How to Find Out if My House Has a Septic Tank

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Industrial equipment won't be necessary to find a septic tank.
Industrial equipment won't be necessary to find a septic tank. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

At one time, a septic tank was the only option that homeowners had to store their “less than savory” waste. While many homes still have septic tanks on their property, more homes are becoming connected to their municipality’s sewage and septic disposal infrastructure. If you’re looking to buy a home or have just moved into a home, it is important to know whether or not your home has a septic tank. Of course, you could always wait it out and find out for yourself when your yard begins to develop a curious odor, but odds are that you won’t want to wait for that.

Things You'll Need

  • Metal detector
  • Crowbar
  • House deed

Look for a dig spot in your back yard, which can be identified by fresh dirt, discolored grass or grass that is not as fully grown as the rest of the yard. This could be where the tank lid is located. If you find nothing, move on.

Check for pipes in your basement. If your house has an unfinished basement, look for where all the thick plastic pipes converge and go through the wall. If you have one, your septic tank can be found 20 feet outside the house in the direction the pipe heads.

Scan your yard with a metal detector. While the outer shell of a septic tank often is concrete, the top cover usually is made out of some kind of steel or iron, which will be detectable by the metal detector. If you don’t own a metal detector, see if there are places near your home where you can rent one.

Slam a crowbar against your yard. While you certainly will look peculiar to your neighbors, you can find the cap of your septic tank by swinging a crowbar or other solid object (like a pipe or golf club) into the ground. You will have found something when you hit an area of the lawn that is more firm than the areas around it. If this doesn’t work, move on.

Ask questions of the previous tenants or the county health department. While the previous tenants should know if their former home has a septic tank, if they do not then your local health department should have records of whether there is a septic tank on your property.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you have blueprints to your house, they will have the location of any septic tank marked on them.

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