan of a septic tank is 20 to 30 years. If a homeowner knows the age of the system, it can be easier to justify a repair or solidify the choice to replace.

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Though less expensive than the cost of a new septic tank installation, replacement cost can quickly exceed a budget. A plastic septic tank is an affordable option and starts at around $500. The issue with going this route is that in many states, plastic tanks are not permitted, since they’re more susceptible to damage and tend to warp or break more frequently than septic tanks made from other materials. They also require more maintenance.

Concrete is the preferred material for septic tank replacement. Concrete septic tanks are in compliance with building regulations, are very durable, have a long life expectancy, and offer no risk of tank collapse during pumping. However, a new concrete tank can cost as much as $6,750 or even higher; as one might expect, the larger the tank, the higher the price is likely to be.

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Yard Cleanup

In a best-case scenario, yard cleanup during a septic tank pumping session involves picking up a few sticks or twigs knocked down by the vacuum truck. In a worst-case scenario, cleanup involves getting rid of raw sewage, and this will increase cleanup costs.

Sewage leaks can come from ruptured pipes, pipe corrosion, or tree roots interfering with pipes (one reason it’s best to leave the drainage field open instead of landscaped). A minor spill of less than 10 gallons can be cleaned up with a bit of garden lime, which helps to break down the sewage and alleviate the odor. Due to the potential health hazards, extreme caution needs to be taken by a homeowner dealing with raw sewage in their yard.

Larger spills should be handled by a professional, who can ensure sewage is removed properly and that no one’s health is in jeopardy. In general, the larger the size of the affected part of the yard, the higher the cleanup costs.

Septic Tank Pumping Cost © Provided by Bob Vila Septic Tank Pumping Cost Photo: depositphotos.com

Pumping Costs by Septic Tank Size

Septic tank pump size is likely the most influential factor when it comes to determining a septic system pumping cost. On average, it costs $0.30 per gallon to pump a septic tank. What follows is a cost estimate breakdown by size for homeowners to keep in mind when estimating their initial and lifetime septic pumping costs.

750 Gallons

A 750-gallon septic tank is ideal for a smaller home or family; it works best for homes with less than 1,500 square feet and one or two bedrooms. Due to its size, it’s the most affordable to pump. A 750-gallon septic tank costs between $175 and $300 to pump.

The one downside of a smaller tank is that it may need to be pumped more often than a larger one. This is especially true for homes that host a lot of guests or fit a large family in a smaller space. The more wastewater that enters the tank, the faster it will fill, especially when it’s small. This can add up to many extra pumpings within an average maintenance period.

1,000 Gallons

A 1,000-gallon tank is the perfect size for a small family with average water usage living in a 2,500-square-foot home with three bedrooms. Septic tanks this size can usually go longer between pumpings, which cost between $225 and $400.

1,250 Gallons

A 1,250-gallon septic tank can accommodate a larger family with average water use and is best matched with a four-bedroom home smaller than 3,500 square feet. The cost to pump a 1,250-gallon septic tank is between $300 and $600.

1,500 Gallons

When it comes to septic tank sizes that can go long periods without needing to be pumped, a 1,500-gallon tank can deliver. It’s perfect for a larger family that produces a large amount of wastewater or a smaller family that doesn’t want to worry about frequent septic system pumping sessions.

A 1,500-gallon septic tank costs between $345 and $600 to pump. The good news is that a tank this large rarely needs to be pumped more often than regular maintenance recommendations, so it’s easier to estimate lifetime pumping costs based on average usage.

1,750 Gallons

A 1,750-gallon septic tank is sizable and can accommodate a large family or one with excessive water needs; the pumping cost runs between $400 and $700. A $1,750-gallon tank will generally need fewer pumping sessions than smaller septic tanks over the same time frame, so while it may cost more during an initial pumping session, maintenance fees over its lifespan are apt to be manageable.

Do I Need Septic Tank Pumping?

A septic tank pump-out is usually required every 3 to 5 years, depending on how many people live in the household and how much water flows through the home. Because this is a large window, to make sure a crucial pumping session isn’t missed, it's important to check for the following signs that a tank needs attention.

Slow-Running Drains and Toilets

When multiple drains start to run slowly, a likely culprit is the septic system. If a homeowner begins to notice that their sink, tub, or shower isn’t draining properly or as quickly as it once did, the septic system might be backing up and need to be pumped.

Additionally, a slow-flushing toilet or one that doesn’t push waste down into the plumbing system can be a strong indicator that a tank is in need of a pumping session. It’s important not to ignore slow-running drains and toilets on a septic system.

