Oil Tanks

Author: Evergreen Home Inspection |

Blog by Evergreen Home Inspection

Reminder: Check Your Oil Tank

For those of you who heat with oil (as I do), I suggest that you take a look at your oil tank. Especially do this if you think your tank is older or simply has not been looked at for some time.

Confession: as a home inspector I always look at oil tanks during inspections. I can say that I see a few tanks every year that are showing signs of incipient failure. So, I’m in my own basement recently and I thought maybe I should look at my own tank again (I’ve checked in the past but not in the last few years).

I go over to look at my tank…and voila, I see rusting and evidence of leakage along the seams of the tank. Not good. I’m always telling clients to have their tank checked by their oil company – and sometimes to just get the tank replaced. Why I should be excepted from this advice I don’t know but anyhow, I see evidence where water has seeped out along the seams. In any case, the end result was our $2600 covid relief payment just went for a new oil tank.

It could be worse: a failed oil tank can cost you $260,000 in clean-up costs.

A few thoughts and recommendations:

#1 Oil service technicians should be looking at tanks when they do their servicing but I don’t think most look at the tanks.

#2 Oil tanks don’t last forever. Some ‘authorities’ state that tanks should be considered fully depreciated after 25 years. I think this is conservative, but I’m coming around to a much lower estimate of longevity than I used to believe. (I see 60-year-old tanks all of the time that looks fine; my tank was roughly this age).

#3 It’s the internal corrosion that does in a tank. If you are looking at your own tank look for weeping at the seams. (Note: While this can also be coming from the oil line fitting assume this is leakage until proven otherwise. If you see oil under and along the sides of the tank this could be from the top, where the fill pipe enters the tank; a lot of tanks show these ‘saddle stains’. I suggest cleaning the tank thoroughly and then going back a few weeks later to check. Rub your hand or cloth along the bottom of the tank. If you detect an oily residue this may indicate that the tank steel is thinning and oil is seeping through microscopic pores in the bottom. Get the tank replaced.

Tanks in wet basements will not last as long. For wet or damp basements spend a bit more on a “Roth” tank. These are double-walled and should longer than a regular oil tank. My basement is very dry so I went with a conventional tank. Also, ask your oil company if they offer the “Tank Sure” program that provides insurance against oil spillage. (I haven’t checked the details on this program for some time so research what this offers).