Real Talk: “In the Ground” Observations

We all know that we have septic systems in our yards and we have discussed this in previous articles.{{more}} Now let’s move on to other mechanics on your property. Perhaps you have an inground oil tank.

These tanks were most appropriate in their time, metal ones in the 1960s, which could have been in the ground or under your patio or driveway or even the garage floor!

I am sure by now you know if you have one, especially after all the publicity about them over the last 15 years or so.

Some people have a fiberglass one from the 1980s, also not such a great idea any more.

You can put a new one in your basement, and then professionally remove or ‘abandon” the old one. The town Fire Marshall comes out to your home when the tank removal company has the ground open, test holes are dug and samples of the dirt around the hole are taken and sent away to confirm that there is no contamination in the soil.

Whether you remove the tank or abandon it, in order to get a proper sign off, the tests and evaluations must take place.

If your home is being sold, the buyer will be applying for a loan and there are many mortgage companies whose lending practice it is to look at your “seller’s disclosur.e. If they see there is an inground tank, they may mandate it be removed before closing.

There are other items in the ground that are optional on their care and the lending system does not care about these items.

For example, if you have a well with a softening system, there is a ‘backwash,’ this is the filtered water that is dumped out after the water is purified. The “grey water” is full of minerals that can decay the pipes in the septic system.

Years ago it was proper to have this backwash water empty through the septic, today, the home inspectors recommend you call the proper excavator and plumber to run the excess contaminated water directly outside.

By properly filtering this water, skipping the septic, and draining into the yard, you can save years on your septic! Properly installed this little dry well idea will have a pipe underground that empties away from the house, maybe into the woods. The amount of water is minimal, but this little system serves an important purpose.

Old drains at the base of a cellar staircase, underground gutters and window wells outside the basement windows should be snaked and cleared periodically so they do not harden and clog from dirt and leaves.

You may even have a drain at the base of your downhill driveway that can get full of leaves. In some cases, when these areas are forgotten, it can lead to water backing up towards the house during a torrential rainstorm.

We live in the country and our yards are large. It is easy to forget that you have a septic tank and leaching fields in the yard and thus drive your little pick up truck through the yard to pick up tree branches or bring a heavy tiller to mulch the garden. You can damage your system in this manner. Many a moving van has done some damage to my clients’ front yards in this manner.

Lastly, I want to mention the grading around the home. I notice that the homes that keep their gutters clear and the ground near the building graded away from the house, have a lot less chance of getting water against their foundations. Sometimes I see properties whose cinderblock foundations are holding water and you can see the line of water in the basement sitting in these blocks. Much of this moisture can be eliminated when you take good care of those gardens behind those big old bushes.

My advice, get rid of those giant, overgrown 30 year old bushes in front of the house. Check and rebuild the beds they were in and add some fancy new shrubs. Costco, Home Depot, they all have inexpensive light and wispy looking bushes that will make your home look more contemporary and modern.

After all, you never know when you may get the urge to put your home on the market!

As always, your caring guide to Home Selling! Barb. If you need more information on these issues email me at