How to Find Septic Tanks


Every septic tank will eventually become full of solid waste and need to be pumped out. Performing a pump out is critical to keeping the septic system working properly. But what can you do if you do not know where the septic tank is located? We’ll cover where to look for and how to find your septic tank. There is no magical place to put a septic tank; each property is different. There are guidelines and clues that can help you locate your home’s septic tank. First, we’ll review how to find your septic tank through records and then discuss visual clues to physically locate a septic tank.

How to Find Septic Tanks Through Records:

  1. Ask the Prior Owner of the Property. This might be the easiest way to find a septic tank. Simply call up the prior owner and say, “ Where is my septic tank?” Though the prior owner should have given you this information when selling the property, it is easy to overlook routine maintenance details. If you cannot contact the prior owner or the owner does not know the location of the septic tank, do not despair. There are plenty of other ways to locate a septic tank.
  2. Consult County Records. The county should have a copy of your property’s septic tank installation permit records on file. This file should have a diagram or map of the property with the septic tank location. Depending on when the septic tank was installed, it may or may not be on file.
  3. Call Around to the Local Septic Tank Pumping Companies. It is possible that a local company installed your septic tank. Call around and see if they have your home on file.


How to Locate Septic Tanks Yourself

Septic tanks are not exactly the most beautiful or pleasant of systems. They are installed to be nearly invisible, not visually highlighted or displayed. You will have to figure out how to find your septic tank when it is actively being hidden. One way to find the septic tank is to follow the home’s waste line to find the septic tank. Find the sewer line inside the basement where it exits the home and then go to the corresponding spot outside the home. Then simply follow the line to your septic tank.

Think about where a septic tank is likely to be located.

  • Usually 10 to 20 feet from the building.
  • For health and safety it should not be too close.
  • For construction cost, it is better to minimize digging by not placing it too far away.
  • Downhill from the home. Most plumbing takes advantage of gravity to move waste. This is not always the case as some systems use pumps.
  • Does your property have a well, stream, or other site feature that would affect the placement of a septic tank? Septic tank cannot be near wells or the property line.
  • Look for bald spots where there is no grass growth – marking a shallow-buried septic tank top. Look for green grass that may mark a septic tank that is backing up and leaking.
  • Now that you have a good idea where to look, here is what you need to be looking for.

How to find Septic Tanks Using Visual Clues

  • What does a septic tank look like? Septic tanks are rectangular and about 4ft x 8ft. Knowing this, look for a rectangular depression or a rectangular area of sparse grass growth. Often if septic tanks are buried shallow and close to the surface, this will result is sparse or irregular grass growth.
  • Unexplained Pipes. Many septic systems have air vents and cleanouts. If you see pipes sticking up out of the ground they might be for the septic system. These pipes are usually 4 to 6 inches in diameter and are made of cast iron or white or black plastic, but not copper.
  • A bad smell indicates that you have found the drainfield and it is failing.
  • Unexplained wet spots. If there is a part of your property that is usually wet or damp for no reason, this could be where your septic tank is located. Usually accompanied by unpleasant odors.
  • Look for a stake, stones, other types markers. It is common to place a marker to show the location of the septic tank’s pumpout access.
  • Electrical boxes. Many septic tanks use electricity for pumps or grinders. If you have an electrical connection or box sticking out of the ground away from the house and do not know what it is there for, it might be for the septic system.
  • Lush green grass. If your property has one spot that has particularly lush green grass and you have not been watering or fertilizing it, this might be where the septic tank is located. Unfortunately, that lush green grass means you are having seepage from the septic tank.
  • Random soil depressions. in the soil of perhaps 2 sq.ft. that may mark a previous excavation for tank pumping

If you still cannot find the septic tank, it is probably time to call in a professional. Professional septic tanks plumbers locate and service septic systems on a daily basis and will have the specialized equipment and knowledge to find your home’s septic tank quickly.

Septic Tank Access_hole

Now that you know how to locate a septic tank, do not be tempted to remove the lid or perform any service on the septic tank yourself. Septic tank lids are very heavy and septic tanks contain toxic fumes. Always have a professional septic tank plumber service your septic tank. After finding your septic tank, be sure to place a maker and make a map of where it is located so that you and any future owners will know exactly where it is located for future service.