If you aren’t sure where your septic tank is, don’t be embarrassed. This is more common than you would think. Some people forgot to ask where their tank is located when they buy a house, and others simply forget due to time.
Whatever the reason, this article should help you figure out what you need to know.
Relying on a pro is a good idea…
If you ask most people, they’ll be quick to tell you that you should always find your septic tank yourself. They’ll tell you all about it’s an easy way to save money, and that you should remove the lid yourself while you’re at it.
Before you take this advice, you should know that there is also a very good reason to just let a pro do this job.
Trying to find an old septic tank can be very dangerous. Old tanks are prone to deterioration, and falling inside the tank is often fatal. If you are hunting for a tank that you aren’t familiar with, it makes a lot of sense to let someone experienced take the risk. At the very least, make sure you have someone to help you.
Where to look…
If you’ve decided to look for the tank yourself, there are a few things you should know that will make the process much easier.
For starters, look inside before you look outside. Most houses will have records of the septic installation. These diagrams are called “as-builts”. If you can’t find the original documentation, home inspections are another good place to check. If you’re sure you don’t have any documentation, the county or health department may.
If you’ve exhausted your options for finding a diagram, the next step is looking outside. You can make this process easier by locating your outlet pipe first. This is the pipe where your sewage exits your home. By finding this first, you’ll have a rough idea of where to start looking in your yard.
Once actually outside, your best bet is to look within 10 to 30 feet from your exterior walls. They can be closer, but never inside 5 feet. The actual location of the tank may be hidden by landscaping, making it harder to determine. If you’re lucky, there will be a noticeable hump or depression where the tank is located.
Other signs to look for are bald spots or areas where the grass is thicker and greener than it is in the rest of the yard. Bald spots are often the result of septic tank with minimal soil covering the top, while thicker grass often indicates a leak. If you notice signs of a leak, you should call a professional immediately.
Other things to think about before you look…
Not all septic systems are as straightforward as a tank and a drainfield. Some systems have separate drains and beds for their grey water. Grey water is just water that isn’t contaminated with human waste. This can include showers, laundry, and sinks.
Some properties have multiple tanks because of space or size requirements. For example, a structure spread out over a large area may require multiple tanks simply due to the logistics of running the pipes.
You should also be careful when looking because some older properties have ‘retired’ tanks that were never removed. This is a very dangerous situation that is the result of a homeowner installing a new tank and rerouting the sewage pipes without removing the originals in order to save money.
Once again, a good reason to just have a professional do the work. You’ll likely have to call them once you find them anyway, so it’s an easy way to save yourself time and keep yourself safe.
If you have any other questions, feel free to ask!