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Plumbing in the Home/Septic tank "To Pump or not to Pump"


Hi Carolyn,
You will likely find this question to be one of the strangest yet.

My elderly parents (85ish) have lived in the same house for approx 40 years and installed the septic system new when they moved in.  Since they were rural (at the time they moved in), the only thing that goes in the septic is the toilet, tub and bathroom sink.  The washer and kitchen sink are separate and do not go into the septic. They also have always, saved on buildup in the septic by not throwing pee paper down the toilet.   (How frugal of them)
They have never had the septic pumped.

Now, they are starting to have flushing problems.
They can flush easily by pouring additional water in at the moment of flushing but lately after the flush down, the bowl fills up again nearly to overflowing.  THe water is clean and will eventually drain back to the original water line after a few minutes.

I am wondering is the problem is that a new toilet is needed or if a pumpout of the septic is needed.  I believe the toilet has been replaced once in the 40 years( not sure) but thinking maybe the little holes around the rim could be filled up with mineral deposits (after 20 years).

I dont mind them spending for the septic pump or a new toilet, but am afraid if they need a new drainfield at their age it might not be wise to spend that money at their age.

So my question is this:  If the septic has not backed up yet, but just started the flushing oddity, would you assume all we need is a pumpout and no damage has been done to the drainfield yet?     Since I dont know anything about it, a plumber could tell me they needed a new drainfield, charge them 20K, when all they needed was a  pumpout.  Wouldnt the plumber be required to inform THE CITY if they needed a new drainfield and then they would be stuck trying to pay 20K?  (Now they live in the CITY LIMITS)

Just trying to help my parents avoid any scams and get stuck with some bills they would have trouble paying.

Hey Rob,
I believe all you need to do us pump out their tank and all should be well.  I am not an expert on septic tanks but I do own one and for 16 years have just had to pump it out once and that was after I moved in, so it is due again but not until I start getting that gurgling in my tub, LOL!  That is what started 1 month after I moved in and to my knowledge the previous owners had never pumped it out in the 20 years that they lived here so lets not jump to having to replace the drain lines and just get the system pumped out, it should run anywhere from $150-$250.  I would also think about using an additive though there are those who think they are not necessary, I do use them every now and then just to help keep my drain lines clear but even I am questioning their use after reading these articles, LOL.

Good Luck and Happy Holidays,

Plumbing in the Home

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I have worked in Electrical Engineering for 30 years in power distribution and am now a Senior Electrical & Instrumentation Designer, but I am a handy homeowner more than anything else and have a lot of skills when it comes to home repairs. Bathroom remodeling, flooring, painting, reconditioning old wood items, plumbing, car repairs and troubleshooting most problems. I think of myself more of a teacher than someone that is going to tell you exactly what you have to do, but I will share as much info as I have to help get your problem fixed, so if you are not interested in learning then don't ask me a question or rate me if you don't like my answers. To me, it is all about the journey so lets share the trail for a short ride and see where it takes us! I also want to give thanks to both my Mom, who has passed and my Dad, who raised us with the "Can Do" attitude and instowed such confidence in not only my life but everyone that ever came in contact with them. You can do anything that you set our minds too if only you can break it down into pieces and just tackle one piece at a time, for the rest will fall into place.


My greatest accomplishment was finishing my first bathroom upgrades in my first home which helped me to sell my home is less than 3 days by myself with a For Sale By Owner sign and no more. Plus I got $10,000 more for it in just 4 years of owning it, now that is great equity.

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Nursing School, 1 1/2 years of a 2 year RN program, 1976 US Army, Intelligence School, Image Interpreter, 1977 Thomas Nelson Community College, Mechanical Drafting, 1980 Newport News Shipbuilding, Designer Training Program, 1981 School Of Hard Knocks

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Honorable Discharge from US ARMY, Certificate of Achievement for Graduating with Honor's from Military Intelligence School, Ft Huachuca AZ. Award from Planning Research Corporation for a Job Well Done, NASA/Langley. Hand Selected to be an Internal Auditor for an ISO 9000 Certification Program for one of my longest employers, Lockwood Greene, ATL, GA. Multiple Letters of Appreciation.

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