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The average national cost of septic tank pumping and cleaning is $383, with most homeowners spending between $280 and $523. This data is based on actual project costs as reported by HomeAdvisor members.
If your tank hasn't been pumped in the last 5 years, you are seeing wet areas or standing water above your drainfield, your toilets are running slowly, or there are odors in your home, you may need to have your septic system cleaned. Below are some things to think about that will influence the cost of your septic system cleaning.
How a Septic Tank Works
Unlike a municipal sewer system, where waste runs into a central drainage system maintained by the municipality, your septic tank is individual to your property. Wastewater from your home that comes from your showers, toilets, sink drains, and washing machines flows to your septic tank, which is usually buried somewhere on your property.
When wastewater enters your septic tank, it is naturally divided into three parts. Solid waste sinks to the bottom of the tank, where bacteria in the tank breaks down the solid matter, turning it into sludge. The middle layer of waste is mostly water, while fats and oils float to the top of the tank, forming scum. Once solid waste is broken down into sludge, gravity moves the water through sloped pipes down into the drainfield, where it is distributed into the soil.
In normal conditions, your septic tank should be pumped every one to three years, depending on the size of the tank and the number of people in your home. If pumping is done in a timely manner, it is likely that you will save yourself the cost of repairing or septic tank over time. While it is possible for a homeowner to pump his or her own septic tank, it may not be the best option. Sludge pumped out of the tank must be stored for transport in appropriate containers and disposed of following important safety procedures.
In most cases, homeowners find it easier and more cost-effective to have septic tank pumping done by a professional who has the right tools and storage equipment to handle sludge and scum safely for disposal.
Generally speaking, the most common part of a septic tank that may need repair or replacement is the filter. Installing a high quality filter for your tank will cost around $200 to $300 on average.
Other parts used in repair work to your septic system are PVC pipes and fittings, submersible pumps, and concrete or plastic risers and lids. The cost of these parts ranges from $50 to $500, with replacing pipes on the low end of the scale and replacing pumps on the high end.
If the tank itself needs to be replaced, expect to pay $1,200 to $3,000, with an additional $500 to $1,000 for gravel, stone, fill dirt and topsoil to set the new tank properly.
If your professional notices that your tank is failing, it can sometimes be resurrected by properly pumping the tank, cleaning the drain field lines, installing filters and fracturing the soil, a process which involves inserting a hollow tube into the ground and injecting a 300-pound blast of air. While this procedure could cost on average $1,000 to $2,000, it is much less expensive and much less of a hassle than installing a new system.
There are a number of things you can do to avoid potentially expensive septic tank maintenance. A healthy septic tank has bacteria that busily work to break down solid matter constantly. Tips to follow so you can keep your septic tank in optimal condition include:
Avoiding parking cars or building structures over your septic tank
Avoiding planting trees or root shrubs over your septic tank
Avoiding putting baby wipes, paper towels, or diapers down your drains
Additionally, you can save considerable time and expense by having a clear diagram of where your septic tank is. If a contractor does not have to spend time locating your septic tank, labor costs will be significantly lower when it is time to pump and clean your tank.
Some materials that could upset the balance of healthy bacteria in your tank are:
Chemotherapy drugs and time-release capsules and pills
Anti-bacterial hand washing soap
Some toilet bowl cleaners
Bath and body oils
Some dishwashing detergents
Some water softeners
It is important to note that while biological additives are unlikely to be harmful, many chemical additives advertised to help you avoid having to pump your septic tank may actually cause damage to your septic system.
Performing regular septic tank maintenance will help prevent the significant cost and time required to replace your septic system. Hiring a professional to pump your septic tank every one to three years is recommended to keep your septic system healthy and operating at peak efficiency.