How Profitable Is Septic Tank Cleaning Business? (Question)

A septic tank cleaning company or a septic tank pumping business makes money by charging customers to clean and maintain their septic systems. Depending on local competition and market demand, some septic businesses may struggle to make a 5-percent profit margin, while others easily maintain a 20-percent margin.

  • A well-run septic tank cleaning and pumping business can grow into a highly profitable venture. A skilled entrepreneur who understands the industry can experience robust growth if they are efficient and organized. There is always a need for septic tank maintenance, repair and cleaning services.

How much does it cost to clean a leach field?

Leach field 1 rejuvenation costs between $1,500 and $5,000. This method is used to clean leach fields that have become clogged or soaked with wastewater and solid waste.

How long does it take to clean a septic tank?

A septic tank between 1,000 – 1,250 gallons in size generally takes around 20-30 minutes to empty. A larger tank (1,500 – 2,000 gallons) will take about twice as long, between 45-60 minutes.

How often should you clean out a 1000 gallon septic tank?

For example, a 1,000 gallon septic tank, which is used by two people, should be pumped every 5.9 years. If there are eight people using a 1,000-gallon septic tank, it should be pumped every year.

How much does it cost to pump a septic tank?

How much does it cost to pump out a septic tank? The average cost is $300, but can run up to $500, depending on your location. The tank should be pumped out every three to five years.

How deep is a leach field?

A standard leach line is considered to be three (3) feet wide and three (3) feet deep with a length as required.

What happens if you never pump your septic tank?

What Are the Consequences of Not Pumping Your Tank? If the tank is not pumped, the solids will build up in the tank and the holding capacity of the tank will be diminished. Eventually, the solids will reach the pipe that feeds into the drain field, causing a clog. Waste water backing up into the house.

How long do septic systems last?

Septic systems can last for 15-40 years and the lifespan depends on various factors, including those mentioned above. Does your Sand Filter Septic System need servicing? Let our septic system experts help you.

How often should a septic tank be drained?

Household septic tanks are typically pumped every three to five years. Alternative systems with electrical float switches, pumps, or mechanical components should be inspected more often, generally once a year.

How much does it cost to pump a 1000 gallon septic tank?

The typical costs for septic pumping are as follows: National average cost for a septic tank pump out: $295-$610. Up to 750-gallon tank: $175-$300. Up to 1,000-gallon tank: $225 -$400.

Can I shower if my septic tank is full?

Only the water would get out into the leach field in a proper system unless you run too much water too fast. The thing to do is to run your shower water outside into it’s own drain area, but it may not be allowed where you are. Used to be called gray water system.

How do you know if septic tank is full?

Here are some of the most common warning signs that you have a full septic tank:

  1. Your Drains Are Taking Forever.
  2. Standing Water Over Your Septic Tank.
  3. Bad Smells Coming From Your Yard.
  4. You Hear Gurgling Water.
  5. You Have A Sewage Backup.
  6. How often should you empty your septic tank?

Should a septic tank be full of water?

A septic tank should always be “filled” to its normal liquid level, or the bottom of the outlet pipe which carries effluent to the absorption area. If the tank is overfull, this is usually a sign of problems with the absorption area.

Do septic tanks have two lids?

Locate The Lid A septic tank installed before 1975 will have a single 24-inch concrete lid in the center of the rectangle. A two-compartment tank installed after 1975 will have two lids of either fiberglass or polyethylene, centered at opposite ends of the rectangle.

How to Start a Septic Tank Cleaning Service

  1. Make a schedule for your Septic Tank Cleaning Service
  2. Make your Septic Tank Cleaning Service a legal entity by incorporating it. Tax registration is required for your Septic Tank Cleaning Service. Open a business bank account and/or credit card for your company. Create an accounting system for your septic tank cleaning business. Prepare for your Septic Tank Cleaning Service by obtaining all of the necessary permits and licenses
  3. Acquire insurance for Septic Tank Cleaning Services
  4. Decide on a name for your Septic Tank Cleaning Service
  5. Septic tank cleaning service websites should be developed. Install and configure your business phone system.

You have discovered the ideal business opportunity, and you are now prepared to take the next step. Start-up businesses require more than merely registering with the state to be considered a success. We’ve put together this straightforward guide to getting your septic tank cleaning service up and running. These processes will help to guarantee that your new firm is well-planned, correctly registered, and legally compliant from the start.

STEP 1: Plan your business

A well-thought-out business strategy is vital for achieving success as an entrepreneur. It will assist you in mapping out the intricacies of your company and uncovering some previously unknowns. Here are a few crucial items to think about:

  • In what amounts will the initial and continuing expenditures be incurred
  • Who is your intended audience? What is the maximum amount you may charge clients
  • What are you going to call your company?

We’ve done a lot of the legwork for you, which is a big relief.

What are the costs involved in opening a septic tank cleaning service?

