If you’ve got a septic tank system, you’ve probably wondered just how to take care of your septic tank and what to do when it fills up. Before you start Googling “how is septic tank pumped,” take a few minutes to read and you’ll have all the answers you need.

What’s a Septic Tank?

Let’s start with the basics: what’s a septic tank? 

If you’ve got a home in a rural area, you may have a septic tank system instead of sewer lines running to your home. Basically, septic tanks are concrete or plastic tank buried in your yard that holds and treats the waste from your home and is part of septic tank systems. 

When you put something down a drain in your house, it eventually winds up in your septic tank. Your septic system works by creating a delicate ecosystem where the bacteria break down organic material that winds up in your septic tank. 

Liquids flow through pipes with small holes in them and return to the yard through a septic system’s drain field and leach field. This part of the process helps to keep your tank from filling up too quickly or even overflowing.

Many septic systems have a main as well as an overflow tank that will need to be cared for and maintained. You likely also have a septic pump, leach field, and drain field that need regular inspections and maintenance.

Where’s My Septic Tank?

You may be able to locate your septic tank just by walking around in your yard. If you’re not sure where your septic tank is located, look back at the paperwork from when you purchased your home or had an inspection. 

What Size is My Septic Tank?

When your septic tank was installed, the size is based on the square footage of your home. The required septic tank size takes into account things like how many toilets you have in your home along with the size of your home to determine the expected usage of your septic system.

While you might not know the exact size of your tank, if you were to contact a plumber, they’d be able to give you an idea of the size of your tank.

How Do I Know if My Septic Tank Needs to Be Pumped?

The EPA suggests having your tank pumped every three to five years, but other factors might mean you need to have your septic tank pumping done sooner. If you’ve got a large family, you may want to consider having your septic tanks inspected and pumped more frequently.

Your septic tank size will also help determine how frequently your tank will need to be inspected and pumped. If you’ve got a smaller tank installed for your property, it will need more attention than larger tanks might need.

Because septic systems are buried, you can’t just open the lid and take a peek (and you probably wouldn’t want to if you could). Here are a few of the signs your septic tank is filling up and it may be time to schedule septic tank pumping: 

  • Your toilet and drains are slow to drain
  • There’s standing water over the septic tank in your yard
  • Unpleasant smells from the yard near the location of your septic tank
  • You hear gurgling water coming from your drains or toilets
  • Sewage backs up

In addition to being mindful about what you’re putting into your sinks, toilets, and drains, you should also pay attention to what’s happening in and around your yard where your septic system is located.

Tree roots can cause cracks or breakage in septic tanks or drainage pipes. Watching the overall drainage of your yard is important too. If water is pooling in the area where your septic system is located, your tank may be filling with water and causing problems for your system. You’ll notice standing water or the ground being saturated because there’s a high water table or the ground is exceptionally wet after heavy rain.

If you notice any of these things, there’s a good chance that your septic tank is filling up (or already full) and needs to be pumped. Septic tanks pumped as suggested by professionals are less likely to fill up because of the routine maintenance.

You’ll also want to look at the age of your septic system. Older systems may need more frequent maintenance than newer systems. Having a good understanding of your septic system’s current state can help you develop a good maintenance plan for your septic system. 

During your inspection, your plumber will measure your solid sludge and scum layer at the bottom of your septic tank. Experts will recommend that your tank be pumped when it’s ⅓ to ½ full with solids.

Because of the anaerobic bacteria that help to keep balance in your tank and keep your tank healthy, you don’t want to remove too much of the sludge layer. This could throw off the balance within your septic tank. 

It’s best to take care of your septic tank needs right away instead of waiting until your tank completely fills and you have a sewage backup to deal with. 

Why Should I Get My Septic Tank Pumped?

There are a variety of reasons why your septic tank needs pumping as directed and having your septic system inspected regularly:

  • Learn about your system. With regular inspections, you’ll be able to get an idea of the state of your septic system. Having an accurate understanding of the current state of your septic system will allow you to better plan for repairs and replacement costs for your system.
  • Clogged drains. When you don’t keep up with the maintenance of your septic system, drains can become clogged. Because your septic system is underground, you might not realize you have too much sludge in your tank until it’s too late and more damage has been done. 
  • Damage to your septic system. Just like anything else, if you don’t take care of it, it’s not going to work as well as it should, or even worse, just break altogether.
  • Backups. If nothing else convinces you to get a septic tank pumping, having waste backup into your home should help make the decision a little easier. 

Septic systems require regular maintenance of the whole system. It might not seem like something that should be at the top of your to-do list, but taking care of your septic system is important so your septic system works as efficiently as possible.

How Does a Septic Tank Get Pumped?

Getting Septic tank pumped out

Once you’ve decided it’s time to have septic tank pumping, you might be wondering just how that process happens. 

When the day arrives, a large truck with a tank and special equipment will arrive at your home and the professionals will hook a large hose to the tank on their truck.  The other end of the hose will go into your septic tank. 

They’ll turn the suction on and begin removing the solid waste, sludge, and scum from your septic system similar to a vacuum. 

