How to Find Your Septic Tank

05/02/2013  UPDATE

This page has been so very popular that I created a How to Find Your Septic Tank Video.  Click to Watch.

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Many times people e-mail me (usually from across the country) to ask me where their septic tank is located.

I usually respond with a helpful, “I have no idea.” Secretly, I want to say something like, “It’s just off your driveway near that bushy thing.”

But seriously, septic tanks are hard to find, even for the experts. The following are some tricks you can use to help you find your tank. After reading the following, you will surely be saying, “How clever these people at Meade Septic Design are!”

The fact is that these aren’t proprietary, nor original techniques but simply industry proven methods to find your tank.  Before you get started, a bit of caution:  An old septic tank and drywell lids can collapse and take you for an unexpected fall or perhaps worse, swim!  So, be careful!!


Know the Beast!

 

septic tank

Septic Tanks are usually about 4.5 feet wide x 8.0 feet long x 6 feet tall.

Tanks are typically buried 4 inches to 4 feet deep


Before you start your search for your yard’s favorite buried concrete block, be sure to check with past homeowners, your local health department and local pumpers. You may be surprised to learn that someone knows where it is located.

Also, call 811 to have your utilities marked, it’s free!  It is against the law to dig or probe in your own yard without first getting the utilities marked!  Also, once they are marked don’t probe or try digging up a high pressure gas line “for fun” or knowingly cut the fiber-optic cable that connects the White House with NORAD silos in North Dakota!

Tools to assist in your search get the following:

Tile Probe , Measuring Tape, Shovel (if you are ambitious) Metal Detector (Borrow or rent one – Tanks usually have iron steel rebar in the lids) and aHoagie Sandwich (finding septic tanks makes you hungry…trust me on this one). To begin, ask yourself – “Where does the sewer exit the house?” If you have an unfinished basement you are in luck! Go downstairs and look and see where all the pipes come together and go out the basement wall. Many times your tank will be 10′ – 20′ outside of your house directly in front of this pipe! If you don’t have a basement, go outside and look for your roof vent. This is a pipe that pokes up out of your roof to vent sewer gases outside. Usually, the sewer pipe to the septic tank will leave the house directly below this vent. With some luck you will be able to find your septic tank straight from this point. Sometimes the old adage, “The grass is always greener over the septic tank,” is correct. Yes, a green rectangle in your yard may indicate your tank’s location (perhaps you should have figured that out yourself.). You can probe or dig for your tank and with luck you will find it. Be aware – Everything that seems to be a septic tank may not be! You may have found one of the following instead:

    • Septic Drywell
    • Old foundation
    • Buried rubble (not to be confused with Barney Ruble)
    • Grave Vault (if you happen to live in a cemetery…creepy)

After you have unsuccessfully dug around your yard for a few hours it will be time to eat your hoagie and take a nap. Next it will be time to go rent or borrow a metal detector. If your neighbor collects Star Wars action figures or has more than three unidentifiable antennas on his roof, there is a good chance that he has a metal detector you can borrow. Hopefully the metal detector will actually help you find your septic tank and not just a bunch of old buried car parts.

Some septic pumpers have special talents (magical abilities if you will) to find tanks.  According to folklore, a local pumper named “Zarzar The Incredible” can find septic tanks by using a 30’ metal measuring tape. Reportedly, Zarzar sticks his tape down your toilet and feels for turns in the pipe.  He continues to push his tape farther and farther down your pipes through your commode (“commode” sounds sophisticated) until he “feels” your septic tank.  He then makes note of the distance reading on the tape, considers the turns he encountered, works through some advanced algebra and declares the exact location of your tank.

I recently purchased locate equipment that can be used to find septic tanks.  I would flush an electronic transmitter down your toilet (or drop it into a cleanout located outside your home) and then track with with my receiver.  Contact me to find out more 574-533-1470.

Some septic  pumpers even have a special type of video camera that can be sent down your drain. You can then have a video made of the inside of your sewer pipes!  This may not be helpful in locating your tank, but the video will surely bring you hours of quality family T.V. viewing.Related:  Visit our Septic System Care Page

Related:  Dry Well, Dosing Tank, Distribution Box

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Got septic system questions?  Email me or ask them at the Forum!