Looking Under the Surface -- Can You Dig It!

Home Inspector with King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. Home Inspector Lic #207

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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Steven L. Smith

If you enjoy nostalgia and music of yesteryear, click on Elvis' gold record to visit This Day In History. To explore The Stories Behind The Music blog posts click on the electric guitar. 








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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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