Knowing the location of your septic tank is crucial for proper maintenance and servicing. However, septic tanks are often buried underground, making them difficult to find. This article provides a comprehensive guide on how homeowners can locate their septic tank.
Why Locate the Septic Tank?
There are several important reasons you’ll want to find the septic tank on your property:
- Conduct periodic pumping and inspections.
- Diagnose issues like backups or clogs.
- Avoid damage when digging or driving over the area.
- Mark the location for easy access in the future.
- Add risers and access ports for maintenance.
- Identify the drain field layout.
Without knowing the tank location, repairs and service can be extremely difficult. Pinpointing its exact position makes a world of difference.
Signs a Septic Tank is Nearby
Start by inspecting your yard for signs a septic tank may be buried nearby:
- A mound or dip in the landscape indicating a large buried object.
- Patchy grass or areas where plants won’t grow due to lack of topsoil over the tank.
- Very lush, green grass fertilized by excess wastewater from an overloaded tank.
- Standing water or soggy areas from a full tank.
- Powerful sewage odors coming from the ground.
Tools to Help Locate the Tank
Useful tools to have on hand when trying to locate your buried septic tank:
- Metal probe or rebar – For probing soil to locate the tank edges.
- Shovel – For carefully excavating once tank edges are located.
- Metal detector – To scan for tank material underground.
- Maps/records – Any diagrams showing original tank location.
Step-by-Step Guide to Locating the Tank
Follow these steps to pinpoint the exact location of your septic tank:
1. Check Property Records
- Review any permit records, inspection reports, or blueprints related to the original septic installation.
- These should indicate tank size, layout, and distance from the external walls of the house.
2. Follow the Sewer Line
- Locate where the 4-inch main sewer pipe exits the house.
- Follow this pipe 10-15 feet away from the house, probing the ground as you go.
- Tanks are always positioned along the sewer line path.
3. Probe the Ground
- Use a slender metal rod to probe the soil in a grid pattern around areas showing signs of a tank.
- When you hit the tank edges, mark the perimeter and clear any debris covering the lids.
4. Utilize a Metal Detector
- Scan the suspected area slowly with a quality metal detector.
- Mark all spots that give a strong continuous signal, which likely indicate the buried tank.
5. Carefully Excavate
- With the tank edges marked, carefully dig with a shovel to expose the buried access lids.
- Avoid striking the tank body with tools during excavation.
6. Check Nearby Areas
- If unable to locate the tank, expand search to areas showing signs of excess wastewater described earlier.
- Consider asking neighbors if they know the tank position.
What Septic Tank Lids Look Like
Once located, you’ll find either concrete or plastic access lids:
Concrete lids – Heavy, durable covers needing special tools for removal. Rectangular shape.
Plastic lids – Lightweight, removable by hand. Usually green or black and about 2 ft across.
Tanks typically have 2-3 lids over inlets, outlets, and inspection ports.
Locating the Drain Field
Finding the septic tank provides a reference point to locate the drain field:
Drain fields connect to the septic tank outlet to distribute effluent underground.
Pipes usually run perpendicular to the tank in trenches, downhill.
Check permit records for drain field maps.
Use flags or dyes to trace piping.
Hiring a ProfessionalLocator
For tanks that can’t be found through self-inspection, hire a professional locator service. Specialized tools contractors use include:
Powerful metal detectors designed specifically for buried septic tanks.
Electronic pipe tracers that follow piping from the house stub out.
Specialized drain field mapping equipment.
High-pressure water removal for fast excavation.
Marking and Protecting the Septic Tank
Once uncovered, take steps to protect the system:
Leave lids exposed for easier future access.
Disguise lids with rocks, fake grass, or other decor.
Mark location clearly and keep free of structures and vehicles.
Add risers to bring lids closer to surface level.
Knowing exactly where your septic tank is located saves time and money when maintenance or repairs are needed. Periodically inspect the tank to ensure lids remain accessible.