Ultimate Guide to Septic Tank Pumping Cost and Maintenance

Jul 30, 2013 by

For many of us a septic tank is a necessity, more often than not due to geography, but it’s also not the kind of thing that people get excited about taking care of when it comes to maintaining their property. Even if it is something you would rather ignore on a day to day basis, it’s important to understand your septic pumping needs and how to keep things working smoothly, because you definitely don’t want to have to deal with a major problem.

In this article we will outline all the relevant information you need to know about sewerage systems, and provide some information on what the average septic tank pumping cost is and what to look out for.


What Are These Giant Liquid Waste-bins?


septic tank pumping plasticThese things we often don’t want to talk about are typically made from concrete or plastic (sometimes glass), and buried beneath the ground near your home. They are quite large and can come in different sizes which is usually determined by the number of bedrooms present in the house. They can hold quite a lot, and they are built to be very strong and water-tight, but that doesn’t mean they can be let to fill completely. When that happens they will start to back up, and since you don’t want to deal with that it is important to have your tank pumped and cleaned with some regularity.


All of the water you drain in your home goes into the sewerage disposal system, not just toilet water as is sometimes a misconception. This includes the water from the kitchen sink, the bath or shower, and any laundry machines. You can imagine that when you take a shower there is a whole lot of water being drained, and this is a large part of how the chamber can fill faster than some might expect.


Inside the tank itself there are three definitive layers of material. The very bottom is the heavier stuff, solids from food waste to feces, which forms a sludge but does not normally take up a lot of space in the container. By far the largest layer is the liquid layer, which will probably fill 90% or more of the available space. Finally there is a thin layer of oils which are lighter than water floating on the top.


When Should Septic Tank Pumping Be Performed?


This can vary quite a bit depending on how many people live in the home and how heavily the system is used, and in some cases a the capacity of the structure will unfortunately be built too small for a large family. Generally speaking it is advisable to have it emptied once every year, and for most people this will ensure smooth operation without any hiccups.


When you hire a company to handle your scheduled pumping, it is also a good idea to have it cleaned. Some will want to skip this step to save a bit of money, because after all it’s only going to be filthy again in no time at all, but you really can’t afford to let this go. Draining will not remove all of the sludge at the bottom of the vessel, and leaving filth and grime to fester down there can eventually lead to larger sewage problems which will cost more money in the long run if we skimp on cleaning in the short term.


It is important to understand your own water usage when you have a septic tank. This might seem like an impossible thing to calculate, but it can be broken down into a simple formula if you want to avoid having to drain and clean it more than once per year. If the tank is sized appropriately for your home– and it should be– then it is a good idea to keep each family member to a limit of about 50 gallons of water every day. This should at least make it easier to fathom the volume.


What Can Go Wrong With a System?


The most common problem of all is when a container backs up from being overfilled, which can cause water not to drain, and you may even see waste begin to literally creep back up your pipes which is something that nobody wants, look at our information on sewage backup if you need help with this. At the first sign of this sort of trouble you will have to opt for a pumping and cleaning job, after which you should be able to go back to business as usual– though, perhaps lowering your water usage some, if not scheduling more regular maintenance.


The waste container itself can become damaged over time, and a fault in the walls of your underground container can cause raw sewage to permeate into the soil around your home. It’s a pretty terrible problem to have, but luckily it can be avoided if you are smart about your usage and stay aware of a few important factors.


It’s a good idea to know where exactly your ‘hardware’ is located, and then avoid things like parking vehicles over top of it which can put added weight and stress on the barrel. You should also be conscious of the volume and types of chemicals which may be going down your drain, as over a long period of time corrosive chemicals can live up to their name. You should also try to limit how much you use your garbage disposal and the amount of grease drained in the kitchen sink. When possible it is always preferred to use other options such as composting in order to spare your septic tank more waste than is necessary.


septic tank service opening access holeHow To Pump, Clean, or Repair a Septic Tank


Whether you have experienced a problem or not, you will want to find a good and reputable sewerage disposal service to maintain it at intervals you will choose yourself. As these types of companies are typically very focused on local areas the best place to look for them is through local listings, online or simply in the phone book. Better still, through word of mouth from people who live near you.


When you begin looking for professional help to attend to your problem or just to perform maintenance, the number one thing you are going to be looking at is their reputation. This can be hard to gauge at times, becomes people aren’t quite as apt to review pumping services as they are restaurants and hotels, but when it comes to larger companies you should be able to find unbiased testimonials or direct information. In almost all cases you can at least talk to a friend or neighbor to find out who they use and how happy they are with that service.


You will also want to look over the policies of each service you are considering. Don’t worry too much about disclaimers, because these companies have to cover their tails legally, but you want to see that any business dealing with septic tank pumping is responsible and will do a complete job rather than a quick and dirty one. It is generally a very good idea for the company you choose to handle maintenance and not just pumping and cleaning, so that they will understand and be able to spot any potential problems, or issues with your pipes, and offer you solutions.


Price is always a concern, and while you don’t want to pay more than you have to, try not to choose an option simply because it is the cheapest available. That is not to say that an affordable choice is a bad one, but that price is only one factor worth considering and should be prioritized under the company’s reputation. The cost of septic tank pumping can vary quite a bit, and in some cases you get what you pay for. You should be very suspicious of anything under $200!


To Clean Up & Summarize


If you have a system installed on your property and you want it to stay out of sight and out of mind, the best way to keep it there is to make sure you spend a bit of time figuring out how you will have it maintained and how your own water usage might impact the system. Once you understand these things you truly should not have to think about your tank much at all, and you should certainly never have to see or smell it first hand! We hope you’ve enjoyed this septic tank pumping and maintenance guide and have a look around at our other useful pages.


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