We’ve done a lot of the legwork for you, which is a big help!

What are the ongoing expenses for a septic tank cleaning service?

Included in this company’s ongoing expenditures are office overhead and expenses as well as truck upkeep and fees charged by municipalities for garbage pickup and disposal services. According on where you reside, how much mileage you put on your vehicle over the year, and how much business you do, these fees might be either expensive or extremely cheap depending on your circumstances. Some businesses incur annual maintenance expenditures of up to $15,000 per vehicle, according to their records.

Who is the target market?

Customers that reside in locations that are not supplied by municipal water and sewer systems are the most preferred client kinds. Customers who are responsible for their own well and sewer system require periodic maintenance and inspections. While corporations may occasionally possess land with a septic tank, the vast majority of their customers will be individuals who live in single-family residential residences.

How does a septic tank cleaning service make money?

Customers pay for the cleaning and maintenance of their septic tanks and systems, which generates revenue for this firm. According to the size of the tank and the number of people that use it, most tanks should be cleaned every 1-3 years. As a result, organizations may offer gratis interim advice-based services on how to clean and maintain the tank and system in the interim between pumping sessions.

How much can you charge customers?

The cost of emptying a septic tank varies depending on the company, although most charge a flat or fixed rate. These costs typically range from $75 to $200, although they can go as high as $350 or $400. for bigger tanks ranging from 1,500 to 2,500 gallons

How much profit can a septic tank cleaning service make?

Profitability is extremely unpredictable in this business, and it is largely dependent on local rivalry as well as market demand. Others are able to sustain margins of 20 percent, while others struggle to achieve 5 percent profits.

How can you make your business more profitable?

By lowering your overhead costs, you may increase the profitability of your company. In this business, it is usual practice to lease pump trucks during the initial years of operation. These leasing expenses, on the other hand, accumulate over time and have the potential to reduce profit margins.

This is due to the fact that leasing a vehicle may be less expensive than purchasing a truck outright in the beginning, but it gets much more expensive as time goes on. Additionally, make every effort to use as much of your own funds as possible and avoid taking out expensive commercial loans.

What will you name your business?

Choosing the appropriate name is both vital and difficult. To get help brainstorming names for your Septic Tank Cleaning Service business, check out ourHow to Name a Businessguide, or use ourSeptic Tank Cleaning Service Name Generator to help you come up with a name. It is possible that you may desire to conduct your single proprietorship under a business name other than your own. For further information, please see ourDBAguide. When registering a company name, we recommend that you do some preliminary research on the name by verifying the following:

  • Business data from your state
  • Trademark records from the federal and state levels
  • Social media networks
  • Availability of a web domain

Secure your domain name before someone else does so that you don’t lose control of your website.

STEP 2: Form a legal entity

Individual proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation are the most prevalent forms of business structures to be found. Establishing a formal business organization, like as anLLCorporation, safeguards you from being held personally accountable in the event that your septic tank cleaning service is hounded by a lawsuit. Read our Guide on Creating Your Own Limited Liability Company. Use a Professional Service Provider Forming your LLC for YouTwo such dependable services are as follows: You may create an LLC by yourself and pay only the minimal stateLLC fees, or you can employ one of theBest LLC Servicesfor a little, extra price.

Recommended: You will need to choose a registered agent for your limited liability company.

You have the option of hiring a registered agent or acting on your own behalf.

STEP 3: Register for taxes

A number of state and federal taxes must be filed before your firm may be officially opened to the general public. In order to register for taxes, you will need to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN). It’s really simple and completely free! You may obtain your EIN for free by visiting the IRS website, sending a fax, or mailing it in. If you’d like to understand more about EINs and how they might benefit your LLC, we recommend that you read our article, What is an EIN? Learn more about what an EIN is and how to obtain one in ourWhat is an EINguide, or search up your current EIN in ourEIN lookupguide.

Small Business Taxes

A number of state and federal taxes must be filed before your business can be officially opened to the public. A tax identification number (EIN) is required in order to be registered for taxes. You will find it to be quite simple and completely free. To obtain your EIN, visit the IRS website, fax or send in a completed application form. If you would want to understand more about EINs and how they might benefit your LLC, we recommend that you read our article, What is an EIN? See ourWhat is a Social Security Numberguide for more information, or use ourEIN lookupguide to get your current Social Security number.

  • How to Form a S Corporation
  • LLC Taxes
  • Sole Proprietorship Versus Limited Liability Company
  • LLC vs Corporation
  • LLC vs S Corporation
  • How to Form a S Corporation
  • How to Form a Limited Liability Company

There are special state taxes that may be applicable to your company’s operations.

In our state sales tax guides, you can learn more about state sales taxes and franchise taxes.

