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How Often Does a Septic Tank Need to Be Pumped?

For such an important system of your home, especially when the consequences are so expensive and foul-smelling, it’s still somewhat surprising that so many people do not regularly pump their septic tank. This may be understandable in the sense that the tank itself is usually buried and only a cap or lid reminds homeowners that it is there.

You should have your septic tank maintained on a regular basis. Otherwise, you risk damaging the tank and the drain field as well. This means setting a schedule of when it should be pumped out. Knowing how often to have it pumped out will be the key.

Setting a Schedule

To set a schedule, you will need to understand the factors that go into knowing when to pump out a septic tank. These factors include but are not limited to the following.

  • Number of people living in the home
  • Size of the septic tank
  • Age of the septic tank
  • If a garbage disposal is present
  • Ground conditions
  • Climate conditions

All of these factors above should be considered when creating a schedule to pump out a septic tank. The first step should be finding out when the septic tank was installed and how long it has been since it was last pumped. This will give you a great starting point.

Next are the ground and climate factors that affect how the tank operates, especially when moving the sewage to the drain field. If the septic tank is on land that is elevated and not prone to flooding, this may extend its life considerably. This is because frequent flooding may result in the drain field backing up which affects the tank itself.

A garbage disposal chops up food particles, making them easier to dissolve inside a septic tank. If a garbage disposal is not present in your kitchen, this may require more frequent pumping of the house's septic tank. An alternative is if you trapped the food particles in the sink and remove them before they are sent down the drain.

Standard Pumping Schedule

Generally speaking, if all the above relevant factors for pumping out a septic tank are typical, you should base your tank pumping schedule on the number of people who live in your home. Combine this number with the overall size of the tank and you can come up with a reasonable figure for how often to get your septic tank pumped. What follows is a chart for a 1000-gallon septic tank and how many years before it needs to be pumped depending on the number of people in the home.

  • One Person: 12 Years
  • Two People: 6 Years
  • Three People: 4 Years
  • Four People: 3 Years
  • Five People: 2 Years
  • Six People: 1.5 Years

As you can see, the more people in the home, the more human waste goes into the septic tank, and the more often you will need to schedule a tank pumping. In addition, more people taking baths or showers, washing dishes, and the like means more food, hair, and other particles will go into the tank through the drainage system and effect your septic pumping schedule.

Of course, your septic tank may be bigger or smaller than 1000 gallons which will affect how often it will need to be pumped. So, if you live alone in a home that has a 2500-gallon septic tank, then you may be looking at 30+ years between pumping, but that is a rare circumstance. Still, it does pay to know when you should pump the septic tank based on size and number of people inside the home.

Knowing When the Septic Tank is Full

Keep in mind that you should have the septic tank regularly pumped whether you think it is full or not. You can have it inspected if you are not sure or check it out yourself if you use the right tools and protective equipment. Here are some sure signs that your septic tank is full:

  • Drains start backing up
  • Foul odor emanated from the area above or near the septic tank
  • Slow drains, although that may be the drains themselves

If you have the adequate equipment, you can check to see if the septic tank needs to be pumped. Put on the appropriate safety gear which includes eye goggles, mask, and gloves. Open the cap and insert a wooden rod that is roughly 10” long. Pull out the rod and if the sludge amount indicates that the tank is more than a third full, then it is time to have it pumped.

When to Hire a Septic Tank Pumping Service

If it's time to have your septic tank pump, when to have a septic service come out to pump the tank is a valid question you should ask yourself.

Most importantly, the weather on the day of the pumping appointment should be clear with no rain, snow, or storms. Otherwise, the service you hire may have trouble getting their vacuum truck or pumping unit to your residence or commercial property's tank.

Secondly, there should be no pools of water from previous rain in the area above the tank. If this is the case, wait a few days for the ground to dry.

Lastly, you should make the appointment for a time of day that you will be at home. This way, you can direct the pumper to the location of the tank. This also allows you to ask any questions you may have and make sure the task is done to your satisfaction.

A professional service has the tools, equipment, and expertise to properly pump out the sludge inside your septic tank. Be sure to hire a reputable, licensed, and insured company to remove the sludge. They will take the right precautions to help ensure the best possible results. However, if an accident by an insured septic service should occur, at least you will not be stuck with the bill if the mistake causes damage to your septic system.

Preventative Measures

If you are looking at frequent pumping of the septic tank, then you probably want to take some preventative measures to slow down the buildup of sludge in the septic system.

The less you put in, the longer it will take for the septic tank to fill up. You should exercise some caution and keep the practices within reason. Simply reducing the amount of food particles alone should help to slow down the buildup of sludge.

Plus, having a sewage ejector pump connected to the tank will also help reduce the amount of sludge inside. Also known as a pump-up ejector system, it will push waste from a lower elevation to a higher elevation, most commonly from a basement to a septic system. It is an extra expense but may be well worth it depending on your circumstances.

Regular maintenance can help extend the life of the septic tank. Add to this taking small steps such as reducing the amount of food particles you toss in the sink and adding treatments to speed up the conversion process inside the tank, you may be able to extend the time between pumping. You may need to consult with a professional service that can inspect your septic tank and determine how often you should have it pumped.


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