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  1. #1
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    Default Buried oil tank?

    Don't see many oil-fired systems and I'm not very familiar with tank setups, so need to ask about this observation:

    Ranch on a slab, built 1950s, Evanston IL.

    Copper line (scratched it to check) emerges from slab at rear of house and enters ground. Can't trace inside. Yard has been landscaped, patio slab poured over part of yard now covered with prefab sun room. . Snow cover, no sign I could find of filler tubes.

    House is pretty new for oil, I know this could have been for a gas fired backyard BBQ but no sign of one now, is this evidence of a possible oil tank out in the yard?

    Other than attempting to locate line or other evidence of previous oil appliance in the utility area, what else should I be looking for?


    Thanks

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    Michael Thomas
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  2. #2
    Richard Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buried oil tank?

    Michael...

    The typical plumbing we see around here for buried oil tanks (abandoned or still in use) is a pair of 1/4 to 3/8" copper tubes exiting the slab inside the house. One is feed, the other a return (for excess). See http://www.inspect-ny.com/oiltanks/oiltanksktch.jpg . I've never seen supply piping exposed at the exterior. I can't say it's not an oil pipe with 100% certainty, but a single pipe exposed like that, which looks like an added after-thought, would not suggest oil to me.

    It's obviously not in use due to the hole. I'd guess an old exterior water fixture or maybe a TPR discharge(?). I'd probably report it as an unknown and recommend they ask the seller about it.

    Last edited by Richard Moore; 01-30-2008 at 12:23 PM.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Buried oil tank?

    Thanks. Makes sense. I'll report it as "unknown", but to myself I'm more and more thinking "gas line to BBQ".

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Buried oil tank?

    My area is much like Richard's. It's very common to have an underground locate service come and scan the property for an old tank. The HI's in my area don't typically offer this service.

    You might consider a comment that finding an underground tank is beyond the scope of your inspection. It's in my contract and my state SOP's but I'll often include it in the report just to be sure... and also talk to the buyer/agent about it while on site.

    You might also look on the chimney for a patch (about dinner plate size) from an old oil furnace vent. Buried tanks are very common around here during the 50's. Also, you might look for a vent pipe or markings left by one on the side of the house.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Buried oil tank?

    I recommend always having a good disclaimer within your report for buried fuel tanks. I've seen them run 50 - 60 K to remove including cleaning of the adjacent soils. If you spot a 3/4" galv. pipe vent anywhere on the property it's a sign of a possible buried fuel tank.
    Buried oil tanks, heating oil storage tanks, a home buyer's guide to buried oil tanks, advice & home inspection report language

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  6. #6
    Richard Moore's Avatar
    Richard Moore Guest

    Default Re: Buried oil tank?

    All good advice regarding disclaimers. I'd add referring them to the seller's disclosure (although that is often checked "don't know"). But...I typically only include that language in the body of the report when I have good reason to suspect there was oil.

    In this case there really doesn't seem to be any visible evidence of oil. When I look closer at the 2nd photo, there appears to be some swelling near the break and, given Michael's location in the frosty midwest, my money would be on freeze damage...and hence a water line.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Buried oil tank?

    Another possibility is there could have been an exterior above ground oil tank at one time. They are a similar setup as an interior tank. Once in a great while we see one of those here in Wisconsin.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Buried oil tank?

    I've also had several instances where there is an above ground tank but also a buried one (abandoned). Most everyone's knee jerk reaction when there is an above ground tank is to not consider a buried one. There's often a date stamp on the above ground tanks that can help.

    We have buried tanks all over in Oregon.... I've seen some horror stories - additions built over them, driveways and patios over them. There was one that used to be a farm and there were 7 abandoned tanks nobody knew about.

    A lot of this came about over the last 10 years or so when the DEQ started requiring decommisioning at the time of a transfer of ownership. Prior to that nobody thought a whole lot about it. It's unfortunate for a lot of people who unknowingly bought a problem.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Buried oil tank?

    Michael,

    I'll go a step further. Just suppose that there's a unidentified and operable shutoff valve (gas) somewhere inside for that copper line? For safety, it should be confirmed as not being an issue - and not necessarily by the seller.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Buried oil tank?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Barker View Post
    I'll go a step further. Just suppose that there's a unidentified and operable shutoff valve (gas) somewhere inside for that copper line? For safety, it should be confirmed as not being an issue - and not necessarily by the seller.

    Eric,

    "not necessarily by the seller" by whom, then, if not the seller? (assuming you are referring to the financial responsibility for the plumber, not actually 'who' is going to 'confirm' it)

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  11. #11
    Jim Zborowski's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buried oil tank?

    All good responses, also could have been previously a propane furnace with is normally run in copper flex.


  12. #12
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    Default Re: Buried oil tank?

    Jerry,

    My concern with the seller confirming the pipe's status is that they may have no idea what they'd be looking for. If they want to get a contractor, if the buyer confirms it when they move in - I don't care. What I did not well explain is that I wouldn't want to necessarily rely on the seller's own ability to make a determination.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Buried oil tank?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Barker View Post
    I wouldn't want to necessarily rely on the seller's own ability to make a determination.
    Ah so ... now I see says the blind man.

    Same here.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Buried oil tank?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Barker View Post
    Michael,

    I'll go a step further. Just suppose that there's a unidentified and operable shutoff valve (gas) somewhere inside for that copper line? For safety, it should be confirmed as not being an issue - and not necessarily by the seller.
    Good point.

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Buried oil tank?

    Michael,

    With that hole sliced in that copper line, I doubt you have to worry about any gas still being in that line, or anything else much except 'air' and 'moisture', not unless it was oil and there is oil pooled up in the lower part, either way, there is not much (if any) risk of anything happening if someone found a valve and operated it - certainly cannot hold any pressure.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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