LARGER IMAGE: having a general idea of what septic components are helps you find where they may be locatedSeptic Tank Location Video Guide
How to Walk the Site to Find the Septic Tank or Drainfield

How to find the septic tank:

A video guide to locating buried septic tanks in order to inspect, test, clean, or repair the septic system. How to locate the septic tank at a property, as step by step procedure to find any septic tank;

Where to look for the septic tanks, septic tank covers, or septic tank cleanout lids

Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2015, All Rights Reserved.

VISUAL CLUES LOCATE TANK - Visual Outdoor Clues Can Tell The Septic Tank Location

Septic tank location guide: here we provide suggestions and procedures for finding a septic tank.

When the septic tank needs to be pumped, a regular maintenance task, the cost of that service will be less if the property owner found the septic tank location and perhaps even uncovered the septic tank pumping access cover.

Other reasons to find the septic tank include inspecting and testing septic systems when buying a home or for safety, to assure that the septic tank cover is in good condition.

The septic video shown here describes how we walk a homesite to find the septic tank and drainfield location. More videos on septic system location & maintenance are at SEPTIC VIDEOS.

LARGER IMAGE: melted snow may mark septic tank location Look for clues that often mark the location of a septic tank, starting outside the area where the main waste line leaves the house. In this winter example, the depression near the house marks the septic tank cleanout which in this case was close to the surface.

Here is a closer look at snow melt indicating the tank location.

And here is a similar clue at melted depressions in snow cover which locate the septic leach field lines at the same property.

If you want to be really clever, click on this photo of the yard and end of the house to enlarge it and notice the window to the left of the chimney, and the round silver perforated "thing" to the left of and below that window? That's the plumbing waste line vent. We knew where the main waste line exited the house without needing to go inside to look! The tank was likely to be in line with that vent which itself is likely to be just above the main waste line exit pipe.

Here are Visual Clues at that can Locate Septic System Components at a Homesite

  • Stones, slates, stakes, or other markers may have been left by a previous building owner to show the location of a septic tank pumpout access cover.
  • Pipes sticking up out of the ground, perhaps between 10' and 20' from the home, especially if they are 4" to 6" diameter cast iron or white or black plastic, may mark vents or cleanouts on the waste line between the building and the septic tank, or they may mark the location of the tank itself. Some septic pumping companies install a 6" top 8" "riser" pipe with a cap close to ground level (maybe painted green by the homeowner) which they use as a quick access port to pump the septic tank. It's easy to see if one of these ports is right over the tank, if one removes the pipe cap and peers inside, perhaps with a flashlight. (SAFETY WARNING: do not walk over or near septic tanks where there are signs of impending collapse, such as soil subsidence).
  • Electrical boxes sticking up out of the ground might mark the location of electrical connections feeding electrical components used in some septic systems. Examples include septic tanks using effluent pumps to move effluent to an uphill location, pumping chambers using sewage grinder pumps to force sewage to an uphill septic tank and drainfield. A video showing a septic tank with a pumping station and its electrical connections is at Septic 101 part 1: Video on How to find the septic system
  • Rectangular depressions of perhaps 4 ft. x 8 ft. On the other hand, on rare occasions there may be a raised rectangular area if soils settled away from the septic tank. This happened at one of our properties because the bottom of the septic tank was sitting on bedrock and after backfill some soils around the tank settled and compacted but the tank didn't move a bit.
  • Rectangular areas of less grass growth - if the tank is not buried very deep there is less soil over it
  • Areas of more lush grass growth - if the tank is leaking or backing up and spilling effluent around itself, the grass will be greener around the septic tank.
  • Depressions in the soil of perhaps 2 sq.ft. that may mark a previous excavation for tank pumping
  • Snow melt: in climates where snow falls, areas of melted snow may mark the top of the septic tank (or areas of a failing leach field). A photo of this clue showing drainfield trenches as depressions in the snow can be seen at VisualClues to Location
  • Drawings or sketches of septic tank location are sometimes found in a building's basement or crawl space, sketched on a surface near the point where the main waste pipe exits the building. And of course a thoughtful owner may have left a drawing on paper somewhere for the new owners. An example of a sketch locating septic system components is at RECORDS to LOCATE the DRAINFIELD.
  • Wet areas which may indicate a failing drainfield. Also septic odors.
  • Pipes ending in streams, lakes, or swamps, or at the edge of a property sometimes mark an overflow drain that was added to cope with a failing septic system. A photo of one of these is at UNLIKELY DRAINFIELD LOCATIONS
  • Clogged Drain Diagnosis - is the problem the septic system or the Building drain system?
    Septic Tank Safety: Septic System, Septic Tank, & Cesspool Safety Warnings for Septic Inspectors, Septic Pumpers, and Homeowners
  • Septic Tank Condition - How to Inspect Septic Tanks and evaluate the septic tank condition, baffles, sludge levels, damage, evidence of septic failure
  • Drainfield Layout: septic drainfield or leaching bed shape and placement considerations
  • SEPTIC DRAINFIELD LOCATION: how to find the septic drain field or leaching bed
  • Drainfield Inspection Procedure Septic Leach Fields - how to inspect and diagnose septic drainfield failures

More Reading on How to Find Buried or Hidden Septic Tanks, Drainfields, Piping

Additional videos after this first one provide more details on how to find the septic system, septic tank, & septic drainfield See: SEPTIC VIDEOS.

Also see FIND the SEPTIC TANK, HOW TO for an article showing excavation and other methods to find the septic tank at a property. This article tells us how to locate a septic tank when it's placement is not already known or when the location of the septic tank is not visually obvious.

Also see SEPTIC DRAINFIELD LOCATION - how to find the leach fields.

Other videos: VIDEO GUIDES at


Continue reading at WHO KNOWS SEPTIC LOCATION? or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

Or see SEPTIC VIDEOS showing how to find the septic system, septic tank, & septic drainfield

Or see SEPTIC DRAINFIELD LOCATION - how to find the leach fields.

Suggested citation for this web page

VISUAL CLUES LOCATE the SEPTIC TANK at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

More Reading

Green link shows where you are in this article series.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Click to Show or Hide FAQs

Ask a Question or Search InspectApedia

Questions & answers or comments about how to find the septic tank for inspection, testing, or maintenance & repair..

Use the "Click to Show or Hide FAQs" link just above to see recently-posted questions, comments, replies, try the search box just below, or if you prefer, post a question or comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.

Technical Reviewers & References

Publisher's Google+ Page by Daniel Friedman

Click to Show or Hide Citations & References