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Odors Coming from Drains and Toilets

Odors coming from drains and toilets can signal that a septic tank needs to be pumped out. As a tank fills up with waste and there is less space for odor-causing gases, the gases can begin to escape into a home through the toilets or drains. They can also escape into the drain field and cause a sewage-like smell around the home.

Because septic tanks are well sealed, it’s nearly impossible for odors to escape when a tank is properly maintained. Once a homeowner notices these smells, however, it’s time to call a professional. Simply trying to neutralize the smell with bleach or another household cleaner may temporarily cover up any odor, but it will return, often along with other, more serious issues.

Sewer Backup

When sewage begins to back up into a home, the septic system clearly isn’t working properly. Raw sewage in the home is a serious situation that should be addressed immediately by a professional.

In this scenario, a septic tank pumping session is certainly in order. But several other projects will need to happen simultaneously, among them professional cleaning services and potential repairs to flooring and walls. Additionally, most personal items contaminated with raw sewage will need to be disposed of, as these can pose a health hazard. All of these tasks can get expensive very quickly.

The potential for sewer backups is higher for homeowners who aren’t on a regular pumping and inspection schedule with a local septic system professional. For this reason, routine inspections and maintenance of a home’s entire septic system are highly recommended.

Unexplained Pooling Water

It’s common for water to pool in various places in a homeowner’s yard when the septic tank is full. The most common locations for unexplained pooling are around the septic tank and in the drain field.

If a homeowner notices water pooling in these areas (or even other areas near the tank without an explanation), the septic system needs to be inspected. There’s a good chance that the tank is being overwhelmed with waste. If left unattended, this can lead to a sewage backup inside the home, which can in turn lead to an expensive repair and a very unpleasant and potentially dangerous cleanup.

Unusually Healthy Grass

Beautiful green grass may seem like a homeowner’s dream, but when it comes to septic tanks, unusually healthy grass can actually be a sign that a pumping session is in order. When a homeowner notices a drain field that looks more lush and green than the rest of the lawn, it’s a red flag that the grass is probably benefiting from some extra fertilizer, sourced from excess waste liquid. A potentially unsafe and hazardous situation could be brewing in this scenario, so reaching out to a professional as soon as possible is essential.

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Septic Tank Pumping: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional

While septic tank pumping is a job that makes many homeowners uncomfortable, it’s also a job that some attempt to do themselves. DIY septic tank pumping rarely saves money and can even be dangerous. Hiring one of the best septic tank cleaning services is typically always the best choice, for a number of reasons.

First, septic tanks are underground, so they can be difficult to diagnose and access; further, some homeowners might not be sure how to find a septic tank. If the home is located in an area where the soil is mostly clay or sand, then it may be possible for the homeowner to do their own septic pumping. However, if the ground is rocky or heavily forested, a professional will likely be needed due to the difficulty of accessing and diagnosing the tank.

Septic tanks are also full of hazardous gases like hydrogen sulfide and methane; for this reason, even just removing the septic tank lid can be dangerous. Other biohazards are present as well, including bacteria, fungi, rotifers, and other microscopic organisms. While they are a necessary component in a properly functioning septic system, they can be dangerous when handled without the proper protocol and training.

Finally, septic system pumpings and repairs often require specialized equipment that can be expensive and difficult to operate without training.

Hiring a professional will ensure that a tank is pumped properly and that all components are checked for potential issues. It will also save a homeowner time and energy on what can be an unpleasant task.

On a side note, some homeowners think they can solve their septic tank issues by installing cesspools, lined pits with perforated walls that allow wastewater to flow and slowly disperse into the surrounding soil. But cesspools need to be pumped as well. How much does cesspool pumping cost? Is it less than septic tank pumping? In the majority of cases, cesspools aren’t permitted, so it’s not really a money-saving option. It’s best to install a septic tank and let the professionals handle the pumping.

How to Save Money on Septic Tank Pumping Cost

Septic tank pumping cost is a recurring expense that homeowners will have to bear when living in a house without city water or sewage lines. The cost of septic tank pumping varies from one company to another, so it is important for homeowners to do their research and find a one that offers affordable rates. The following tips focus on proper septic system maintenance as well as issues to avoid so that homeowners can keep repair costs down and minimize pumping sessions.

