Looking Under the Surface -- Can You Dig It!

Home Inspector with King of the House Home Inspection, Inc

In the past I have written a number of articles about underground fuel tanks, both heating oil and gasoline tanks. Such tanks were common in older homes and, sometimes, I find homes where the tanks are still in use supplying a furnace.

The most common signs of a storage tank underground consist of seeing either the vent, or breather, pipe.

Or a fill pipe or cap.

The first photo is a vent at an underground oil tank. The next one is the fill tube and cap for an old underground gasoline tank. Another thing the inspector might see is a small diameter copper pipe entering a basement or a crawl space wall.

Since I have written about this topic before, my intent here is to show a schematic view of what these systems look like if one can only get under the soil. I have had clients who are confused by the configuration. They cannot visualize how the system is setup. I think the photo below makes it all pretty clear. That is the fill pipe at the right and the vent at the left. You can also see a fuel line entering the home.


Thanks for stopping by,

Steven L. Smith


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Theodora Wu
TJ Investments - Burien, WA

Not being able to see what is under the ground, it looks like you have to be a good detective to know what is going on.

Nov 09, 2009 07:22 AM #1
Tammy Woodin
Bellingham, WA
Sudden Valley, Washington

Do these tanks deteriorate underground? Just wondering how  to determine the condition of the tank.

Nov 09, 2009 07:32 AM #2
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Yep, buried.

Nov 09, 2009 07:42 AM #3
David Helm
Helm Home Inspections - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham, Wa. Licensed Home Insp

These tanks do deteriorate, leaking oil into the soil.  They can become a major nightmare for the homeowner since all contaminated soil has to be removed and disposed of in an ecological manner.

Nov 10, 2009 04:57 AM #4
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Steven L. Smith

Bellingham WA Home Inspector
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