On this page:
- Estimating the Cost of Septic Tank Repairs
- The Importance of the Septic Tank
- What Affects the Cost of the Job?
- How the Details Add Up
- Preparing for Septic System Repairs
- Cost Comparisons
- Level of Difficulty
A septic tank is the first external component of a residential septic system, which is used in lieu of a direct connection to a municipal sewer system. In rural areas or other locations where city sewer services aren’t provided, a septic system must be built to handle and treat waste on site. While these systems have relatively low maintenance requirements, problems must be corrected promptly to prevent backups of sewage into the home or yard and to prolong the life of the entire system. When it comes to the tank, keeping it in good condition will minimize the burden on the leach or drain field component and help ensure that solids break down properly in the tank.
Estimating the Cost of Septic Tank Repairs
How Pros Figure Out Pricing
There are a few common types of septic tank repairs, but the features of each job are unique so pricing for this kind of work is rarely standardized. A pro will evaluate the extent of the damage or problem with the tank and estimate the cost of repairs according to the time, materials, and equipment involved in the job.
What Goes Into the Price?
The nature of the project will define what is required, but most repairs will call for at least two crew members, standard tools, and replacement parts or supplies, which could include pipes and fittings, patching materials, pumps, and filters. If substantial excavation is required, heavy equipment such as an excavator or backhoe will be brought in as well.
The Importance of the Septic Tank
It’s Not the End of the Line
Although we typically think of the drains in our homes as the last stop for all water and waste, they really are just the beginning of the disposal and treatment process. As soon as waste leaves your home via the main waste line it is deposited into the septic tank. While there, liquids and solids separate so the liquids can move to the drain field and percolate through the soil for purification and the solids can break down inside the tank. If there are problems inside the tank, waste cannot move through the system as intended, which can cause unsanitary conditions and lead to extensive (and expensive) repairs.
What Could Go Wrong?
Although a septic tank is essentially a holding tank for solid waste, there is a lot going on inside it. Naturally occurring bacteria must be present and alive in order to digest the biodegradable material, and liquid waste (effluent) must be able to separate from the remaining material in order to move through the drain field into the surrounding soil.
In some systems, oxygen is introduced to the tank to speed up the decomposition process, and in others pumps are used to discharge effluent, but even without any bells and whistles the basic function of the tank is essential to the success and longevity of the septic system.
If it fails, waste can leach into the soil prematurely or may clog the lines in the drain field, or excess liquid can burden the ground in the bed of the drain field and cause it to fail earlier than expected. These problems often aren’t noticed until they are advanced and can be costly to repair.
What Affects the Cost of the Job?
For reasons beyond the obvious, most septic tank repairs should be handled by a professional. So, the cost of labor is a significant factor in the expense of repairs. Internal repairs to the tank can usually be completed in the course of a single day, with labor rates ranging from $35 to $150 per hour, depending on the size of the crew. More substantial repairs or a tank replacement may span a couple of days, so the cost of labor could reach $2,000 or more for a four-man crew.
Internal tank repairs usually only require access to the tank from the main lid, but external repairs and the replacement of a septic tank require some degree of excavation. If heavy equipment is involved the cost of the job can climb pretty quickly. The accessibility of the site and the amount of digging will have some bearing on the type of machinery that is used, but once it arrives, you can expect the bill to increase by $75 to $300 per hour.
How the Details Add Up
With the exception of some maintenance tasks, like cleaning filters, and simple modifications, like adding risers to the openings, most repair projects require having the septic tank emptied before work starts. Pumping out the tank is, in itself, a regular maintenance project that should be done by a pro every few years. Adding it to the to-do list for a repair will add $200 to $400 to the bottom line. You may be able to save bit on the cost of this part of the job by locating and digging out the septic tank cover if it is below grade, since it could save the crew quite of bit of time.
