Lost Your Septic Tank? Here's How to Find It

by Michael Franco
Critical case for a septic sewer line repair. Technician notes: exterior backup in main. Opened outside cleanout, snaked to 55' with multiple cutters, could to advance, pulled back clay. Tracked, marked, photos taken. Could not clear.

Septic tanks are an important part of a home's plumbing system, responsible for holding and processing wastewater before it is released into the environment.

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While these tanks are typically installed underground and out of sight, they still require regular maintenance and upkeep to ensure they are functioning properly. And to do that, you’ll need to be able to tell the inspection or pumping professionals where to find your tank.

6 Ways to Find Your Septic Tank

If you’re a homeowner and need to find your septic tank, here are a few different methods you can try:

Consult Your Records

If you are unsure of the location of your septic tank, one of the first things you should do is consult your records. These records may include information about the location of the tank, as well as any maintenance or repair records that may provide clues about where it is located. You may also be able to find information about your septic tank by contacting the local health department or environmental services department in your area.

If your septic system isn't indicated on the plans, you can still get a general idea of where it is by following your main waste line out of the house. Do this by looking for the large drainpipe in your basement or crawl space and then follow it outside. Because these pipes usually run straight, your septic tank should lie somewhere along this line.

Look For Clues

In some cases, you may be able to locate your septic tank simply by looking for a visual clue. Septic tanks are typically buried in the ground, but they are often marked with a visible indicator such as a manhole cover, vent pipe or inspection port. These indicators are usually located near the tank and can be easily spotted if you know what you're looking for. Look for any pipes or vents protruding from the ground, or any unexplained depressions or mounds in your yard.

Also, if you notice that a particular area of your yard has extra-green or extra-high grass, that could mean that it is getting extra fertilizer from your septic field. This really shouldn’t be the case with a properly operating system, but it can offer a clue as to where your tank might be located. Alternatively, if there is an area of your yard where it is difficult to grow trees or shrubs, this could be an indication of your tank's location, as plants with deep roots won't be able to take hold if they are hitting the tank or its lid.

Use a Metal Detector

If you are having difficulty finding your septic tank by sight, you may want to try using a metal detector. Metal detectors can help you locate the metal lid or other metal components of the septic tank buried underground. This method may be particularly useful if your septic tank is located in a heavily vegetated or densely wooded area where visual cues are hard to come by.

Use A Probe

If your yard isn't too big, or you have a general sense of where your septic tank should be, you can use a metal probe to try to find it. This is nothing more than a long, thin, metal rod that you jab into the ground at regular intervals. When the rod hits something solid, you can poke a few more areas nearby to make sure you've found your tank and not a rock. It's a bit like playing a game of Battleship, but it can be an effective solution. Your probe should be at least 4 feet long.

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Hire a Professional

If all else fails, or if you are unable to locate your septic tank on your own, it may be time to call in a professional. A septic tank professional can help you locate your tank using specialized tools and techniques, such as ground-penetrating radar, or by inspecting the interior of your home's plumbing system.

Pros also have sensors that can be simply flushed down your toilet. Once they work through your pipes and get deposited in the septic tank, a special electronic locating tool can find them–and your tank.

While this option may be more expensive than other methods, it can save you time and frustration in the long run.

Check Your Plumbing Plans

Finally, if you are building a new home or are planning to add an addition to your existing home, it's a good time to check your plumbing plans. Your building plans should include information about the location of your septic tank, as well as any other plumbing fixtures or pipes that are connected to it. If you don't see the tank located on the plans, this is a good time to put the work in to find it.

Locating your septic tank is an important part of maintaining your home's plumbing system. While it can be a challenging task, there are more than a few different methods you can try to help you find it. Once you have located your tank, be sure to keep up with regular maintenance and inspections to ensure that it is functioning properly and to avoid any costly repairs or environmental hazards.

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