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How often to pump a septic tank and when to do it

A septic tank is a key component of a home’s plumbing system, and it is important to keep it in good working order. One of the most important maintenance tasks is pumping out the tank on a regular basis. How often this needs to be done depends on a number of factors, including the size of the tank, the number of people in the household, and the amount of water usage.

What is a septic tank?

What is a septic tank? A septic tank is a key component of a home’s wastewater treatment system. It is typically buried underground and used to hold wastewater from the home’s toilets, sinks, and showers.

How often to pump a septic tank

pumping a septic tank

In general, it is recommended to get your septic tank pumped every three to five years. However, some experts recommend pumping out more frequently, especially if the household produces a lot of wastewater. By following these recommendations, homeowners can help extend the life of their septic systems and avoid costly repairs.

The frequency of septic tank pumping will be determined by the following factors:

Tank Size

Depending on your tank size you may need to get your tank pumped more frequently. This is because smaller tanks fill up faster. For instance, a 1,000-gallon tank will need to be pumped twice as often as a 2,000-gallon tank.

People in the house

The more people in the house the more wastewater produced. As a rule, a retired family of two will use substantially less water than a family of 4. The fewer people in the household, the longer you can go in between septic tank pumpings.

Leach field or Drain field

If your septic system has a leach field, then the greywater will get pumped out it on a daily basis. However, if you live in an area where there are no leach fields permitted for environmental reasons you will need to get your tank pumped weekly or bi-weekly depending on how much water your household uses. This type of setup is more of a holding tank vs a septic tank which has a drain field as well. 

Warning signs of a full septic tank

A septic tank is a key component of any septic system, and it is important to keep it in good working order. One of the most common questions people have about septic tanks is how to tell when they are full. There are a few different ways to tell if your septic tank is full.

Most homeowners don’t give their septic tank much thought – until it backs up into their home. Fortunately, there are a few signs that can indicate that your septic tank is full and needs to be emptied.

Septic smell in house

If you notice an unpleasant septic smell in the house coming from your drains, it’s also a sign that your septic tank needs to be emptied. This smell can come from a variety of reasons but often the culprit is a full septic tank.

Back up into the house

One of the most obvious signs is sewage backing up into your home through drains or toilets. If you notice this happening, it’s important to stop using water immediately to prevent further damage. If this happens you can check the level of the wastewater in the tank. If the level is higher than usual, it may be time to pump out the tank.

Slow Drains

Another sign that your septic tank is full is slow drains. If water is draining more slowly than usual from your sinks, tubs, or toilets, it’s a good indication that your septic tank is nearing capacity.

Wet Yard

Also, you can look for signs of flooding in your yard. If you notice that sewage is backing up into your home or that your drains are slow, it could be a sign that your septic tank is full.

Finally, if you notice any of these signs, don’t hesitate to call a professional to have your septic tank emptied before it causes serious damage to your home.

Septic tank alarm goes off

Your septic tank will have an alarm that will sound if there is too much sludge and scum levels in the tank. This can happen when the tank gets a fast overflow, such as a bathtub draining quickly, or if the tank is full. When the alarm goes off you will need to inspect it and see if there is something that caused it or if the tank is getting to its capacity.


What is pumped out of a septic tank?

Understanding what your septic tank contents is key in knowing what gets involved in septic tank pumping.

When wastewater enters a septic tank, it begins to separate into three layers. The heaviest particles, such as sand and grit, settle to the bottom, while lighter substances like grease and oil float to the top. In between these two layers is a layer of mostly water with some dissolved solids.

This middle layer is called effluent. Effluent is pumped out of the septic tank and into the leach field where it is absorbed into the soil. Bacteria in the soil help to break down the watery effluent middle layer, and any remaining water eventually evaporates or percolates down through the soil.

Septic tanks must be pumped out periodically to remove the solid waste that has accumulated at the bottom of the tank. If not removed, this waste can clog the leach field and cause sewage to back up into the home.

Can you wait longer to pump out septic tanks?

Most septic tanks should be pumped every three to five years, but some tanks may need to be pumped more or less often depending on the size of the tank and the number of people using the system.

While there’s no harm in pumping a septic tank more often than necessary, it can be a waste of money if it’s done too frequently.

In general, septic tanks should be inspected every year to ensure that they’re functioning properly. If you have any concerns about your septic system, it’s always best to consult with a qualified professional.

Septic Tank Pumping FAQ

pumping a septic tank

When to pump a septic tank

A septic tank should be pumped when the volume of the tank is near the top of the first container. This is typically every three to five years for a household of four people.

Is it bad to pump a septic tank too often?

No, it is not bad to pump your septic tank too often, though it can cost more and be a waste of money.

What time of year is best to pump a septic tank?

The best time of year to pump a septic tank is the warmer months from spring and summer into early fall. Avoid pumping your tank in late fall and winter as the pipes run the risk of freezing.

Do septic tanks need to be pumped out?

Yes, septic tank pumping on a regular schedule is necessary to maintain proper septic tank maintenance. Contact a local septic tank cleaning company to make sure you are getting a reputable service.

How often should you pump 1000-gallon septic?

Depending on the number of people in your household your 1000-gallon tank should be pumped every 2-5 years. Of course, more people in the house will mean more frequent septic tank pumping.

Can I pump a septic tank myself?

No, it is unlikely you have the proper equipment or the means to dispose of the waste. The best thing to do is to contact your local septic tank pumping company.

What does it cost to have a septic tank drained?

Getting your septic tank system pumped can range in cost depending on where you are, the size of the tank and the relative distance to where they need to dispose of the liquid waste.

Can I use a garbage disposal with a septic tank?

Yes, however using garbage disposal means that you are putting more waste into the tank and filling it up faster. As a rule, if you can avoid using a garbage disposal the better.

Can I shower if my septic tank is full?

If the tank is full a shower will place more wastewater in the system and could result in your tank overflowing and coming back into the house, or spilling out into the yard.

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