How To Find A Septic Tank With A Metal Detector (Do This!)

Gary Evans
by Gary Evans

Knowing where the septic tank is on your property can save you from some serious headaches. Instead of building over the wrong spot or damaging your septic tank, you can stay away and give it space. Homeowners can look for their septic tank in a variety of ways. Some methods are easier to follow than others. If you have a metal detector, you can even use that for this particular job.

Metal detectors should be able to find septic tanks covered with metal lids. They can also pick up on the presence of reinforcement bars often used to support septic tanks. Sliding a plumber’s snake inside a sewer line will help you find the tank using the metal detector faster.

You should take the time to determine the location of the septic tank on your property to avoid potentially costly mistakes. Continue reading to find out how you can easily find your septic tank with the aid of a metal detector.

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Can Metal Detectors Be Used to Find Septic Tanks?

The metal detector is probably not the first tool you turn to when you’re searching for your septic tank. Don’t overlook how helpful it can be though. One of the reasons why it’s so hard to locate septic tanks is because they’re buried underground. You’ll have to start searching for them without any hints pointing in their direction.

Metal detectors can prove very helpful because they are designed for the purpose of finding objects buried in the ground. They can find something beneath the layers of soil and tell you about it. A lot of folks use them to find trinkets or valuables, but they can work for septic tank detection too.

The detectors are able to sniff out the location of the septic tank due to some specific components. The first is the septic tank lid.

Septic tank lids are typically made from concrete or plastic, but they do have metal components too. The fasteners used to keep the lids in place and the handles that remove them are often fashioned out of metal. You should be able to use a metal detector to sense those components.

Aside from the handles and fasteners, a good detector can also pick up on your septic tank’s reinforcement bars. Those reinforcement bars are often on the bigger side, meaning the detectors have a good chance of finding them.

Selecting a Metal Detector

You may already have a metal detector lying around in your garage. In that case, feel free to use what you already have. Now, if you don’t have a metal detector yet, you can consider purchasing one. Apart from locating your septic tank, a metal detector can be useful for some hobbies and projects. It’s well worth the investment.

So, how do you go about finding the right metal detector for you? Below are some of the most important factors for you to keep in mind.


Power is an important consideration when shopping for a metal detector. Stronger metal detectors are capable of finding objects that are buried five feet into the ground. That’s really helpful because some septic tanks are buried four feet deep.

Detection Notification

You should also look at how the metal detector notifies you after it finds something. Metal detectors generally have two ways to let users know if they’ve found something of note.

The first notification method relies on sound. The sounds emitted by metal detectors are loud enough that you won’t miss them, but they aren’t great for pinpointing objects. Target ID detectors are preferred for precision because they offer more information. They can even point you directly to where the metallic object is buried.

No-Motion All Metals Mode Availability

We also urge homeowners shopping for a new metal detector to seek out items with the no-motion all metals mode. The reason why this feature is so helpful is because it allows you to find objects without moving the metal detector.

Moving the metal detector too much can cause you to lose sight of your target. It’s easier to use a metal detector that can do its job without you having to be an expert handler.

Finding Your Septic Tank Using a Metal Detector

Now that you have the metal detector, we can start searching for the septic tank. Follow the detailed steps below to make the search even easier.

Step 1: Prepare Your Tools

Along with the metal detector, you may want to prepare a plumber’s snake and a shovel for this job. They will make the search significantly easier for you.

You should also be mindful of what you’re wearing. Don’t wear shoes with steel toes or other prominent metallic components. Other accessories that could set off the metal detector should be left behind as well.

Step 2: Look for a Sewer Line

The next thing you need to do is to find a sewer line that leads to the septic tank. Go down to your basement or crawlspace and look for a sewer line there. Make sure it’s easy enough for you to access.

You may also be able to find a suitable sewer line along the perimeter of your home. Look close to the ground in search of them.

Ideally, you want to use a relatively clear sewer line for this job. The plumber’s snake will be easier to pass through a clear sewer line. Controlling the plumber’s snake will also be less of an issue if the line is clear.

Step 3: Slide the Plumber’s Snake into the Sewer Line

At this point, you can now slide the plumber’s snake into the sewer line. Be careful around curves and bends inside the sewer line and try not to get stuck on them. Continue moving the plumber’s snake through the line until it’s blocked. That’s when you know that the plumber’s snake has reached the septic tank.

Don’t try to move the plumber’s snake forward after it’s blocked. You could end up nudging the inlet tee of your septic tank out of place by pushing the snake forward. Simply leave the plumber’s snake where it is after you encounter that obstacle.

Step 4: Start Using the Metal Detector

With the plumber’s snake in place, you can start using the metal detector to find the septic tank. Remember to turn on no-motion all metals mode. When it comes to the metal detector’s sensitivity level, you can start by setting it to low. Just gradually increase it as you continue your search.

It’s a good idea to start your search from the sewer line. Sweep the area close to that line and keep fanning out until you find something. Move the detector slowly and try to ensure that you’re not missing any spots.

Searching for the septic tank can take a while especially if you have a big yard. Take breaks if you need to or use the stabilizers attached to the metal detector to rest your arms.

Step 5: Uncover the Septic Tank

With the septic tank’s location detected, you can now get started on uncovering it. Grab your shovel and start digging. It’s a good idea to wear some gloves to keep your hands protected while using the shovel.

Remember to be very careful when using the shovel. The septic tank is not the only thing buried in your yard. There are probably some supply lines that are also hidden in the soil. Dig slowly and try not to stick the sharp end of the shovel too deep into the ground. It may take longer to find the septic tank this way, but it’s also the far safer approach.

Alternatively, you can also use some steel probes before digging. The steel probes can make contact with the septic tank. They will let you know how far down you have to dig.

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Related Questions

What Are Other Methods That Can Be Used to Find a Septic Tank?

Using a metal detector is not the only way to find a septic tank. In fact, various methods are possible and you can select whichever one is best for your situation.Electronic drain pipe sensors and locating probes can be used for the purposes of finding a septic tank. You can also find the septic tank by flushing some dye tablets down the toilet.Homeowners can also call their county building office and ask where the septic tank is on their property. The contractor who installed the septic tank will also be able to tell you where the tank is located. In a pinch, you can call on professionals and have them search for your septic tank.

How Do You Maintain a Metal Detector?

Maintaining a metal detector is an easy enough task. Grab a damp cloth and use that to wipe down the shaft, coils, and the handle of the metal detector.The electronic components should not be cleaned with a damp cloth. Use a piece of dry cloth to dust them and get rid of debris.Allow the metal detector to dry after you’re done cleaning. If you aren’t planning to use the metal detector for a while, remember to take out its batteries. You should also disassemble the metal detector before placing it in storage.

Gary Evans
Gary Evans

Gary Evans is passionate about home improvement. He loves finding out how to make improvements in the easiest, most practical, and most affordable ways. Upgrading his home kitchen is one of his ongoing hobbies. Gary is also a long-time content creator and enjoys spending his free time tending to his hydroponic vegetable garden.

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