STEP 4: Open a business bank accountcredit card

For personal asset protection, it is critical to have company banking and credit accounts set up specifically for that purpose. It is possible that your personal assets (your home, vehicle, and other valuables) will be at danger if your business is sued if your personal accounts are combined with your business accounts. This is referred to as “piercing the corporate veil” in the world of commercial law. Additionally, understanding how to develop corporate credit may assist you in obtaining credit cards and other financing in your company’s name (rather than your own), as well as better interest rates, larger lines of credit, and other benefits.

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Open a business bank account

  • Your personal assets are separated from those of the corporation, which is required for personal asset protection
  • And It also simplifies the process of accounting and tax filing.

Recommended: Read ourBest Banks for Small Businessreview to learn about the top national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with a large number of brick-and-mortar locations, and other financial institutions.

Open net-30 accounts

When it comes to developing your company’s credit, net-30 vendors are often regarded as the best option available. When it comes to commercial credit arrangements, the term “net-30,” which is common among vendors, refers to a situation in which the firm pays the vendor within 30 days after receiving products or services. Net-30 credit terms are frequently utilized by organizations who want merchandise to be delivered fast but do not have the necessary funds on hand. Additionally, net-30 credit accounts are reported to the three main business credit agencies (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Commercial, and Equifax Business Credit) in addition to developing business ties with vendors and customers.

Get a business credit card

  • Suppliers who accept net-30 terms are often regarded as the best option for building business credit. In the business world, the term “net-30,” which is common among vendors, refers to a corporate credit agreement in which the firm pays the vendor within 30 days of receipt of products or services. When a company needs to acquire merchandise fast but does not have the necessary funds on hand, net-30 credit terms are frequently employed. Net-30 credit accounts are reported to the three main business credit agencies (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Commercial, and Equifax Business Credit) in addition to developing business ties with vendors. The purpose of this is to help firms establish business credit so that they may qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.

STEP 5: Set up business accounting

It is vital to keep track of all of your costs and sources of income in order to assess the financial success of your company overall. Maintaining precise and thorough financial records can help make your annual tax filing much easier. With our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet, you can make LLC accounting a breeze.

STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses

It is vital to keep track of all of your costs and income streams in order to assess the financial success of your company. It also makes your annual tax filing much simpler if you keep correct and complete records. LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet makes it simple to keep track of your business expenses.

StateLocal Business Licensing Requirements

To run a septic tank cleaning service, you may be required to get certain state permissions and licenses. Visit the SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits to find out more about the licensing requirements in your particular state. The vast majority of companies are obligated to collect sales tax on the goods and services they give to their customers. Our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses, will provide you with further information on how sales tax may effect your company. For information on local licenses and permissions, contact the following:

  • Consult with the clerk’s office in your town, city, or county. Take advantage of the services provided by one of the local associations mentioned in the US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Regulations

Cleaning of septic tanks When dealing with potentially hazardous chemicals, such as industrial cleansers, it is critical to refer to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) laws and general requirements for chemicals, which are as follows:

  • Chemical workers must be appropriately informed of all possible dangers while working with chemicals, according to OSHA Standard 1910.1200. Standard 1910.132 requires that all employees who deal with chemicals be equipped with the proper personal protective equipment, such as safety glasses, a face mask, and appropriate gloves.

Services Contract

Before beginning a new project, septic tank cleaning companies should need their customers to sign a services agreement with them. Payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership ownership should all be specified in this agreement, which should help to clarify client expectations and reduce the possibility of legal problems. Recommended: When you join up for their premium membership, Rocket Lawyer makes it simple to develop a professional service agreement for your septic tank cleaning business.

Vehicle Regulations

Businesses that travel across state boundaries for commercial purposes are obliged to register their cars with the appropriate authorities. You may see a list of state requirements by clicking here.

Class B Driver Licensing Requirements

In most states, driving licenses are awarded in groups called classes, which are based on the weight of the vehicle being driven. A Class A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is required for drivers of conventional automobiles and trucks, whereas operators of larger vehicles, such as tow trucks, require a Class B CDL in order to operate. There is more information available here.

Oversize Vehicle Permits

Some jurisdictions, such as Michigan, require enterprises to get an oversize/overweight vehicle permit for such trucks, which are frequently referred to as “wreckers,” before operating them. Here is a link to further information regarding state weight load permitting:

STEP 7: Get business insurance

In the same way that licenses and permits are required for your business to operate safely and legally, insurance is also required. In the case of a covered loss, business insurance protects the financial well-being of your company’s assets. There are many different types of insurance plans that have been developed for different sorts of organizations that face a variety of hazards. In the event that you are unclear about the dangers that your company may encounter, you should start with General Liability Insurance.

Learn more about General Liability Insurance by visiting their website.

If your company will have workers, there’s a significant likelihood that your state will need you to have Workers’ Compensation Insurance coverage in place.

STEP 8: Define your brand

Your firm’s brand represents what your company stands for as well as how the general public perceives your organization. A strong brand will assist your company in standing out from the competition. If you aren’t sure how to go about designing your small business logo, have a look at our Design Guides for Beginners, where you will find useful ideas and guidance on how to create the most original logo possible for your company.

