Finding Solutions for Your Septic Tank Problems

When to Pump? Septic Tank Maintenance Tips for Homeowners

by Senanur Norder

Determining when a septic tank needs pumped is not always easy. While some septic systems now include a gauge or alarm system that alerts homeowners of potential problems, many older systems do not. Because of this, those who own older septic systems may need to find a way to ensure that their septic system is maintained correctly throughout their ownership of the home. 

Start with historical data for guidance

If you have just purchased the home and have no experience in the particular needs and quirks of the septic system you have just acquired, it can be helpful to look at historical data. Pull out the file from the home purchase transaction and look for information about your septic system. Possible locations for helpful information include: 

  • Disclosures completed by the previous owner
  • Inspection reports from the septic and home inspection 
  • Bills and invoices from any repairs required by the lender or those provided by the sellers as part of the inspection negotiation process

If no helpful information is present in the file, contacting the former owners to ask how often they needed to have the septic system pumped can provide you with a basic starting point for establishing your own maintenance schedule. When doing this, however, remember that each family can create vastly different levels of household waste, so your pumping needs may be less or more than the previous owner. 

Be conservative to reduce the need

Since the amount of waste produced will be the most important factor in deciding how often the tank will need to emptied, establishing conservative usage habits is important. This includes: 

  • Choosing to use septic-safe toilet tissue 
  • Teaching family members to turn off the water while soaping up in the shower, lathering their hair, or brushing and flossing teeth
  • Running only full loads of dishes and laundry 

It is also important that family members are vigilant about keeping excess paper products, such as feminine products and make up applicators, and other non-degradable materials out of the septic system to help prevent overloading the system. 

Use the calendar method 

Another way to proactively take care of your septic tank's pumping needs is to set up a regular schedule of pumping, based on the average recommendations of a reputable septic tank pumping service in your area. Over time, your service technician can help you fine-tune your schedule based on the amount of waste that is pumped during each periodic visit.