Don’t Repair Oil Tanks

When we see an oil tank that needs any kind of repair, our advice is don’t repair it, just replace it! Sometimes we see fiberglass repairs on the bottom of the tank. Again, our recommendation is to just replace the tank. The downside of a badly leaking oil tank can be a nightmare! We’re talking lots of money to clean it up, not to mention the major inconvenience, odors, etc.! There’s even a possibility the EPA could get involved if oil somehow gets into the soil.

We know of a case where the oil tank overflowed during the filling process. Oil got into the soil and the EPA got involved. The entire basement slab had to be ripped up and all the contaminated soil had to be removed/replaced. The contaminated soil had to be carried out of the house bucket by bucket, traipsing through the kitchen. Also, an air venting system had to be installed to get rid of the odors.

The expected useful life of an oil tank is about 20 years. It may last a lot longer than that, but the recommendation by most experts is to replace it on a preventive maintenance basis after 20 to 25 years. Often, there is no sign of deterioration on the outside of the tank but the inside of the tank is where it deteriorates first. Most residential oil tanks are 275 gallons. When the tank is filled it’s pumped under pressure and the tank fills up within a minute or two. That’s a lot of weight all at once. Sometimes the tanks fail during the fill-up.

Download PDF

Water Heater

Do I need to remove that old oil tank in my crawlspace?

On occasion during our home inspections on Long Island, we see old, abandoned oil tanks in crawl spaces. We always recommend removal of an abandoned tank in the crawlspace because sooner or later it will rust out and start to leak residual oil and sludge. In fact, it may be oozing out of the tank already. If the crawlspace happens to have a dirt floor, long term leakage could lead to an environmental concern. In addition, it could cause a fuel oil odor.

Typically, crawlspace oil tanks need to be cut up before they can be removed, and properly discarded. This work should be done by an oil tank specialist.

Make sure that the old fill pipe and vent are removed from the side of the house to avoid an oil flood caused by an inadvertent mistake on the part of oil tank delivery technician with a wrong address. It happens, every once in a while, oil is pumped into the basement or crawlspace because they never removed the pipes after they removed the tank. Now you’ve got a real problem!

So, yes, it makes sense to remove an old tank in the crawlspace to avoid potential problems in the future. We hope this was helpful.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.


Download PDF

Water Heater

In-ground Oil Tanks


An in-ground oil tank can obviously be an environmental concern. If the oil tank is leaking it will be your responsibility to remove ALL the contaminated soil regardless of how much soil must be removed. If the contaminated soil goes underneath the foundation of your home or your neighbor’s home, the process for removing the contaminated soil becomes much more complex because the foundation must be supported as the soil is removed. This is known as “under pinning”.  In addition, all of the soil is considered a contaminated material in must be disposed of properly. The implications of an oil leak in the ground are huge. Oil leaks can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in remediation efforts.

Fortunately, for Long Island Home Inspection, the authorities have made it quite easy to have an oil tank abandoned in place. It simply requires contracting with a company that is licensed to deal with oil tanks and having them perform the abandonment. The abandonment includes removal of the oil in the tank, and then filling the tank with either sand, foam or concrete. Then, all of the pipes are removed and you receive paperwork evidencing that the tank was properly abandoned. Keep this paperwork on file for future proof that the work was done properly. It’s as simple as that. Typical abandonment costs range from $800-$1,500 depending on the size of the tank. At that point, you either install another oil tank or convert to gas. A new oil tank can be installed above ground or in the basement. You can even have an oil tank put back into the ground but it must be Fiberglas and is typically guaranteed for 30 years.

For more related information click on this link: https://safeharborinspections.com/

Download PDF