If you already have a logo, you can also use our Free QR Code Generator to incorporate it into a QR code for your business. Creating QR codes for your business cards and publications, as well as to assist raise awareness for your new website, is easy with 13 different styles to choose from!

How to promotemarket a septic tank cleaning service

Local marketing for your company may be accomplished through newspaper advertising, local television advertising, and local pay-per-click advertising. Think about sending out direct mail to local people or displaying flyers in neighborhood bulletin boards to reach out to them directly.

How to keep customers coming back

Because this business has long focused on price reduction and commoditization of the service, you may distinguish your organization by creating a higher standard than your competitors and exceeding their expectations. Make certain that the telephone is answered by someone who is nice, helpful, and patient, for example. Show up on time for projects, always follow your quotations, and go above and above to deliver more value than you initially promised. Continue to be undecided about the type of business you want to start?

STEP 9: Create your business website

Following the definition of your brand and the creation of your logo, the next stage is to design a website for your company. While having a website is a necessary step, some people may be concerned that they will be unable to complete it due to a lack of website-building knowledge. However, although this may have been a fair concern in 2015, online technology has made significant strides in recent years, making the lives of small company owners much easier in the process. The following are the primary reasons why you should not put off the development of your website:

  • All respectable companies, without exception, have websites. When it comes to establishing your business online, it makes no difference what size or sector you are in. Social media accounts, such as Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles, are not a substitute for a company website that you own and maintain yourself. Website builder programs, such as theGoDaddy Website Builder, have made the process of constructing a basic website rather straightforward. You do not need to engage a web developer or designer in order to construct a website that you can be proud of
  • Instead, follow these steps.

It should take you no more than 2-3 hours to finish the procedure using our website building guidelines. WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify are some of the other prominent website builders.

STEP 10: Set up your business phone system

Getting a business phone system set up is one of the most effective methods to keep your personal and professional lives distinct and private. That is not the only advantage; it also assists you in automating your organization, giving your company respectability, and making it simpler for potential consumers to locate and contact you. Entrepreneurs who wish to set up a company phone system can choose from a wide range of services offered to them. We’ve looked at the leading firms and given them ratings based on their pricing, features, and simplicity of use.

Service for Business Phones that is recommended: Our best pick for small business phone numbers is Nextiva, which we recommend because of the extensive set of functions it provides and the reasonable cost it gives.

Buy a Septic Business & Make $3m ARR

Who would have anticipated that the septic industry would be so successful? Dan Spracklin was interviewed by Acquiring Minds about Gray Brothers, a sewage pumping firm that he and his wife purchased from her father, who was retiring. Gray Brothers had been in operation for 80 years when Dan purchased the company in 2013. During the Great Depression, the Gray Brothers truck It was generating around $1 million in income every year while under the control of Dan’s father-in-law. Dan was completely inexperienced with septic pumping.

Dan built Gray Brothers to $3 million in yearly revenue in just two years after acquiring the company, and increased margins from 10-15 percent to more than 30 percent at that time.

It’s a fantastic victory that has prompted us to consider purchasing a septic pumping firm. We enquired of Dan about all of the alternatives. Here are the four most important things we discovered.

How to 3x Revenue and Margins

No one could have predicted how successful the septic industry would be. When Dan Spracklin and his wife purchased Gray Brothers Septic Pumping Company upon her father’s retirement, they spoke with Acquiring Minds about their experience. The Gray Brothers company had been in operation for 80 years before Dan purchased it in 2013. During the Great Depression, Gray Brothers truck It was generating around $1 million in revenue each year while it was owned by Dan’s father-in-law. Dan was completely inexperienced with sewage pumping and cleaning operations.

Dan built Gray Brothers to $3 million in yearly revenue in just two years after acquiring the company, and increased margins from 10-15 percent to more than 30 percent during that period.

‘What are the possibilities?’ we questioned Dan.

Don’t Start a Septic Business — Buy One

Despite the fact that Dan has been quite successful with Gray Brothers, he advises against establishing a sewage pumping firm from the ground up. “It’s a business that relies heavily on assets,” Dan explains. “That’s the major stumbling block. You have no choice but to purchase this $200,000 automobile. Alternatively, you may purchase a used vehicle for $75,000, but you will have to invest an additional $25-30 thousand dollars in maintenance.” Then there’s the matter of the competition. “Your business isn’t generating any revenue.

  1. To succeed, you must first get clients.
  2. “It’s a terrific lifestyle business,” says the entrepreneur.
  3. And you’ll be able to keep doing it for the next 40 years.” In such case, the chance is to buy out one of those property owners – if you can locate them.
  4. They range in size, but the great majority are mom-and-pop shops with annual revenues between $1 and $2 million dollars.
  5. As a result, the market is competitive.
  6. Why not retain it for a few more years until you reach the age of 65 and then sell it?