Before they can start removing the contents of your septic system, they’ll need to locate the tank, possibly dig up some of your yard to access the tank, and remove the lid. 

As they begin removing the waste in your septic tank, you’ll notice that things like oil and other liquids will have floated to the top of the tank. Further down, you’ll see that the sludge and solid waste settled at the bottom of the tank.

Someone will stand near the tank as waste is being removed using a muckrake to break up scum and sludge in the tank. Doing this helps break up the solid waste so it can be removed more easily. 

During the pumping process, the technician may stop pumping to listen and observe what’s happening with your septic system. They’re looking for any damage to your tank or the overall system, as well as if water is coming back into the tank.

All of these things will help the technician determine the overall health of your current septic system and will allow them to let you know what to expect about repairs and replacement suggestions so you can plan and budget accordingly.

This isn’t going to be a neat or good smelling process so keep that in mind as you’re scheduling your appointment for septic tank pumping. It’s not something you would want to have done before you’re planning a backyard party or anything like that. 

How long does it take?

Depending on your septic tank size, you should plan for the actual pumping to take 30 – 60 minutes. The professionals will likely be there longer to prepare the area for the actual pumping and to replace the lid of your tank when they’re finished. 

What Does It Cost to Have Your Septic Tank Get Pumped Out?

The cost of having your septic tank to get pumped out will vary depending on the size of your septic tank. Currently, the national average for having this service done is $295 – $600.

When looking at the price to have your tank pumped, remember that it will be far less than having to make repairs from not taking proper care of your system. 

Can I Pump My Own Septic Tank?

The short answer is no. Cleaning or pumping your own septic tank isn’t something that you can (or should) do on your own. Because of the equipment needed, as handy as you are, you need to call the professionals in for this job.

There are some things you can do before the professionals arrive to help make the job a little easier:

  • Locate your septic tank and its components – try to find not only your septic tank but the pipes and drain field as well.
  • Clear out the area – if there are weeds or branches that need to be cut back to allow access to your septic tank, take care of that before the company. 
  • Determine when the last maintenance was – if you have an idea of the last time your tank was pumped or inspected, that can be very helpful.

After the professionals are done pumping your tank, you can also help get the lid back on the tank and refill any holes made during the pumping process.

Is Cleaning Your Tank the Same as Pumping? 

Cleaning your septic tank and having it pumped are two different things. You could possibly clean your septic tank, but this could be very dangerous and is not recommended. 

In addition to it not being safe, if not done properly, you could do serious damage to your entire septic system. Cracking the pipes or your septic tank could mean your septic tank fills with water instead of waste and require very expensive repairs.

Having a professional like The Original Plumber come out can save you both time and money. We have the tools required to properly clean your septic tank.

How Do I Find Someone to Pump My Septic Tank?

Just like any other work you’d have done around the house, it’s important to hire someone who’s trustworthy, licensed, and insured. 

Before you just head to Google to see who pops up in the search, ask some friends and family who they would recommend. You can also reach out to someone you’ve used before to see if they offer septic service as part of their company. 

You can also look at local social media groups, online reviews, and sites like the Better Business Bureau to see what kind of experiences other customers have had. 

After you gather a list of referrals, make a few phone calls to ask about experience, availability, and for quotes. If you don’t know much information about your septic system, companies may need to come out before they give you an estimate. 

What To Do Between Septic Tank Pumping

What to do between septic tank pumping

Between inspections and pumping, it’s important to take care of your septic system. There are some simple things you can do to help extend the life of your septic system:

  • Choose the right toilet paper – make sure you’re using septic-safe toilet paper so it will properly break down in your septic tank.
  • Moderation – with anything you’re putting down your drains or flushing down your toilet, make sure you’re not adding too much. Don’t pack garbage disposals full of food, dump a bunch of grease down the drain, or even repeatedly drive over or through the septic tank and drain field area.
  •  Reduce water usage – make sure you’re using efficient water-saving toilets and appliances in your home so you’re not adding unnecessary water to your septic system. Limiting your water usage can give your septic system time to get rid of excess water already in the tank before more is added. 
  • Use your garbage disposal sparingly – adding too much organic food waste to your septic tank can throw off the balance within your tank and cause clogging.
  • Monitor drainage – keep an eye on the rainwater drainage in your yard so it’s not interfering with the leach fields so that your septic tank can still drain water properly.
  • Avoid chemicals – when you add chemicals to your septic tank, you can kill the bacteria that live in your septic tank and help break down the solid waste as well as damage the pipes and tanks in your system.

A few small changes can help extend the life of septic systems without adding additional steps to your daily routines and greatly decrease septic issues. Keeping your septic system well maintained can give your system a lifespan of up to 30 years. 

One thing you don’t need to do following the pumping of your septic tank is to “reseed” your tank. Seeding your tank is something done from time to time to help jumpstart the growth of good bacteria in your system by adding something like yeast to your tank. 

Get Septic Tank Help 24/7

Call The Original Plumber today for a free consultation. We’re available 7 days a week to help with all of your septic and plumbing needs for your home or business. One of our friendly and professional team members will be able to answer your questions. We offer a wide range of services for septic systems, including septic tank pumping.