If your home isn’t connected to a municipal sewer system, there’s a good chance your wastewater is collected and filtered by a septic tank. To ensure this tank continues to work properly, you’ll need to have it pumped to clear out solid waste from time to time. This isn’t a DIY job, so you’ll need to hire a professional. Prepare your budget by learning about the average costs for septic tank pumping below.
Cost to Pump a Septic Tank
The average cost to pump a septic tank is about $400, though the price can range between $225–$600 for most residential tanks. You’ll have the following factors to consider when determining your overall septic tank pumping cost:
- Gallons of waste: The more waste that’s built up in your tank, the more it will cost to pump.
- Size of the tank: Residential septic tanks range in capacity from 750–1,500 gallons.
- Location: Where you live affects the cost of home services, including septic tank pumping.
Cost to Pump a Septic Tank Per Gallon
As you might expect, larger septic tanks hold more waste and take longer to clear, so they cost more to pump. You won’t need to have them pumped as often, though. Overall, septic tank pumping tends to cost between $0.23 and $0.40 per gallon.
Cost to Pump a Septic Tank by Size
The minimum recommended tank size for a home is usually 1,000 gallons, though you might occasionally come across a 750-gallon tank for a one-bedroom home. Likewise, a 1,500-gallon tank is usually big enough for a large home with up to five bedrooms, so it’s rare, but possible, to find a tank larger than that. Most homes use a 1,000- or 1,250-gallon tank.
|Tank Size (gallons)||Cost|
Cost to Pump a Septic Tank by Location
As with most home services, cost will vary depending on where you live. If the cost of living is high in your ZIP code, it’ll cost more to pump your septic tank. Here are some estimates for septic tank pumping in several cities across the country.
|Little Rock, AR||$260–$510|
|Long Island, NY||$275–$515|
Cost to Pump Septic Tank by Frequency
The more often you have your septic tank pumped, the less it will cost, since there will be less waste to remove. It’s usually more cost-effective, however, to wait until the tank is almost full to pump it. Ideally, you’ll have a septic company perform an inspection on the tank at least once every three years. The technician will gauge the tank’s scum and sludge levels and tell you if it’s time to hire a pumping service.
DIY Cost to Pump Septic Tank
You won’t find much information about DIY septic tank pumping, as it would require pumping, waste storage, and transportation equipment that isn’t available to rent. You would also need to properly dispose of the waste or risk significant fines. It’s easier, cheaper, and safer to hire a professional septic service.
Get a Quote: Get your quote on septic tank pumping today
Cost Factors to Pump a Septic Tank
The main factors that contribute to septic tank pumping costs are related to how much wastewater and solid waste is in the tank and how well you maintain the system. The following factors affect the overall cost:
- Usage: The more people who live in your home, the more often you’ll need the septic tank pumped. Additionally, the more often you entertain, do laundry, or use the garbage disposal, the faster your tank will fill up.
- Efficiency: Activities like parking your car on your leach field—aka your septic tank draining field—and putting grease down the sink can clog or reduce the efficiency of the system.
- Maintenance: A well-maintained system will be more efficient and take longer to fill up, meaning it will need to be pumped less frequently.
Septic Tank Maintenance Costs
In addition to pumping, there are other types of maintenance and repair that keep septic systems running smoothly. The first is a regular inspection, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends you have done at least once every three years. These cost $150–$450 and will let you know if further steps are necessary.
Septic Tank Additive Costs
In most cases, a properly installed septic tank will have sufficient bacteria to break down scum and sludge. If this changes—for example, if a toxic substance gets into the tank—you may need to add enzymes. Fortunately, this is rare, and research from Kansas State’s Agricultural Extension Program shows that hardware store additives that promise to reduce the amount of necessary pumping are ineffective and potentially harmful. A professional can tell you if additives, which can cost between $20 and $200, are really needed.
Septic Tank Cleaning Cost
Pumping the tank and cleaning it are two different processes. As long as your system is functioning normally, you don’t need to clean the tank. The septic tank filter, on the other hand, does need to be cleaned every three to five years, usually at the same time the tank is pumped. Good filtration prevents blockages and keeps effluent—that is, liquid waste or sewage—moving through the system. Typically, filter cleaning is included in septic tank pumping costs, but it’s a good idea to confirm this with your pumping service. If it’s not included, it typically costs an additional $100–$200.