“If you’re a young couple that comes in and replaces this mom and pop business and says, ‘we want to take your brand and heritage forward,’ that demonstrates that you have the ability to convince them to sell.” Gray Brothers is still in business today.

You Don’t Need Septic Experience

“The first time I ever saw a septic tank was the day I started working for the firm as the new owner,” Dan recalls fondly. As a result, his lack of prior industry knowledge was not a hindrance. Having said that, a background in trucking or logistics would provide an acquirer with transferrable abilities. Because, at its heart, a septic pumping firm is nothing more than a specialty transportation company. “However, if you don’t know what you’re doing, everything is going to go apart on day one, especially if it’s a mature firm,” Dan explains.

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ProsCons of the Septic Business

As Dan explains, “the first time I saw a septic tank was the day I began working for the firm as the new owner.” He was able to succeed despite his lack of prior industry expertise. In any case, acquiring transferrable skills from a transportation or logistics background would be beneficial. To be sure, the business of septic pumping is fundamentally that of a specialty transportation firm. “If you don’t understand it, nothing is going to work on day one, especially if it is an established business,” Dan states emphatically.


  • Owners make a good living. We’ve already covered this, but it’s worth repeating: as the owner of a septic pumping firm, you can earn a very healthy six figures. You’ll also have a high percentage of client retention as well. “We’re pretty sticky in the septic sector,” says the author. Even when a client sells their home, the new owner frequently inquires of the seller as to which septic business they employ, ensuring that the septic firm retains that property as a customer. Upstarts are kept at bay by high entrance barriers. Again, as previously said, septic pumping trucks are expensive, which serves as a wonderful deterrent for incumbents
  • They are also not seasonal. “Poop is something that people do. And they will continue to defecate regardless of the circumstances.”
  • Recession evidence. No matter if you’re anxious about making your automobile payment, I don’t care. If you have crap spilling out on your lawn, you’re going to have to pay to have that shit removed off your grass.”


  • Having to deal with feces. Let us begin with the most obvious. Dan, on the other hand, points out that, as the proprietor, he is not personally responsible for the pumping. His work is primarily confined to an office environment. Despite this, some people will be put off by the primary service provided by this company. (There will be more opportunities for those who don’t mind it!)
  • It’s unpredictably and reactively unpredictable from day to day. A significant portion of the company’s revenue is devoted to responding to client emergencies, such as a septic tank that has failed and the unpleasant stuff pouring in a basement or yard. As a result, you’re always reacting to frightened client calls, making it difficult to plan your day ahead of time. “No matter how well you plan things out, every day is a little different,” says the author.
  • Drivers are difficult to come by. In the trucking industry, Dan estimates that there is a scarcity of around 600,000 positions at the moment. “As you drive through Philadelphia, you’ll notice that every business that conducts any type of shipping or trucking has a sign out front that says: Hiring.” Organic growth has a maximum rate of expansion. The quick expansion of Gray Brothers has been spectacular
  • Yet, Dan has reached the limit of what he can accomplish internally. In order to go much further, we would have to make acquisitions and essentially purchase additional consumers while also buying out the competitors.”

How to Reach Dan

Dan Spracklin may be found on Twitter under the handle @DanSpracklin.

Pumping Up Profits

According to an old proverb, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” Growing a business in a weak economy is difficult, and onsite installers confront the additional challenge of a sluggish residential construction market. In such circumstances, the majority of company experts would advise owners to adhere to their core competencies. For installers, a shift into septic tank pumping opens up the possibility of further advancement within their core field of competence. While contractors acknowledge that pumping is not a high-profit-margin business, they maintain that it is nonetheless appealing in a variety of ways, primary among them as a reliable source of money and another opportunity to attract clients for installations and repairs.

Ed’s Advanced Septic in Grants Pass, Ore., a swift boost: “Within the first 18 months, our installation and fixing has increased by 20%.” Since acquiring a vacuum truck in 2011, the firm has seen an increase in income of around 5%, owing to the two or three pumpouts performed per day.

The service we give recommends work back to us, which helps to keep our excavators occupied.

Capital expenditures, the needs of emergency calls, the necessity for trained workers, as well as the difficulty of establishing a client base, are all factors to consider.

Business builder

According to Brian Miller, owner of Brian’s Septic Service in Tallahassee, Fla., a third-generation installation and pumping firm, “even when things are sluggish, there is always pumping.” Pumping of septic tanks and grease traps for restaurants now accounts for around 25% of his total sales. According to him, “the profit margin on a pumpout isn’t very high, but it pays off if you can keep yourself occupied.” Even when construction is sluggish, he views septic system pumping as a reliable business, because septic systems require regular maintenance to function properly: “I have a large number of clients that have scheduled routine maintenance.

Hobbs believes that if you’re only pumping for domestic use, “you’re not going to make a big deal of money.” It is more profitable to engage in commercial pumping.

