Real Estate News

Buried Fuel Oil Tanks

January 22nd, 2018 7:26 AM by Joseph Baratta

If you’re buying an old house with pipes sticking out of the ground in your yard, beware.  You might have a buried oil tank somewhere at the property.   While the majority of homes today are heated with natural gas, there is still a large percentage of homes that are heated with fuel oil, and far more houses with abandoned oil tanks.

When a home gets converted from oil to natural gas, the old oil tank becomes abandoned.  Once the tank is abandoned, it needs to be dealt with.

If the tank is buried, it needs to be removed or filled in place  If a fuel oil tank is left buried, it could eventually leak.  A leaking underground storage tank (LUST) can contaminate the soil and ground water as well as the home, creating an environmental hazard that can cost thousands to clean up.  

The first step is to locate the tank.  Once located, a hole is cut large enough for a worker to fit inside.  Any residual oil is pumped out.  The worker climbs in & wipes down the entire inside surface of the tank with a special solvent.  If the tank is in exceptional condition, the contractor can fill the tank with sand in the presence of the local building inspector or code enforcement officer.  No longer common practice, since most municipalities require that all buried tanks must be extracted from the ground.

Extracting the tank must be done by a certified environmental contractor in the presence of the local building inspector or code enforcement officer.  Watch my video to see how it's done.  Once the tank is out of the ground, the inspector looks for any holes or signs of oil in the soil surrounding the tank.  If everything looks good, the inspector certifies the removal with the necessary paperwork. 

Home Inspectors & Standards of Practice

Home Inspection Standards of Practice specifically state that buried fuel oil tanks are not something that home inspectors are required to inspect.  

Does this mean that if a home inspector sees obvious clues that a buried fuel oil tank is present, they should keep their mouth shut?  Heck no.  A buried fuel oil tank is important to know about when buying a house.  If a home inspector has enough experience to suspect a buried fuel tank, they should say so, even though they’re not required to.

In my 33 years of experience in the construction / home improvement industry and 18 years as a real estate broker I have been in more homes than your average real estate professional.  Put my experience to work for you or someone you know looking for a home in Westchester County or Rockland County.  My office is in Tarrytown NY.


Posted by Joseph Baratta on January 22nd, 2018 7:26 AM