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How to Locate Your Septic Tank

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If you’ve recently purchased a home, finding out where the septic tank is located was probably not one of your biggest concerns in the process. With septic systems, however, problems can escalate quickly, from a slight odor outside to wastewater backing up into your home in a matter of days. Knowing where your septic tank is located allows you and your service provider to address problems quickly, and it’s also necessary for regular septic maintenance. Follow these tips to locate the septic system in your yard.

Inspect Your Property

The easiest way to locate your septic tank is to survey your property. Start by ruling out areas where the tank could not be located. For instance, a septic tank cannot be installed directly next to your home or your property line. Due to the potential for water contamination, septic systems can also not be installed near wells. You can eliminate the areas under paved surfaces like sidewalks, driveways, and patios, as well.

Most septic systems will be installed within 5 to 15 feet of your home. Scan this area looking for elevation differences. You may notice a small mound in the middle of your yard. This could be caused by a tank that was installed in a hole that was too shallow. Alternatively, you may notice a divot in the soil, or an area that appears sunken in slightly. This could indicate that a tank was installed in a hole deeper than the tank itself.

Another indication of a septic tank’s location could be the grass around it. When a septic tank begins to overflow, it may cause the grass above it to grow more quickly than the surrounding areas. In some instances, it could also cause the grass to die. Any changes could be indicative of a septic tank below.

When you’ve narrowed down the area of the tank, use a soil probe to pinpoint its exact location. Because tanks can be installed 1 to 4 feet underground, be sure your probe is longer than 4 feet. Then use a hammer to drive the probe downward toward the possible tank lid. A metal detector could also be used to locate the tank underground.

Follow the Main Sewer Line

Another way to narrow down the location of your septic tank is to use the main sewer line as your guide. In your basement or crawlspace, locate the pipe that leads to your septic system. It’s usually around 4 inches in diameter. Next, head to that location in the exterior of your home and look straight out toward your property line. If you cannot see any elevation or landscape changes to indicate a septic tank, you’ll need to use your soil probe. Start at about 5 feet away from your home and probe the soil every 2 feet, until you’ve located the tank.

Check Property Records

Because a septic tank’s location could impact nearby water sources, a permit is required to install them. This means that your city or county is likely to have a record of the tank’s installation in its property records. In fact, you may have a copy of this, as well, in the purchase documents for your home. If you have an older home, the city may not have a record because permitting was not required at the time the tank was installed.

Contact a Septic Maintenance Company

If you cannot locate the exact location of your septic tank on your own, it may be time to contact a septic maintenance professional. Chances are, the previous owner of your home had the septic tank pumped at least once, and the septic company may have records of its location on your property. While they are visiting your property, be sure to ask for an inspection, as well, so you know the state of your septic system.

What’s Next?

Once you’ve determined the location of your septic tank, it may be wise to mark the spot in some way. Permanent landmarks like landscaping should not be used, because they’ll need to be removed when access to the tank is needed. In addition, roots can grow into the tank or leach field, causing damage. Instead, consider a removable marker like a potted plant or bird bath, to help you remember where tank access can be found.

Next, be sure to set up a regular maintenance plan for your septic tank. If you’ve not yet had your septic system inspected, establish a relationship with a local service provider. Typically, your tank should be pumped every 3 to 5 years. Between pumpings, you can do other things to keep your system running effectively. A bacteria-based product, for instance, can be added to your drains or toilets monthly. The bacteria in the cleaner will fully digest waste inside, helping to maintain levels in the tank throughout the year.

Locating Your Septic Tank for Regular Maintenance

Most septic systems are installed underground, designed to be hidden from view. For regular maintenance and repairs, however, it’s important to know the exact location of your tank. One easy way to locate it is to find a small divot or hill in your yard. Insert a soil probe to verify it’s buried there. You can also use your main sewer line as a guide, or check property records for more information. Once located, conduct regular tank maintenance. Use a bacteria-based product monthly to keep your tank working efficiently, and schedule pumpings every few years, as well.

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