“We were planning on waiting a bit longer, but one of the local pumpers chose to retire, and the chance presented itself.” – We were able to have the pumper up and operating in within three months.” He has discovered that around 60% of all pumping calls are for some type of repair or replacement.

The growth that occurred caught me completely by surprise.

They want you to be there with a pump truck if someone is backing up in front of them.

Kenney Lee, the owner of Metro Septic in Cartersville, Georgia, began his firm in 2005 with a single vacuum truck and a small fleet of vehicles.

During the slow season in the summer, “they’re quite active every day; three to four calls a day per truck, about half that during the slow season.” He expanded his firm last year to include septic installation and maintenance, and he now wishes he had done so from the beginning rather than subcontracting out the work to others.

  • You lose control over the quality of the job if it is not completed in-house, says a company executive.
  • “It’s fun to be the guy that gets called in for whatever is going on,” Lee adds.
  • ” If there is a problem with the drainfield, we will take care of it.
  • Pumping is the first line of defense.
  • This keeps his firm active and helps to maintain a consistent cash flow throughout the year.
  • “It was like a light went on in my head.” Harris has also had a similar experience: During the wet winter season, his pumping labor is at its best.
  • “Generally speaking, we don’t make repairs in the midst of the winter; we do them in the summer.” “Business did not slow down in the least over the winter of last year.” Lee has also discovered that grease trap pumping can help to fill up the gaps in the workload.
  • He is certain that the money will be there, but he can do such things during slower periods.
  • He can shift grease traps about and still keep customers in compliance by scheduling them a few weeks before they’re supposed to be replaced.

“If you’re preoccupied with anything else, you may postpone it for a while. It’s okay to move things up in the timetable if you don’t have anything else to do.”

Meeting challenges

Of course, expanding into the pumping industry will not be without its challenges. The cost of capital is the most important decision element. Contractors recommend that you start by looking at old equipment. Pumper magazine classifieds offered a nice assortment of secondhand vehicles at reasonable costs, which Miller was able to find. “I started with one old, used vehicle that I retained for a few years,” he explains. “It was a good learning experience.” “When things started to look up, I traded it in for a fresh new one.

  1. Harris began with a part-time pumping employee, who has since been promoted to full-time status.
  2. “Until the word gets out about the vehicle, you’re not going to see a significant increase in income,” Harris adds.
  3. That’s going to bring in a lot more business.” Installers must also consider running expenses, which include tipping fees and gasoline, both of which have been increasing in recent years.
  4. “It has had a significant impact on our profitability.” We were unable to pass on such a large portion of the expense; we were forced to bear the majority of it.
  5. Land application of septage can be a viable option, albeit it involves knowledge of and adherence to rules, and it is impracticable or prohibited in some locations due to regulations.
  6. “Finding a place to live within a reasonable driving distance of where you work is one of the major challenges,” he adds.
  7. In addition to these concerns, there is a pressing demand for expert assistance.

According to Hobbs, this can narrow the pool of potential candidates: Many people might prefer not to dwell in areas where CDL limitations apply.

They must have a professional look, a charming demeanor, and the ability to relate to clients, the majority of whom are female.

If there’s a problem and they know what they’re doing and how to repair it, you’ll profit from their knowledge and experience.

Customer education is essential, and you must lead clients by the hand.” If the vacuum truck operator is not skilled and certified in septic system repair, the firm will be unable to provide immediate assistance to consumers.

Truck drivers are the most apparent source of prospective vacuum truck operators, but most do not have any expertise of septic systems and would need to obtain a license or certification in order to operate a vacuum truck.

Furthermore, according to Hobbs, pumping is still considered a low-skill profession, which implies that wage levels may be insufficient to attract experienced truck drivers.

Taking the leap

In response to the fundamental question of whether or not to take on pumping, Miller says, “Yes, certainly.” “If you’re only involved in one area of the business and not the other, you’re missing out,” Lee continues. If you’re currently working in the installation industry and don’t believe you have opportunity to expand, there is a whole distinct section you may join. There is money to be made in this venture. The cost of putting one vehicle on the road to take care of your clients is not prohibitively expensive.

Is The Wastewater Industry Right For You?

On the subject of whether or not to take on pumping, Miller says emphatically, “Yes, without hesitation.” As Lee points out, “If you’re just involved in one aspect of the business, you’re missing out on the other.” Installers who feel they have little place to progress might branch out into a completely different section, which is entirely unrelated from their current job. The potential for profit exists. The cost of putting one vehicle on the road to take care of your consumers is not prohibitive.” Harris cautions that “this might explode into something bigger and bigger,” which is exactly what is occurring in our situation right now.


I am a single father of three children living in California, and I want to provide a better life for them as well as for myself. I have almost 20 years of experience in the underground utility sector, and I have installed around 100 septic systems and grease traps, as well as associated leachfields, distribution boxes, and other related infrastructure. As a result, I have some practical experience in this subject. Could you please advise me on the most effective approach to get my feet wet and begin earning money in the septic business?

