On this page:
- Estimating the Cost of Septic Tank Pumping
- Do I Need to Have My Septic Tank Pumped?
- What Factors Affect the Cost of Septic Services?
- What Will Influence the Price of Pumping My Septic Tank?
- Preparing to Have Your Septic Tank Pumped
- Cost Comparisons
- Level of Difficulty
Regular pumping is a basic maintenance task for homeowners whose homes are serviced by a private septic system, rather than by public sewers. Though the task is fairly straightforward, there are a few factors that can influence the cost of septic tank pumping.
Estimating the Cost of Septic Tank Pumping
How is the Service Priced?
Septic service pros generally base their charges on their own costs, such as transportation and disposal, which can vary from place to place. It is common for providers to present their prices on a flat fee basis or per gallon of material removed from the tank.
In addition to the basic cost of emptying the tank, extra services such as cleaning or inspection are charged on a fee basis or for the actual labor time spent on the job. It is common for basic pumping service to cost between $200 and $400 throughout the U.S., but when comparing estimates from local contractors, be sure to compare the services that are included.
Do I Need to Have My Septic Tank Pumped?
Septic tanks collect solid waste from a home’s drains, and while it does decompose to some degree inside the tank, matter will accumulate and can create drainage problems if it is not removed periodically. The frequency with which a septic tank should be pumped really depends on the size and habits of each household, along with the size of the tank and the condition of the drain field, but it is something that should be done at least every few years.
In some cases it may need to be done annually, while other systems won’t need attention for ten years or more. It won’t cause any harm to do the job more often than necessary, so if you aren’t sure what is best for your system or don’t know when the tank was last emptied, err on the side of caution; have the tank pumped and ask your provider to recommend an appropriate interval based on the characteristics of your system and your household’s usage. To learn more, see our guide, How Often Should My Septic Tank be Pumped?
Pumping a septic tank is definitely not a DIY-friendly project. In addition to being unsavory, at best, the work must be carried out according to specific regulations that address handling waste material.
In many locations, professionals must be licensed and comply with strict permitting requirements in order to properly dispose of the waste removed from residential tanks. The cost of service often reflects specific fees that providers are charged for disposal, permits, and licenses as well as typical cost of operation.
What Factors Affect the Price of Septic Tank Pumping?
Location typically affects virtually any type of professional home maintenance service, since the cost of living has direct influence on the costs of labor and operating a business. When it comes to septic tank pumping your location may have additional influence on pricing, since local regulations and even your home’s proximity to a waste treatment facility can affect the cost of getting the work done.
The cost for septic system service may be affected by the type and availability of providers in a given area. In places with a number of independent pumping contractors to choose from, rates are likely to be lower than in places where the number of pros is limited or where regulations require pumping or septic service at specific intervals.
What Will Influence the Price of Pumping My Septic Tank?
Septic tanks are generally sized between 1,000 and 1,500 gallons. Whether pumping is priced by the trip or by the gallon, the price will be higher to pump a larger tank than a smaller one. Even though septic systems are designed to store solid waste in the tank and disperse liquids through a drain field, it is normal for the tank to remain filled with liquid, and the entire contents of the tank are removed when it is pumped, not only the solids.
Septic pumping can usually be scheduled with a short turnaround time, but if service is needed on an emergency basis, it is common to pay an extra fee of $100 or more. The first sign of an overfilled septic tank is often backups inside a home’s drains, and the best way to avoid both unpleasant drainage problems and expensive emergency service calls is to plan ahead for pumping before the tank exceeds its capacity.
Contents of the Tank
Although a septic pro may leave a small amount of material at the bottom of the tank after pumping to jumpstart bacteria growth, the septic tank must be essentially emptied during a service call. If the tank has not been serviced regularly, or if the bacterial balance in the tank is unhealthy, excessive sludge can build up on the bottom of the tank. It can take extra time to remove the material, which may result in higher charges.
Basic septic pumping service usually includes emptying the tank with the use of a specialized truck, but extra services may carry their own fees. If your provider needs to locate and dig out the tank lid, wash down the walls of the tank, or inspect and test the system, the job may cost more than if you simply need the tank emptied. Extensive inspections and tests of a septic system are often done in conjunction with a basic service call, but they can range in cost from $150 to $600 or more over the cost of pumping.
