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As a homeowner, knowing what could be hidden beneath your home is just as important as what you can see on the surface. What many new property owners often don’t realize, however, is that there could be an old oil tank still buried underground, which could pose a serious hazard to the environment and their family’s safety. Take a look at just some of the dangers of hidden oil tanks and what you can do to make sure there’s not one buried underneath your home.

Tanks were often installed at least 2 feet below ground outside the house to conserve space, minimize the impact of leakage and reduce the risk of fire. The life of a buried oil tank is roughly 10 to 20 years, depending on several factors. It will eventually rust and leak.

If you’re considering buying or have recently purchased a home built prior to 1960, it’s a good idea to call in a certified home inspector to perform an oil tank sweep of the property. That way, you can know for sure whether or not there is an underground oil tank that could potentially cause you problems, headaches, and financial burdens down the road. We, at Zinc Inspections can help you identify and properly deal with such issues.


The leakage of fuel oil from a buried tank is an environmental concern. However, most inspectors at least tell their clients that they don’t comment on underground oil tanks, and many report evidence of a possible buried tank including tank fill and vent lines outside, and fuel supply and return lines inside, although this is beyond the scope of the inspection. Removal of a tank is a significant expense. It may cost tens of thousands of dollars to clean up contaminated soil.

Remove Abandoned Tanks

Homeowners converting from oil to another fuel usually have to remove the tank or have it properly abandoned, since most jurisdictions will not allow it to be just left in place. Any soil contamination needs to be cleaned up at the time of tank removal.


Oil tank fill and vent pipes that enter the ground outside rather than pass through the walls of the house may be connected to a buried tank. Pipes that pass through the walls of the house likely connect to an indoor tank, (e.g., in the basement or a crawlspace). Inside tanks can be out in the open or concealed in a closet or partitioned off.

Locate Tank

Try to find the oil tank inside the house first. Tanks are typically near the area where the fill and vent pipes go through the house wall. If the tank cannot be found in the basement, check any crawlspaces.

Follow Supply Line

If possible, follow the copper fuel supply (and return if applicable) line back from the burner. Fuel lines should be buried in or below concrete slab floors (sometimes a patched trench is noted) or embedded in mortar that fills the joint between the foundation and floor. If the fuel line goes through the wall, there may be a buried tank.

Contact Us at Zinc Inspections if you have any questions or concerns about your property:


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