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I have a septic system in my backyard, but I don't know where the lid is.

Is there a way to locate it based on the pipes or other method? I think it's under the lawn somewhere.

The reason I want to find it? You can save about $50 if you dig up the lid before getting the septic pumped.

  • Two methods: 1) Use a metal detector 2) Drive your car around on your yard and see where it falls through – Daniel Griscom Nov 29 '15 at 17:08
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    are you looking for the tank, or the leach field? (And btw the advice to drive your car over it is terrible and doubtless meant as a joke.) – Kate Gregory Nov 29 '15 at 17:58
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  1. Look for a cleanout. That's a pipe sticking up out of the ground with a plug. That might give you a general idea where the tank is or at least what side of the house its on. The tank will usually be a short distance from the cleanout.
  2. See if there are plans that were filed with the local government when the house was built. For example, mine are with the local county building department.
  3. There are services that use a flushable electronic transmitter that can then be found with a receiver. I haven't had this done, but it sounds high tech.
  4. If you live in an area with snow and your tank isn't buried too deep, you might see the snow melting above the tank.
  5. If your tank hasn't been pumped in a while, its probably a good idea to get it cleaned out. An experienced septic technician can usually locate it. They will probably charge extra for locating and digging it up. For me, it was an extra $50 if I didn't dig it up myself.
  6. The soil probe is not a bad idea. Try to narrow down the area its in first.
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Use a soil probe. Commonly used item for plumbers and landscapers:

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  • This method could take a long time, if you had a large yard and no idea where the tank might be. A metal detector might be a bit faster. – Tester101 Nov 30 '15 at 0:53
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    With a concrete manhole cover on the tank, the metal detector would have to be good enough to pick up the reinforcing steel in the concrete when buried. Color me dubious. IME if you have a steel tank you'd better be ready to replace it when you find it - they don't last well and have been out of favor for long enough that most left are in need of replacing. The probe can also be used to follow (find near house, find further away form house, draw line, find again, if not there, look for a bend between) pipes from the house. – Ecnerwal Nov 30 '15 at 2:03
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Our previous tank was down 8 feet, so probing and metal detectors would not have worked. I had the "as built" from the builder. The local authority should have it on file. Once you have it found and pumped you should have a riser installed so the cover is no more than a foot deep. My septic company put one in and then only had to peel the lawn back to pump the tank.

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