View Full Version : septic tank maintenance?

01-07-2002, 04:28 PM
Does anybody know anything about septic tanks? We've gotten completely conflicing information about maintaining them-- the professionals recommend getting them pumped out every 3 years or so, but I've also heard that they recommend this to pad their own pocketbooks and that you only have to have them pumped when there's a problem.

I'd rather spend a little now (relatively speaking) compared to a lot later. Anybody know the "truth" and how much it costs to get them pumped? Ick. :o

01-07-2002, 04:39 PM

I will be interested in the responses to this as well. In our old house, we lived there over 2 years and never had it pumped. When they did the Title V inspection (a wacky Massachusetts law) so we could sell it, they recommended that we get it pumped, but didn't require us to do it in order to pass the inspection. Needless to say, since we were moving out, and the new owner didn't request it, we didn't do it.

Now that we've moved, we should look into it. I'm trying to remember if they told us the last time this one had been pumped.

So I guess I didn't really give you any help, did I? Of course it also depends on the size of your tank. We have a book called The Virgin Homeowner which has some pretty useful info. I'm going to look in there and see what it says. I'll let you know.


01-07-2002, 06:57 PM
My wonderful septic guy. I really did love this guy.....<sigh> he said every 5 years and it was fine. I think we paid $150 for the pumping. This was 3 years ago and in NH.


01-08-2002, 06:17 AM
Here's more conflict. The former owners of our house had it done once a year and it cost them $30.00. We are over the year mark and haven't done it yet. I got a sales call the other day for a bag of enzymes that you are meant to dump into the potty periodically. They wanted $179 for a 3 year supply. Their schtick was that with all of the anti-bacterial soaps that we use the bacteria in the tank gets killed and nothing breaks down. I have seen a box of this stuff at the grocery and I think I'll get some next time. I suppose it is peace of mind however, who really knows for sure?
This should be simple, right?

Janet K
01-08-2002, 08:56 AM
We had a septic tank at our last house - and oh man - the things we went through with it... hopefully we'll never have to live with one again.

We had a few occasions over the 6 years we lived there where if you did too much laundry in one day or something the water would back up into the basement. Not fun at all.

Once after it backed up - we thought we ought to have it pumped and the guy claimed our drainfield had collapsed and we needed to spend $10,000 or so to have it redone. We didn't fall for that though.

Then apparently there is some law in WA that when you sell a house you have to have it pumped and inspected - so again a septic inspector guy comes out and declares that the drainfield is collapsed and it will be $12,000. So we had to do some test where they poured hundreds (maybe thousands) of gallons of water down the drain over a certain period of time to test if it had failed - and it passed the test so the drainfield was fine.

Turned out there was some pipe coming out of the house that had ended up at a bad angle as the ground settled - and that was our problem - so all we had to do was replace a section of pipe.

We did a lot of checking over the years and basically had heard the enzymes are not really good for the tank. Also you don't really need to have it pumped very often at all. We had neighbors who went 8 or 9 years without pumping.

There's a ton of information on the web on septic issues if you care to do some research.

01-08-2002, 08:59 AM
Oh, the woes of being on a septic system. When we bought our place 3 years ago neither of the tanks had been pumped for a couple of years. There were two houses, one much older than the other. About a year later we had problems with the "younger house" so we had it pumped. A month later the other house needed it. We were also told it would only be every couple of years after that depending on the number of people in the house. We were also told to put yeast down the commode to aid in the bacteria. It cost about $80 to have it pumped.
When we built the new house (the other 2 are still here just a guest houses) we put in an aeration system (waters the pasture) but it is required to have a maintenance contract to get passed by the county. It also uses chlorine before it aerates the field.

01-08-2002, 10:24 AM
We finally had ours pumped last summer after living in our house for 4 1/2 years. It was fine, but the septic guy said that we got it pumped at the right time. I think the age of the tank is also a factor. Ours seems to be in pretty good shape, luckily.

01-08-2002, 10:27 AM
We had ours pumped and inspected before we bought the house (imagine paying to have someone else's sludge pumped out of a tank you don't yet own - *sigh*), then again 3 years later. Thanks for the reminder, Lisa - it'll be time again this spring.

From what I've read, every 3-5 years should be fine, but every system is different and it depends on the number of people in the house and your water usage. I prefer to be safe and schedule it to be pumped every 3 years regardless. It's easier than dealing with a backup - which I would pay any amount of money to avoid! :eek:

When you think about it, you aren't paying a utility bill for septic service since you own the system. At least for me, that makes the maintenance costs seem not so bad. I think we paid around $180 or so last time, which comes to $5 a month for 3 years.

Here are a few web sites with fun facts about septic tanks, if your day is slow: :D

01-08-2002, 11:37 AM
I looked up some info regarding our tank. Our inspection from when we bought the house says that it had been pumped 2 years ago when a new leachfield was installed. It says it "should be pumped again within the next year." So this would make it 3 years.

I looked in The Virgin Homeowner and it does say every 3-to-5 years. As KathrynY said, it definitely depends on the size of the tank and the number of people using it. It also says that those bacteria things don't necessarily work.

Apparently our pump chamber is "equipped with a high water alarm system." I'm guessing that's a good thing!:D

Leslie w
01-08-2002, 12:26 PM
MY dh (who seems to be an expert on everything:rolleyes: )said that if the septic is working properly it should hardly ever need to be pumped. I must say the guy hasn't been wrong yet and he does all are home repairs, including installing plumbing, toilets, water heaters, etc. This is our first house with a septic. I'll let you know if I'm swimming in sh_t in three years!

01-08-2002, 02:09 PM
Yep, WA state has a law that the septic has to be pumped w/in the last couple years before it's sold. Lots of things factor in to pump or not to pump : # of people, water usage, grey matter area, how big drain field is, blah blah blah.
Thank you to everyone who confirmed the things I've heard and wondered to be true and making me feel more confident about my knowledge as a homeowner! We be a smart bunch, eh?

Now, if only the gutters would clean themselves too... ;)

(although our part of the state is flooding right now - so I don't think clear gutters would make much difference:( )

01-10-2002, 06:34 PM
That's right yeast.

According to my septic guy, who checked our tank just before we moved in, you can keep your tank healthy by avoiding chlorine products and putting a packet of yeast down the drain once in awhile. He recommended that we have an inspection about every 5 years (based upon the # of people living here.)