Septic Inspection: To Pump or Not to Pump

The state rules say we are required to tell our clients:

Client requesting this inspection has been advised that for a complete inspection to be performed the tank needs to be pumped.

And then give them the option to opt for a pump or to decline a pump.

Tanks should be pumped on a regular basis as part of the regular house maintenance. The general rule of thumb for a system that is being used appropriately and is functioning correctly is about every 3-5 years.

We recommend that buyers’ agents ask the list agent when the tank was last pumped (and for a receipt). If it has never been pumped or they don’t remember when it was pumped or it was more than 18 to 24 months ago, we *strongly* recommend pumping the tank during the inspection.

NOTE: Tank should NOT be pumped before inspection. Best practice is to have the company doing the inspection do the pump – that lets the inspector see how its working with stuff in it and then to see how it looks empty.

That being said there are pros and cons to pumping or not pumping and times when pumping may not be appropriate.

To Pump – Recommended Choice


  • It gives the inspector the best view of the tank (see “Note” above).
  • You know when it was done.
We probably wouldn’t have been able to see this
if the tank was not pumped during the inspection.


  • Adds to cost
  • The current homeowner should be doing it regularly as part of regular maintenance.
  • If you don’t buy the house, you’ve spent money on something that may or may not benefit you.

Not to Pump

Usually, this option is chosen if the tank has been pumped in the last 12 to 18 months (or if the buyer is leaning towards not buy the house).


  • Less expensive up front. (See below)
  • May be easier to schedule.
  • Can ask the seller to pump it before closing or buyer can have it pumped after they are the owners


  • If tank is overly full, the inspector may not be able to do a complete inspection (for instance: we may not be able to camera the lines or check tank condition).
    • If this is the case, we will do the report to the best of our ability and note that the tank needs to be pumped and note which items could not be inspected. (No discount or refund will be given.)
  • Could be extra costs if pumped later.
    • For example: our inspection includes digging up to 3ft deep for the lids. A stand alone pump includes digging up to about 1 ft deep for the lids and for 1 to 3 ft deep there is an extra charge.
This tank is too full – we can’t camera the line out and the contents are pretty thick so its going to limit the inspection of the tank condition.
Could probably inspect without pumping – we have
access for the camera and the contents are relatively clear – BUT we would probably not be able to see something like the first picture which is why Pumping during the inspection is highly recommended.

We often get asked “can’t we decided once the tank is open?” The simple answer is not always – if a septic inspection is ordered without a pump, the pump trucks may be booked on other jobs and not available.