  • Get on a service schedule to ensure routine pumping sessions aren’t skipped; this can help prevent surprise repair costs.
  • Pay attention to signs of trouble, like foul smells or sewage backing up into the house; waiting to call a professional when there are signs of trouble can lead to more costly repairs.
  • Do not install landscaping or build over the septic tank; the added weight from trees, shrubs, and sheds can cause cracks or make the tank inaccessible to septic professionals.
  • Avoid flushing feminine hygiene products, cotton balls, or “flushable” wipes down the drain and into a septic system; these products can cause buildup that healthy bacteria can’t break down, leading to costly backups and clogs.
  • Keep in mind that the more water that goes into the septic system, the more frequent the need for pumping. Limiting water usage by installing new, high-efficiency appliances and fixing any leaks can increase the septic tank’s lifespan, and using the best septic tank treatments may result in fewer pumping sessions needed.
  • Always bring in a professional to clear clogs, inspect the system, and pump the tank; homeowners who handle septic system repairs and maintenance on their own rarely save money in the long run.

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Questions to Ask About Septic Tank Pumping

Scheduling a septic tank pumping project is a necessary part of home maintenance. But that doesn’t mean a homeowner shouldn’t consider multiple professionals before scheduling the job. To ensure the best pro makes the cut, homeowners will want to consider asking the following important questions about septic tank pumping.

  • Do you have an operating license?
  • What type of experience do you have?
  • How long have you worked in this geographic area?
  • Do you carry insurance?
  • How much does it cost for septic tank pumping?
  • What’s included in the service price?
  • Who will be completing the job?
  • How are your employees trained?
  • What is the process for septic tank pumping?
  • How often do I need to have my septic tank pumped?
  • Should I use a bacteria additive product?
  • Should I expect there to be a lingering odor after the septic tank is pumped?
  • Can I use bleach in between septic tank pumping sessions?
  • Are there certain cleaning products I should avoid to protect my plumbing system?
  • Does it look like I’ll need a new septic system in the near future?
  • What other maintenance should I be performing to make sure my septic system remains functional and safe?

FAQs

Homeowners should never ignore a septic system. By scheduling regular septic pumping services, they can stay ahead of any potential (and likely expensive) issues. Septic pumping costs an average of $409, making it an affordable routine maintenance service.

For those still wondering what a septic tank pumping cost includes and accomplishes, these questions and answers will further explain the process.

Q.How does a septic tank work?

Septic systems work by separating the different types of matter that goes down the drain, including from dishwashers and washing machines, kitchen and bathroom sinks, and toilets and showers.

The septic tank is a large container in the ground with a heavy lid on top to keep dirt, animals, and other things out. The tank is usually made out of concrete or clay and has a bottom with holes in it so that liquid can leach out but solid matter like dirt or rocks can’t enter.

A septic system usually consists of four parts: the septic tank, the distribution box, a leach field, and an absorption area. The septic tank is where all the waste goes once it leaves a home’s plumbing system. It separates floatable matter like oils and grease from solids like toilet paper and food scraps; then it breaks down organic matter like human waste.

Q.What causes septic tank odor?

A septic tank emits an odor when it has been neglected and has backed up into the drain field or leach field. This happens because of improper installation, overloading, or lack of maintenance.

Septic tanks have also been known to emit an odor due to improper installation of vent pipes, which causes gases inside the tank to escape.

Q.Why do I need to pump my septic tank?

The most common reason for pumping a septic tank is that it has reached its capacity and needs to be emptied before more waste enters.

Septic tanks also need to be pumped to remove problematic objects, such as items that shouldn’t be flushed down a toilet. Regular pumping also improves efficiency and helps prevent slow draining, leaking pipes, and strange odors.

Q.How often do I need to pump my septic tank?

The frequency of pumping a septic tank depends on the size of the tank, the amount of household water use, and the number of people living in the house.

If someone lives alone, they may be able to go as long as 3 to 5 years without needing to pump the septic tank. For a larger family, it may be more difficult to go that long.

Q.How much does it cost to repair a septic system?

A contractor may notice an issue with a septic tank during a pumping session. When this happens, a repair is more than likely unavoidable. The cost of septic system repairs can vary depending on the size and complexity of the job, but a typical septic system repair will cost between $750 and $3,000.

Q.What happens if a septic tank is not pumped?

When a septic tank isn’t pumped, the organic matter in the tank starts to decompose and produce gases. These gases are toxic and can even be explosive if they build up enough (though this is rare). What’s more common is that the gas buildup can cause the septic tank to overflow, which can lead to environmental damage, contamination of water sources, and unpleasant odors.

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