Many buyers see a gas fired furnace or boiler in the basement of home that they are interested in and their assumption is that the house has always had natural gas as an energy source. Not necessarily in older homes ! Many housing developments were constructed before the availability of natural gas in the area and heating oil supplied from underground storage tanks was their first choice.
The average life expectancy of a steel underground tank is approximately 25 years depending on the surrounding soil conditions. Leaking tanks and their clean-up costs can run into the tens of thousands of dollars and home owners are responsible for those costs !
Home inspectors are trained to look for signs of prior underground tanks such as, old steel filler pipes and vent pipes in the lawn or cut-off copper tubing entering the basement foundation wall below grade. The absence of these indicators doesn’t mean that you’re worries are over as sometimes basements have been transformed into finished rooms obscuring our views of the concrete block foundation.
If the sellers have had an underground oil tank properly cleaned & filled or if they have had one removed you can ask for a letter of no further action from the local municipality . If no information is available your home inspector should recommend that a qualified contractor perform a metal sweep of the property surrounding the home to insure that no leaking oil storage tanks lurk beneath the surface !
Bob Godwin Eastern Home Inspections (800) 333-2783 www.inspectnj.com