did I get 'taken' on a septic repair?

Had company come out to pump tank. Had to dig down about 2' and reached outlet baffle. The baffle is concrete, and I was told it is getting soft and needs to be replaced. Was charged $1750 to replace it with a white 'poly' pipe. Was charged $195 (very reasonable, I thought) for pumping and $450 to hydrojet drain field. The $1750 seems excessive, but had nothing to compare it to, and did not want to have problem with septic failure, so had it done.
  18 answers
  • Depending on the age of the septic tank, the cement baffles can begin to corrode over time being in the wet conditions. So having to change that out seems ok to me. This is one real reason to have septic systems pumped every three years. If the baffle fails all the solids end up in the septic field and can mess that part of the system quite quickly. The cost of $1750 does seem quite high to replace a baffle within the tank. Most retrofits simply are a PVC T connected to a PVC pipe that goes out to the field system. However not knowing the real condition of the tank and what was involved to install this part it may not be that far out of line. But it does sound a bit on the high side. The pumping seems around right. Prices range from $350 to $500 depending on how full the system is and how difficult it is to open up. So the pumping cost is really a very good price. The hydro jet the field is a bit confusing. If the septic system was working as it should, there should be no reason to clean the field pipes. But depending on the type of field soil and the quality of the system and many other variables. This may have been the reason. Overall the price for everything combined It sounds OK. The baffle now that its made of plastic will never need replacement again. So this was a one time cost that you incurred.

  • Dianne D Dianne D on Jan 31, 2012
    I need a clarification about a response Our system is 15 yrs old. First maintenance pump was 8 yrs. This pumping was 7 yrs. The tech said there was so little sludge, we could get by on doing every 10 yrs. There was an accum of paper, and he suggested not using thick toilet tissue. Soil is 'Georgia red clay, which can retain a lot of water or get dry and very hard. Does the hydro jetting involve much water? We shut-off our outside water for the winter. I'm wondering where he got water to do the hydro jetting. In your State, do these companies belong to a 'trade' group? Who would that be? I'm thinking maybe I could call someone local to see if I can get a feel for this as it relates to septic conditions in the Georgia environment. Thanks for your expertise. I am just dumbfounded (and sick) that putting in this PVC pipe cost so much. (He had to do the digging anyway to do the pumping. Maybe some additional digging was needed, but....; it just makes no sense to me.

  • what did replacement involve & what was replaced - a baffle ? normally the opening isn't 2'deep but only 6" 'cause who wants to dig all the time.

  • Dianne D Dianne D on Jan 31, 2012
    I need a clarification about a response The concrete baffle was replaced with a PVC pipe (maybe in a T configuration?). Most of the labor was done with a small tractor/ditch digger equipment. They did do some shoveling also (there were 2 men working on it). It took around 3 hours to do the pumping, hydro, replace the baffle, and digging. I had expected to be charged additional for digging to do the pumping, so an extra $100 on top of the $195 is totally reasonable; but I am still "baffled" at the $1500+ baffle charge for around 2 hours' work, for 2 men, with very little in the way of material cost. I would think the majority of the equipment cost would have already been built into the 'pumping' charge. When system was pumped 7 yrs ago, there was an additional $65 charge for digging. All that work was done with a shovel.

  • Your correct on the T configuration. The cost is high to do this small amount of work. Have you contacted other septic companies in the area for prices? Many of these guys are specialty licensed by the state to work on septic systems. Costs of insurance, license, trucks, equipment labor all come into place here. But I do agree the overall cost to dig a few feet down to install a pipe into the tank with a T on one end is a bit over priced. Shop around to check. But at this point I do not know what else you can do at this point. Did they consult with you about the price before doing the work? Or did they just come in with the bill when they were done?