Making repairs to your septic system can add to the cost of pumping if the work is done at the time of service. Since the tank needs to be emptied before some types of repairs can be made, it’s often the best time to get the work done, rather than scheduling an additional service call. The cost of septic tank repairs will depend on the nature of the problem, but repair work is generally charged on a “time and materials” basis.
Preparing to Have Your Septic Tank Pumped
Since you may pay a premium for an emergency service call, it’s best to plan ahead for septic tank service. Be sure to keep track of when the tank is emptied so you can schedule pumping at a practical interval, but always be aware of potential troubles so you can act before you have a mess to deal with. Gurgling or slow drains and waste backups throughout the home are often signs the tank is at its capacity.
The job can be done at any time of year, but the most practical time may depend on the climate where you live. It can be difficult to find and uncover a tank lid when the ground is frozen in the winter, and wet ground conditions in the spring can lead to damage from having a heavy truck parked in your yard or driveway, so summer and fall are often the best seasons to schedule the project.
Most localities have a number of pumping contractors to choose from, so if you have time to plan ahead you can shop around for the best price and services. In order to get the most accurate estimates, let contractors know the size of the tank if you can, and whether or not you will have the site prepared for them. Be sure to compare estimates on an equal basis, so check to find out what services are included in each pro’s price and what the additional fees are for recommended services.
Prepare the Site
Pumping a septic tank really isn’t a job you can help out on, but if your tank is not fitted with risers that make the lid accessible from the surface, you can pitch in and probably save on the cost of the job if you can find and dig out the lid before your service appointment. Most pros charge extra for the time it takes them to locate and access the tank lid, and depending on how much information they have to go on, that part of the job could cost as much as the pumping itself.
If you aren’t sure where your tank lid is located, check with your local code enforcement office or building authority to find the septic design on file for your property, which should illustrate or describe the tank’s location.
|$200 - $300||$250 - $450||$350 - $600|
A one thousand gallon septic tank is typical for most two- and three-bedroom homes, but there are a few variables that can affect the cost of having a tank that size pumped.
Basic Service: $200 - $300
- • Prep Work: By finding and uncovering the septic tank lid before the pumping truck arrives, a technician can get straight to work and homeowners can save up to $100 in extra labor charges.
- • Pumping: As long as no damage or other issues are discovered, pumping should go quickly and according to plan.
- • Extra Services: A basic check of the tank’s condition and the drainage from the main waste line are standard services, so keeping the work limited to those tasks will keep costs down.
A Little Detective Work: $250 - $450
- • Prep Work: With the location of the tank lid a mystery, it can take your provider a little time to track down and dig out the cover. The extra work can add $50 or more to the cost of the job.
- • Pumping: The unknown location of the tank lid is evidence of a prolonged period between pumpings. The added time to clear the tank of sludge could add $50 to $100 to the tab.
- • Extra Services: Since it has been a while since this tank was last checked out, it’s worth paying an extra $120 or more to wash down the tank, give it a closer-than-typical look, and make a basic check of the function of the main line and drain field.
A Bit of Fixing: $350 - $600
- • Prep Work: Leaving the digging to the pros adds a little to the bottom line, but at least marking the location for them can make it quick work.
- • Pumping: A regularly maintained septic tank makes for pretty simple pumping, keeping the basis of the service call pretty straightforward.
- • Extra Services: Some minor damage found during a basic check of the system may be able to be repaired at the time of service. Replacing a damaged baffle or filter could add $200 to $300 to the job, but now is the most cost-effective time to get the job done.
Level of Difficulty
Pumping out a septic tank is definitely a job for a pro, but there may be ways for a DIYer to save on the cost of the job. Marking the location of a buried tank cover, or going a step farther and digging the soil off the top, is a simple way to keep costs down by limiting the scope of the job the septic service technician needs to do. Septic tank lids are generally buried within 12” of the surface, so uncovering them requires a little muscle, but only a basic level of skill.