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How Do I Know When My Septic Tank Needs to be Pumped?

Of all the things on a property that can malfunction, a septic tank can definitely have the most repercussions. If nothing else, saying it smells bad is an understatement. To keep it working properly, your septic tank needs proper, regular maintenance. This is best left to a professional, someone with plenty of experience and knowledge in working with septic tanks. A major part of septic tank maintenance is pumping the system. Of course, before you can hire someone to pump your septic, you need to understand how often this task needs to be performed.

Signs That It's Time to Pump

Some professionals pump the septic tank when it is called for, as a part of their routine maintenance and service checks. However, your septic may need to be pumped before your regularly scheduled maintenance. That's why it's important to know the signs to look for that it's time to pump your septic.

  • Landscaping signs: If the grass or plants around your tank appears healthier than the rest of the yard, you may have a leak or a tank that needs pumping.
  • Slow drain: If water drains slowly inside the house (toilet, washing machine, sinks), it's a good idea to have your tank checked before that sluggish draining becomes a backup.
  • There are also signs that your septic tank has reached emergency, need-to-pump-it-now status. If you notice any of these, call your septic company as soon as possible.

  • Wastewater backup: Backups may occur anywhere you have a drain, including bathtubs, sinks, and toilets. Never attempt to clean wastewater, as it can be extremely dangerous to your health.
  • Standing water: You may notice standing water in your yard, particularly around the septic tank.
  • Odors: If you smell any foul odors in your yard, it's probably time to call in the pros.

Why You Should Pump Your Septic

There are a variety of reasons to pump your septic system, starting with the fact that it's far healthier to keep it maintained. A septic tank that is not regularly pumped can overflow, possibly contaminating your water and causing major health hazards.

In addition to being good for your health, pumping your septic tank is good for your wallet. A system that does not receive regular and proper pumping is bound to break down. And when a system breaks down, it must be reinstalled, which comes with a much heftier price tag than just paying someone to service it. This type of preventive maintenance is a small expense that saves you from a much larger one.

Pumping your septic tank also prevents backup and odors. Those are both signs that it's time to pump the system as well, but it really is better to avoid them entirely. Wastewater backup can lead to damage, costly repairs, health issues, and is all around something you want to avoid. The same goes for bad odors; they may not cause damage, but no one wants to hold a gathering or even just hang out around the house when septic odors permeate the air.

Talk to your septic company about the best schedule. Much depends on the size of your household, your tank, and the type of waste you send into your septic system. The average timeframe is every two to four years. Again, much depends on your particular circumstances.

How Much Does it Cost to Pump My Septic Tank?

The cost to pump your septic tank varies according to size, location, and how full the tank is.

  • The average cost to pump a septic tank ranges between $75 and $750
  • A small tank, with a 500- to 750-gallon capacity, averages between $75 and $150
  • A mid-sized tank with a capacity between 1,250 and 1,500 gallons costs an average of $200 to $400
  • Large tanks measuring up to 2,500 gallons cost the most, from $500 to $750
  • If you fail to maintain your septic system, replacing it will cost an average of $3,000 to $10,000

A properly maintained septic system lasts at least 20 years.

Maintenance Is Key to a Healthy Septic System

Regular maintenance is the best way to ensure that no problems occur with your septic tank. A professional service checks the system on a regular basis and performs routine maintenance, but you can do your own system checks as well. Keep an eye out for leaks and strange pools of water, as those are indicators there is an issue with your system. You can also check the levels of sludge that have built up in your septic tank by removing the lid. Remember that even the most basic of routine inspections often provides insight.

Septic tanks have no trouble handling the waste generated by a home, but that does not mean they don't experience problems. Make sure to use septic-safe cleaners and paper products. Don't overload your system with other contaminants either; buildup and other issues can cause problems more quickly than you think. Performing regular inspections on your tank in addition to professional servicing is a great way to make sure the system keeps running smoothly.