  • Dianne D Dianne D on Jan 31, 2012
    I have called and searched web. 2 contacts have said below $300; one has said below $500, and one web said 200-400. He did tell me the price beforehand. It was after I saw what he did that I began to question why it cost so much. I did not know what was involved when I signed off on the price. This is why I am seeking opinions, etc. Before I call the Co. back, I wanted to have more info. Little late/after-the-fact, but I can't just let this get by. If he did it to me, he will do it to others. BTW, this is a nationally-recognized company. urrrrrr! Another question, please: I did not let him put the bacteria in that he wanted to sell me for $59. I will use the stuff you flush down the toilet. Is there NO bacteria left in my tank since it was pumped out? Should I double up on the ZEP product? Thx for all of your help.

  • Do not add anything to your tank. There is quite enough stuff in the stuff that goes down the drain to do the work needed. I would suggest that you call them out on this and see how they respond. These franchise companies take advantage of people many times. Working off of their name. This is always why I suggest that home owners look for the small independent guy to have things done. Perhaps contact the main office that sells the franchise. They may side with you if one of their franchisees are ripping people off. Its worth a shot anyway.

  • Dianne D Dianne D on Jan 31, 2012
    thank you for all the info. I will keep trying to get some satisfaction from the company.

  • I dropped a email to Kevin our on site Attorney Guru and asked him to chime in on this. He may have some suggestions if something can be done and how to go about it. He may want to speak with you off site for more information. But he will let you know.

  • Dianne D Dianne D on Jan 31, 2012
    Again, thanks!

  • Dianne, first let me clearly indicate that when it comes to septic systems, I don't know much at all about how they operate, costs of repairs, etc. Second, please don't take any of my comments personally. I hope that my comments help others. Let me restate what I understand to have happened. You were having some regular maintenance performed and the company brought to your attention some additional work. Unfortunately, like many homeowners (myself included), you agreed and now you are having buyers remorse and concerned that you may have been "taken". A common occurrence, even for me. You have someone there and they tell you that you need additional work and you say "do it." Many sellers of services count on this (especially in my experience some of the deep discount coupon sellers). They have their foot in the door. Unfortunately often once you have agreed to the work, your ability to dispute the price (you have agreed to pay a fixed price or not) or whether the work was really needed is difficult. Now, let me be clear, if someone caused the damage before they brought you out and then says "your system is broken and we need to fix", that is fraud. (An example is a roofing contractor going up on your roofer to "inspect", ripping off shingles and then claiming you need a roof repair -- yes you do, because they caused it.) If they are upselling you to a service you don't need by telling you your system is worn, that is harder. Its like being sold tires or brakes when they are 50% worn but still plenty of life. The fact that a service may be "overpriced" when you agreed to it is not generally actionable but that does not mean that you cannot complain. If you did not agree to a specific price you may be able to dispute it as unreasonable based on time and materials but this will require some effort on your part for proof. Remember also that you may have rights to dispute the payment if you paid by credit card assuming that there is an underlying basis for the complaint. Georgia and Federal law also provide for a 3 day cooling off period for sales of home improvement services when those sales exceed $25 and the sales are made in your home. But there are a number of exceptions, one of which is services made as part of your request to do repairs or maintenance (although purchases beyond the maintenance or repairs may be covered). Specifically, I cannot tell you whether you were overcharged or not. Generally, there may be options to dispute (including discussing with the owner the actual charge and justification) if overcharged but whether you have truly cost-effective remedies and what the consequences may be are .

  • Dianne D Dianne D on Jan 31, 2012
    I appreciate your contribution, and agree with what you have said--with my limited knowledge of legal rights. My reason for going on Hometalk with this was to try to get some knowledge about this procedure and the cost so that I could intelligently discuss it with the business--when they return my call. I really don't have remorse about having the work done. When I approved the work and the cost, I had no idea that so little was involved. After seeing what they did is when I got troubled about how much money I had paid for what. Legal or not, something in me just says that charging someone $1700 for a service that the going rate is below $500 is wrong. I really do appreciate your input.

  • I would make a claim to the better business bureau and make the contractor justify the costs of repair.

