If your property has a septic tank, it’s a good idea to know where the tank is located. Whether it’s for preventing damage to the tank and drain field from heavy equipment, locating for digging purposes, or for self-inspection of the septic tank, the first step will be to find the septic tank lid. While we normally provide this service for our customers when performing inspections or septic tank pumping, some homeowners may want to find it themselves. Here’s how to find a septic tank lid on your own.
Use the septic system plans if you have them.
The easiest way to find a septic tank lid is to look at the original septic system plans. The septic system plans will provide the location and dimensions to the tank in relation to the home. Simply use a measuring tape to measure out the dimensions to find the septic tank lid. If for some reason you don’t have the septic system plans, it’s likely that your local board of health will have a copy.
Many times, the lid is buried under the grass so you’ll need to do some probing and digging, but if the previous owner has installed a septic tank lid riser, then it will be easier to find and should be visible in the grass.
The sewer pipe can be your guide to finding the septic tank lid.
Sometimes septic tanks are difficult to find with these plans, or maybe you don’t have a copy of your septic plans. Your next best bet is to find the sewer pipe in your basement. This is the pipe that takes all the wastewater out of your home. Take note of where the pipe is located in relation to ground level… this will indicate how deep your tank will be under the ground.
You will also need to measure how many feet the pipe is from the inside corner of your house. Then use this measurement to estimate where the pipe will come out the other side of the wall on the exterior. Go to the spot where you think the drain pipe may be exiting the building. Your septic tank should be about 10-15 feet out away from the building at that location.
Use caution when opening a septic tank lid.
If you’ve located the septic cover in order to check the levels of your septic tank yourself, the first step is to open the lid. Septic tank lids, especially the older concrete ones, are very heavy and difficult to move. You may see hooks or handles on the cover that make it easier to lift, or you may have to use a tool such as a shovel as a lever to open the lid. Take care with older septic tanks, as the older septic tank lids can become fragile over time and susceptible to breakage.
It’s important to be extremely careful around the open septic tank. This tank is filled with 4-5 feet of water, and would be dangerous if someone falls into it, especially a child or a pet. Never leave the open tank unattended, even for a moment, because the uncovered hole in the ground can be easy to miss.
To be safe, it’s best to consult a professional septic service company to remove the lid to avoid noxious fumes and eliminate the risk of someone falling into the tank.
Measure the Levels of Your Septic Tank Yourself
While we offer a convenient service to check your septic tank levels, you can certainly check them yourself. As mentioned in our previous post, you can use a long stick or a two by four with a velcro strip adhered along one end, or you can purchase a specific measuring tool called a “sludge judge”. Since the typical septic tank contains 4-5 feet of water, it’s best to go with at least a 7 foot measuring stick.
After you’ve opened the tank lid, lower the homemade measuring stick or sludge judge down into the septic tank, keeping the stick completely upright and vertical. The stick will go through the scum at the top, the watery effluent in the middle, and the thicker sludge at the bottom.
Once you feel the measuring stick hit the bottom of the tank, you can raise it back out again, and measure the sludge by measuring the inches of dark material staining the stick. As for the scum layer, because it’s at the top, it’s fairly easy to measure right at the top.
Now that you have an idea of your septic tank levels, you can determine whether or not your septic tank needs to be pumped. Be sure to put the cover on immediately and never leave the open tank unattended, even for a minute, to prevent unsuspecting animals or people from falling in.
Need help? Call Grant Septic Tech.
We know do-it-yourself is not always easy or straightforward. But that’s what we’re here for! Our family has been servicing septic systems for over 60 years and we’ve seen it all.
If you’ve had trouble with any of these steps (or want to avoid the mess), simply give us a call — we know how to find a septic tank lid, and can perform a full septic tank inspection.
If we find that your septic tank needs to be pumped at that time, there’s no charge for the inspection — you’ll only pay for the septic tank pumping while we are there. Call (508) 529-6255 or book a service call online. We service many areas of Massachusetts. Check for your town in our service area here.