Septic pumping truck beginning a septic tank pumpoutWhen to Pump the Septic Tank When Buying a Home
Easy Guide to Inspection & Testing When Buying a Home With a Septic Tank

  • SEPTIC TANK PUMPOUT TIMING ERRORS - CONTENTS: How to Inspect and Test Septic Systems for Home Buyers - Step 4 in pre-purchase home septic testing: - Pump the Septic Tank, When & how to pump the septic tank if you are buying a home, Details of How to Inspect & Test Septic Systems When Buying A Home
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about septic test procedures & tank pumping when buying a home with a private septic system

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Buying a home? when to pump the septic tank: this document provides advice for home buyers who are buying a property with a private septic system, that is, a septic tank and a leach field or drainfield or similar soil absorption system.

Chapter 5 in this file describes detail: questions to ask about the septic system, how to perform the visual septic inspection, ordering the loading and septic dye test (the too-obvious results of a dye test at a problem site are in the photo at left), pumping the septic tank, and finding additional information about the septic system.

We explain how to be sure your septic inspection and septic test are conducted properly. We tell you where to get more septic system information about a given property, and we warn of unsanitary or dangerous site conditions.

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5-4. PUMP THE SEPTIC TANK When & How to Pump the Septic Tank When Buying a Home

Photograph of our septic tank pumping contractor pumping a tank.

After performing the septic loading and dye test and obtaining whatever historical maintenance and repair information you can obtain from the prior owner, you may want a septic contractor to located, open, pump, and inspect the septic tank.

The decision to include this next and more invasive step depends on what you have already learned about the age, history, and probable condition of the system. The pumping decision should be advised by the visual inspection, site history, and loading/dye test results.

Warning: [Repeated from the Dye Test discussion] Do not pump the septic tank before the loading and dye test. Depending on its size an empty septic tank could require 2-3 days' worth of water to re-fill the tank.

Testing by running water into an empty septic tank means that the "loading water" run into the system during the dye test procedure is simply filling the tank rather than testing the ability of the drain field to absorb effluent.

Pumping a septic tank prior to purchasing a home may or may not be necessary, depending on the age and service history of the system and the results of the visual inspection and loading and dye test.

For example, if a tank is less than two years old or was pumped in the last year, and if there are no other signs of septic problems at the site, we might defer the pumpout. In this case we would strongly recommend calling the pumper to ask about the condition of the system at the time they last cleaned it.

Photograph of our septic tank pumping contractor pumping a tank. But pumping the tank for diagnostic reasons can be helpful in any case. Important additional information, available when the tank is pumped, can tell you if it was past-due for pumping (risking damaging the drain fields) and if it is damaged.

You'll also know exactly where the tank is, if it's concrete, steel, fiberglass or home made, if it has been damaged, if the baffles are broken, if the tank has been flooded (indicating a blocked drainfield), and if the tank has a safe cover.

Even if there are no signs of trouble from the inspection and dye test, if nothing is known about the system history, or if it is known that the system has not been opened and pumped in 3 years or longer, this step is strongly advised.

If the septic tank has been pumped quite recently, you should call the pumping contractor to ask if, at the time of pumping, the contractor observed any indications of system problems or upcoming system repairs.

This is a subchapter of "5-HOW TO INSPECT & TEST When, Where, Why, and How to Inspect and Test a Septic System - for Home Buyers, Step-by-Step" which can be found

Septic Tank Pumpout Timing Mistakes

  1. Failure to pump the septic tank frequently enough: leading to an early drainfield failure and costly repairs
  2. Pumping or cleaning the septic tank too frequently, wasting money (though you're wasting a lot less money than the cost of a new drainfield. A lot of septic pumping contractors and some other "experts" give a fixed rule of thumb that serves their own interest, such as "pump your septic tank every year" or "pump your septic tank every two years" or in a case we know about in Minnesota, "pump the septic tank every couple of months or after you've had a lot of visitors".

    Contractors may give this advice without first having actually considered any information about the septic system capacity, level of usage, age, or other conditions. It's a great example of "OPM" or "other people's money" - spending someone else's money to reduce your risk that they'll complain that your advice wasn't safe enough.
  3. Pumping the septic tank with the fantasy that doing so will "fix" a clogged or failed drainfield. All you really gain is a few days of toilet flushing before the tank has re-filled.

Actually inspecting the septic system, diagnosing any problems or failures, and inspecting conditions inside the septic tank will tell us whether the tank is being pumped at the correct frequency.

Key Septic Tank Pumping Articles


Continue reading at SEPTIC TEST FINAL OVERVIEW or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see WHEN to CLEAN THE SEPTIC TANK- When to pump out / clean a septic tank, based on actual tank scum & sludge


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