  • Comet Comet on Jul 27, 2013
    WE had a septic that we were pretty sure we knew WHERE it was but the guy who came out INSISTED that it was NOT where we said--if it had been where HE thought it would have been off our property and under a stream! In any case we had a friend who runs and excav co come and dig where the septic guy THOUGHT it was--septic guy quoted me a HUGE price for this and excav guy charged me a very reasonable price. Then septic guy claimed that I MUST replace the ENTIRE system---well! The excav guy overheard this and told me to NOT believe any of this--if the thing had worked FINE up until we had excessive rain and just needed pumping it would prob be FINE for a good few years and the price we were given was sky high. Septic guy did NOT like this "interference" but-----we fixed a pipe that had been damaged by the digger (if septic guy had LISTENED to us there would have been no digging in that area!) ourselves and got pumped and covered up the huge trench and have had NO problems since then--and that was a few years ago now! So goes to show you---some co's are MUCH better and more honest to deal with than others. We live in the deep country and no Angies List out here! My son lives in a city and had a chain co come out to get rid of tree roots and he got the same sort of earful! Oh and septic guy tried to claim that it was ILLEGAL in our state to sell a house with a septic tank! There are NO sewers out here in Cow Country! Makes you wonder----

    • See 1 previous
    • Comet Comet on Jul 11, 2015
      @Lois Franklin Being in Texas this might not work for you --out here we get a LOT of snow and an old time trick to locate the septic is to run HOT water until you see the outline of the tank thru the snow! ---I have not had to do this but in our case we had a clue from the guy who built the house where it was. The way the land slopes off abruptly meant that if it was NOT off our land--at one time this was part of a farm--it would have been actually ABOVE ground over a stream. Or so deep that the pipes would not have been where they were found--we ended up digging the ENTIRE length of the pipes from the house wall=--where the septic co guy INSISTED the tank was (that would have been illegal) to where I SAID it was--about 30 FEET away. We replaced the cracked pipe--that THEY cracked!---ourselves and left the old pipe in there--not really interested in hauling it off! When we moved in we could still see where they had dug to pump it back then--and we had that in use--WITHOUT the "grey water"--for 16 YEARS. Our grey water goes to a "dry well" --a cracked septic tank (cheap!) filled with gravel and set in gravel to drain and filter. This takes the house grey water and the foundation drain water. Saves wear and tear on the septic--would do this on any house if we had another septic install. A LOT of what these places tell you is bunk---We sold a different house in the same area with a working septic and we were NOT forced to REPLACE it as these places will TELL you you MUST do---and as we bought this place as a foreclosure the bank was not installing a new septic! I think that the location of a septic needs to be noted on newer filings for permits--perhaps your Town has these still.

  • @Comet You are correct about some folks trying to rip people off. However if a raising water table is effecting your septic system. Its time for a new one. Many issues have happened to septic systems throughout our state. Raising water tables because of over building in neighborhood towns is the primary reason. Lots of shale in the western part of NJ turning into hard pack and no longer perking anymore. Raised beds are the norm around NJ now. Although you got a guy with a backhoe to do some digging for you that is great, however in NJ you must be licensed to touch a septic system. So even though you got your system fixed. The guy should not even have touched it. But I agree many are ripping people off making them think its some sort of magic formula that needs to be dealt with and only they have the answer. IN any case glad to know things are still going down hill sort of speak for you.

  • This is just another example to get as many references as your time permits, to find those contractors that want to make repairs to your home at a fair price and will do quality work. As far as Angie's list is concerned, I would be careful there, as I think the contractor is only as good as how much they pay AL to get their company listings higher in the "search". I was thrilled to finally become an Angie's List contractor, only to find that now it is a marketing tool to get me to spend money to have more visibility on their site. Of course, I have decided NOT to do so...

  • Angie's list is another example of ripping people off. What is their line. Contractors cannot pay to get on their list. But they will sell you listing visibility so your name comes up more then others. How honest is that?