See also:  How Much Is It To Have My Septic Tank Pumped? (Perfect answer)

I intend to build a website and place advertising signs in rural regions where septic systems are common in my area, where I hope to attract more customers.

What is the greatest place for me to put my startup capital?


You should be commended for your efforts to improve yourself for the benefit of you and your family. What much of funds do you intend to invest in the outset? Insurance, licenses, equipping truck, and other expenses will add up to $50,000 for a decent used pump truck. It adds up quickly. As for whether or not to begin with a large vehicle, that is entirely up to you and your financial situation. I was in charge of a 3,400-gallon vehicle. The purchase of a 5,000-gallon truck will take place during the next two to three months.

  1. Getting the job is a another thing entirely.
  2. The majority of it is done online.
  3. On average, I receive two to three phone calls every week from it.
  4. The dumping cost I post is the lowest of any other businessman with whom I have spoken in the past.
  5. Grease costs $60 per 1,000 litres in my neighborhood.
  6. Following your discovery of these facts, figure out how many tanks you must pump every week in order to meet your expenses, which includes paying yourself.
  7. Three years ago, I started from the ground up with my company.

My rivals charge less, but in my opinion, they are working for nothing since they are not being compensated.

It simply does not make sense to me to work five tanks a day for no compensation.

Will your dump charge you according to the size of the tank or according to what you really have in the tank?

According to what I’ve read, California has a plethora of laws and regulations.

Is it true that they only accept specific sorts of waste?

If I were you, I wouldn’t blow all of your savings on a pump truck.

Additionally, the phone will most likely not ring off the hook during the initial stages of the business, so you will want some buffer.

Check to see that the tank is still sturdy and that the baffles are still in good condition.

Also, make certain that your truck is properly painted.

Make certain that they will treat your consumer in the same manner as you would.

The importance of branding cannot be overstated.

If you intend to use your truck in the field, you should paint it to match.

Keep harsh phrases to private jokes between you and your friends, as well.

A derogatory slogan painted on your truck gives the impression that you don’t care.

There is a good chance that you may meet a mentor who will be able to assist you when you have questions.

You must become as knowledgeable as possible about all of the systems that you will be maintaining, not only mechanical systems but also biological systems.

I would recommend a vehicle with a fuel capacity of 3,500 gallons or more.

If you live in a state where an onboard water supply is not necessary, you should carefully consider installing one.

◆◆◆ An unwavering determination to succeed is required!

In order to succeed in this industry, you must be able to walk up to a person’s door unsolicited, knock on the door and introduce yourself and your product or service.

You must also be able to ask them for their business. A true go-getter might expect to earn six figures within a few years, and that is being kind.

Lessons From a Mentor Turn Into Pumping Profits

Erickson TankPump’s Shawn Carlton is pictured with his wife Trisha and son Cooper in front of their most recent truck, a 2016 Kenworth that is hauling a 4,000-gallon tank and Masport pump from Erickson TankPump. (Photos courtesy of Alex Garland)

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Get articles, news, and videos about Onsite Systems delivered directly to your email! Now is the time to sign up. Plus, there are Onsite Systems. Receive Notifications Making the transition from an established and profitable pumping firm to the next level can be a difficult task, especially for someone who is new to the wastewater sector. Shawn Carlton, owner of McNel Septic in Ravensdale, Washington, has done exactly that by putting a strong emphasis on customer service and education — as well as introducing a new speciality in septic system inspections — to his business.

  1. This growth is mostly due to the addition of inspection services.
  2. The new truck will allow Carlton to better serve its clients by increasing the daily wastewater capacity available to them.
  3. According to Carlton, “After I took over, Vernell rode with me for around six months.” His briefing on truck operation and tank location served as a refresher course for me.
  4. Those sessions also provide operators with an opportunity to pick one other’s brains and assist each other in dealing with business issues, according to him.


With his father, Ken, who handles the majority of service calls, and his mother, Robin, who operates the office and handles bookings, billing and other administrative chores, Carlton leads the firm at the age of 32. Ken is the driving force behind the company. After graduating from high school, Carlton went to work in the construction industry, specializing in underground utility installation. “I’ve always enjoyed dealing with machinery,” he explains. From being a ‘grunt’ to becoming a foreman, it was a long and winding road.

  1. and I was also not in the financial position I desired.” As of that time, Ken Carlton expressed an opinion to his son that working in the septic service market would be a lucrative endeavor.
  2. Septic tank pumping is an important service that every homeowner will want at some point in their lives.
  3. “I was attracted to the business because I wanted to be my own boss and because it is a somewhat recession-proof sector,” Shawn Carlton remembers.
  4. Many causes led to McNel’s expansion, some of which were little and others which were major, but all of them were geared at making things more easy for consumers.
  5. Carlton also mentions the company’s reminder program, which is as follows: Once a month, the company sends postcards to clients who are due for a pumping service.