As with pumping, other cleaning methods are best left to the professionals. Some clogs may necessitate the use of chemical cleaners like sodium hydroxide or sulfuric acid, which can damage the tank if misused. Similarly, complicated problems like tree roots in sewer lines around the tank may require hydrojetting of those pipes, which requires specialized machinery. The cost for hydrojetting is usually around $250–$300.
Septic Tank Repair Cost
If the professional conducting your inspection notices a problem with the way your septic tank system is operating, you’ll need to pay to repair it. These repair costs vary significantly depending on the problem. Replacing pipes, lids, or risers may cost less than $100, but something like loosening compacted soil around the drain field can cost thousands of dollars.
Signs a Septic Tank Is Full
While your regular inspection should indicate whether it’s time to pump your septic tank, you should contact a septic tank contractor if you notice the following signs:
- There are foul odors coming from the tank itself or your home’s drains.
- There’s standing water in your yard.
- You notice clogs or slow-draining sinks or toilets.
- Grass over the drain field is growing more quickly than in surrounding areas.
- The scum level in the tank is within six inches of the bottom of the outlet pipe.
DIY vs. Professional Septic Tank Pumping
DIY septic tank pumping isn’t a viable option. In addition to the equipment you’d need, you’d end up with a large amount of biohazardous waste that would have to be transported and disposed of according to EPA guidelines. Septic tanks also create methane gas, which is both a suffocation and fire hazard.
How To Save Money
Since you can’t cut costs by pumping your septic tank yourself, here are some other ways you can save money:
- Use less water, which will give your septic system more time to break down waste. You can do this by using high-efficiency appliances, fixing leaky faucets promptly, and waiting until you have a full load’s worth of dirty clothes to do laundry.
- Spread loads of laundry throughout the week instead of using washing machines multiple times in one day.
- Keep septic tank lids clear and uncover them before the technician arrives to cut down on labor costs.
- Don’t flush anything other than waste and toilet paper. Put paper towels, cigarette butts, feminine hygiene products, diapers, and dental floss in the trash.
- Don’t put grease, coffee grounds, cooking oil, toxic cleaners, chemical drain cleaner, bleach, or oil-based solvents down the drain.
- Limit your use of the garbage disposal or remove it completely.
Get a Quote: Get your quote on septic tank pumping today
How To Hire a Professional
There are plenty of plumbers, roto-rooters, and septic tank services that will pump a full septic tank. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing among them:
- Get written estimates from at least three different technicians. Make sure you know what is included in the price (e.g., filter cleaning).
- If you have a septic tank, it’s likely that your neighbors do, too, so ask them for recommendations.
- Check the company’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) page to see how long it’s been in business, whether it’s accredited, and how the BBB rates it.
- Check online review sites like Yelp, TrustPilot, and Google Reviews to see what previous customers have to say.
- If you have a home warranty with septic coverage, contact your warranty provider.
How Does a Septic Tank Work?
If your home has a conventional septic tank, all the wastewater from your fixtures and appliances flows through your pipes and into the tank. Solids, called sludge, settle at the bottom of the tank, while oil and grease, called scum, rise to the top. Bacteria in the tank slowly break down some of this waste over time. The rest of the liquids, called effluent, flow out of pipes and into your yard’s drain field. There, effluent gets filtered through gravel and dirt, which eventually cleans it enough to safely join the rest of the groundwater.
When the system is working normally, the bacteria will break down some of the sludge and scum, but eventually, buildup will fill the tank. This is the solid waste that must be pumped out. There are alternative septic systems that break down or distribute the effluent differently—for example, aerobic systems or chamber systems—but they all have tanks that must eventually be pumped.
Pumping your septic tank every three to five years is a necessary part of owning a home with a septic system. It’s not a DIY project, but proper maintenance, including regular pumping, can help prevent more costly repairs to your system or even a sewer line replacement. You can enter your ZIP code below to be contacted by local providers who work on septic systems.
FAQs About Septic Tank Pumping
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