Parts and Supplies
The parts used in most septic tank repairs are standard materials and equipment, such as PVC pipes and fittings, plastic effluent filters, submersible pumps, and concrete or plastic risers and lids. The parts used for your repair will depend on the nature of the job, but could add $50 to $1,000 to the cost of the project, with replacement inlet or outlet pipes on the low end and a new pump on the high end of the scale. A brand-new tank could cost $1,200 to $3,000, and gravel, stone, fill dirt, and topsoil needed to set a new tank will add another $500 to $1,000 to the job.
The Extent of System Problems
If septic tank problems have lead to issues in other parts of the septic system, related maintenance and repairs could add to the overall cost of the job. For example, if a faulty baffle allowed sludge or solids to accumulate in the drain field lines, it may be necessary to clear or replace them to allow for proper drainage. Similarly, a clogged effluent filter could cause overfilling in the tank which can lead to overflows outdoors or backups inside the house that require extensive cleanup.
Preparing for Septic System Repairs
Diagnosing the Problem
Most septic tank problems are discovered after experiencing issues with poor draining from the home or finding evidence of leaking effluent or sewage in the yard. In many cases, the first step in diagnosing the source of the problem requires emptying and inspecting the tank. Although it may seem urgent and natural to have the pro on hand move forward with recommended repairs, it is beneficial to get a second opinion and multiple estimates for a potentially expensive project.
Doing Your Part
It can save your pro a considerable amount of time on the job if you can locate and uncover your septic tank lid or other cleanouts before he arrives. Since time is money on a job like this, doing a little measuring and digging could save you quite a bit. If you are not sure where your septic tank is located, check with the authorities at your home town’s planning or code enforcement office to see if the septic design for your property is on file there. This plan will include a diagram and description of the system which includes the location of the tank.
Take Some Advice
When the cause of your septic tank trouble is determined, find out from your pro if there are any steps you can and should take to prevent it from happening again. In some cases, things like ceasing use of a garbage disposal, water softener, or certain chemicals, removing trees and shrubs in the vicinity of the septic system, and having the tank pumped out more frequently can go a long way toward keeping the system in good working order.
|$300 - $500||$800 - $1,400||$2,500 – $6,000|
The specific issues with your septic system will determine what is involved in the repair, but our examples may help you plan and budget for your project.
Basic Fix: $300 - $500
- • Type of Damage: Replacing a damaged or missing baffle inside the tank is necessary to prevent solids passing to the drain field and blocking the field lines. The procedure generally requires draining the tank, which adds $200 or so to the job.
- • Materials: The supplies needed to construct a baffle are just a few pieces of PVC pipe and fittings, which typically cost less than $50.
- • Labor: Installing a new baffle can generally be done within a few hours, keeping labor charges around $200 to $300.
Mid-level Repair: $800 - $1,400
- • Type of Damage: In a septic system with the tank located lower than the drain field, an effluent pump is used to move liquid to the field efficiently. When a pump fails, the tank or chamber should be emptied so the pump can be removed and serviced or a new one installed.
- • Materials: A replacement pump and piping adequate to connect it could cost between $300 and $900, depending on its capacity and placement.
- • Labor: An experienced pro can replace an effluent pump within a day, bringing the labor charges for this job between $300 and $600.
Total Replacement: $2,500-$6,000
- • Type of Damage: A significantly damaged or degraded septic tank can lead to ground contamination and should be replaced. A job of this scale could span a few days and involves emptying and disconnecting the existing tank, excavating the soil around the tank, and lifting it out of place. The site can then be leveled and prepared for a new tank, which must be lifted into place and fitted to the existing waste and drain field connections..
- • Materials: A replacement tank may cost between $1,200 and $3,000. Related piping, fittings, and fill materials add another $500 to the tab.
- • Labor: This job calls several hours behind the controls of an excavator or other large machine. The time and equipment involved adds $800 to $2,500 to the total cost of the job.
Level of Difficulty
While maintenance tasks like cleaning filters are rather unpleasant, most homeowners can handle them on their own. However, in addition to the obvious drawbacks to this type of work, making septic tank repairs can be difficult and dangerous. Pumping out the tank and making repairs to it, or to its internal components and equipment, should be left to a properly qualified and equipped professional.