Furthermore, people are grateful that you are thinking about them.” In addition, the firm serves consumers through a low-cost but very successful marketing campaign: little stickers that feature the McNel name and phone number, as well as a blank place for the customer to write down the date of the most recent tank pumping service.

“It’s remarkable how something as simple as a sticker can have such a significant impact on our organization.” A significant contribution to growth, according to Carlton, has been the company’s website, which has seen an increase in the number of clients who prefer to use the internet rather than phone books.


Although Carlton’s choice to become a certified inspector three years ago was a significant element in the company’s expansion, it was not the only one. There were two main reasons behind this. The first benefit was that it made life simpler for consumers — in this example, real estate brokers who like the simplicity of arranging both a tank pumping and an inspection with an one phone call. Second, Carlton understood that by directing inspections to other organizations, he was really throwing away money.

  • The more I observed how it was done, the more certain I became that I could do it myself.
  • For this reason, Ken Carlton now handles the majority of the pumping calls while his son is in charge of inspections.
  • “The company’s earnings grew significantly as a result of the inspections,” he says.
  • “Our service region has an excellent school system, so people want to move here,” he continues.
  • “It’s a true blessing in disguise.” There is a comprehensive list of duties that must be completed at the time-of-sale inspection, such as locating and digging up the lid, inspecting the tank and its components, and pumping out the tank (if needed).
  • “Every now and then, I’ll use tracer dye to detect whether there’s any effluent that’s escaping,” he says.
  • He discusses the dos and don’ts of septic systems and is happy to answer inquiries over the phone.
  • Owners who understand how to maintain their systems are less likely to overlook their tanks the next time they go out to pump them.
  • “It may mean spending an additional 20 minutes every customer, which adds up over the course of a day,” he continues.

“However, you expect that it will continue to improve our reputation and promote word-of-mouth referrals.” “A little more time isn’t a huge thing if it means we’ll receive more business in the future.”


The company’s inventory of equipment rose in tandem with the company’s growth. In addition to the 2016 Kenworth vacuum truck, the firm also has a 1995 International 4900 with a 2,300-gallon steel tank, which was similarly fitted out by Erickson and equipped with a Masport vacuum pump. In addition, the firm has a Mitsubishi mini-excavator, a 2003 Ford F-250 truck, a Mirage Trailers dump trailer with a capacity of 6 1/2 cubic yards, and a Top Notch Trailers flatbed tilt-top trailer with a capacity of 6 1/2 cubic yards.

  1. In addition, Carlton claims to employ Orenco Systems’ ultra-rib plastic tubing and caps with a 24-inch diameter for the construction of risers, charging per the inch for his work.
  2. If future landscape modifications necessitate a taller riser, he may raise it by using adapter rings to make it taller.
  3. Customers, he claims, like it not just for the simplicity of making payments, but also for the greater security.
  4. They receive a receipt as soon as possible, as well as a handwritten invoice, and they’re set to go.” As new house development continues at a quick pace in the neighborhood, Carlton says he does not expect the McNel client base to grow exponentially in the coming years.
  5. When his parents retire in three or four years, he plans to recruit another driver as well as an office manager to help with the growing workload.
  6. According to him, “your quality control may go into the toilet.
  7. Apart from that, you tend to lose the personalized approach that a small firm allows you to offer.”


Carlton maintains that he has no regrets about changing his career path. He likes talking with clients and building connections with them, as well as addressing difficulties. “I’m still learning new things on a daily basis,” he adds.

“What I love about this industry is that nothing is ever the same. To learn about new systems that are available is always a difficult task to do. “I really like troubleshooting issues.” In addition, he has made customer service a top priority for his organization.

Embrace your frenemies

When Shawn Carlton requires guidance or is swamped with so much work that he is unable to provide timely service to his clients, he turns to an unlikely source for assistance: his competition. Carlton is in the unique position of having established and cultivated strong working connections with other septic pumpers in the surrounding region. “We’re all prepared to provide a hand and bounce ideas off of one another,” he says of the group. “We’re not too concerned about losing customers since there’s enough of work out there, and if you do a good job, your clients will call you back,” says the owner.

He also claims that while working at the local treatment plant, he met and formed connections with other pumpers.

If a larger job comes along that necessitates the use of more than one truck, such as a local school with a 20,000-gallon septic tank — and district officials who want the job completed in a matter of hours rather than over the course of several days — those contacts come in useful.

Other times, a rival may have a vehicle that is too large to service a certain customer, necessitating a referral from that competition.

Carlton points out that if he is unable to attend a job and a client need immediate assistance, it is beneficial to have someone whom he feels comfortable directing to that customer.

Dave Hudson of CLS Septics and Bill Krock of Warranty Septic are two of Carlton’s most helpful competitors, according to the plumber.

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