unable to locate septic tank

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by savatage, Mar 29, 2014.

  1. savatage

    savatage New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Ohio
    About 1 month ago, both of my bathroom toilets began to flush very slowly, then a week after that, not at all. I had a plumber out and he said that the septic tank probably needs pumped. The problem that I have is that I do not know the location of the septic tank. The house was built in the 50's and the people that built it have long since passed. I contacted the county health dept but they said that their records only go back to the 80's. The ground has finally thawed enough to try a tile prod but after a week of that and a sore back, no luck. Does anyone have any suggestions on locating the tank?
  2. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    1,926
    Location:
    IL
    Do you have a basement? That would make it easier to see which way the pipe(s) go out through the basement wall.

    Did the snow clear from an area a little quicker than other areas? Did field mice build tunnels under the snow at some place near the house? The tank generates some heat, and these are two possible tell-tale effects.

    Is there a little mound or depression? That may be a sign left by the last cleaning.

    Can you ask the prior owners? How about a neighbor who has been there for a while.

    15 to 20 feet from the house in the right direction (back yard typical) would be a place to concentrate the probing.

    For probing in a place that does not have buried electrical wires, a thinner steel probe is better. You might try a 3-ft long drill bit (not the flexible kind) chucked into a drill to use a handle.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2014
  3. savatage

    savatage New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Ohio
    No basement, crawlspace and pipes go underground under the house. Prior owners are deceased and closest neighbors are a mile away. I asked the farmer that farms the land around the property and he doesn't know either.
  4. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,839
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Hire a better plumber. Any plumber worth his salt should be able to follow his snake with a locator. The lines are not very deep.
  5. craigpump

    craigpump Member

    Messages:
    857
    Location:
    ct
    Any good septic pumping company will have a locator.
  6. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,771
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Yeah, why take this upon yourself? Assuming that you have been there long enough that the thing needs to be pumped, the guy you call to do the pumping will be able to find the tank.

    BTW, if you wait until the toilets back up to pump the thing, you definitely risk damaging your absorption fields, which is a heck of an expensive repair. Get it on an every-coupla-years schedule and you wil be fine.

    PS I'm not persuaded by your symptoms that that is definitely the problem. Seems like a clogged main line could cause similar symptoms...
  7. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades

    Messages:
    3,815
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    You should know where your tank and lines run before calling a pump truck.

    They may not be able to reach it. Depends on the truck. They may charge to locate it.

    They will be leaving with a lot more weight, And that needs to be considered. Make sure they do not drive over your septic lines, You should know where they are located.


    You should remove the lid on the first solids tank, and have a look see.
  8. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,771
    Location:
    New York, NY
    I wasn't suggesting that they surprise the pump truck driver with the fact that they don't know where the tank is.

    What I was suggesting is that they should tell the pumper about it up front on the phone, and see what they propose.
  9. savatage

    savatage New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Ohio
    The first one on the phone said if he had to look for it, it would be very expensive and didn't act like he was interested in the job at all. Doesn't seem like anyone in this area wants to or has the knowledge to locate.
  10. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,839
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    If the OP is clueless about where the tank is then maybe they also don't know where the field is and decided to make a skating rink on top of it.
  11. savatage

    savatage New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Ohio
    Would you suggest snaking the main line before pumping the septic? I know it needs to be located but a temporary fix would be great......
  12. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,771
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Sigh. There are a lot of lazy dumbasses out there in the trades, aren't there? And the good plumbers and tradespeople -- the ones who participate here -- make comments and suggestions based on the pride they take in doing the job professionally and running a successful business. The reality out there isn't always as enlightened.

    That said, if you have a yellow pages or yp.com, pull it out and look for someone sorta-nearby who isn't Roto Rooter (or any rooter) and is either a plumber or a septic company. Also, try bbb.org. It's old-timey, but I have to tell you Terry and all my favored contractors all have A+ ratings from their local Better Business Bureau. If you have Angie's List, use it. Yelp, too, if it's in your area. You also might PM our contributor MacPlumb, as he knows great drain cleaning folks in so many areas of the country. He recommended one in my area who was awsome. It's a pain to make 10 phone calls, but you would be amazed at the differerent reponses you get from company to company. "Nah, we don't do that." "Yeah, but it would be expensive." "Of course we do that, Sir, and we'll do it at an affordable rate if you give us a chance to have your business over the long haul, and promise to tell your friends if you like our service." Some people get what it takes to run a successful business, some just want the lazy work. Helping someone out when they are frustrated and desperate is the best way to make a customer for life.

    Being able to attach a little current-deal to a snake and searching for it with a treasure-finder-type deal is a basic process most good plumbers are happy to do. It's easy and accurate.
  13. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,308
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    I don't have much recent experience with septic tanks, but in the olden days water ran downhill. Now, I know times have changed, but I really think that still hold true. That should give you some direction as to the location, but since a good septic service will have the know-how and equipment to find it, why waste your time looking for it? In other words, if you bust your butt and find it, then what? Take Wjcandee's advice and I'm sure you can find a good septic service.
  14. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    1,926
    Location:
    IL
    I agree. Some septic provider will have a good tracker. Some flush down the toilet and get picked up with a tracker. That would not be so good in this case since the toilets are not flushing right.

    Borrrow a good metal detector to see if you can pick up the re-bar in the septic tank.
  15. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades

    Messages:
    3,815
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    You can normally get a clue from where the Grass gets greener.

    I have used a poking rod to locate tanks and lines.

    You can make a poker out of a ground rod or use a 1/4 rod about 4 feet long.

    I never had much luck using a metal detector, Many tanks use wire for reinforcement, some use nothing. Some new tanks are fiberglass.


    Good Luck.
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