Can a Metal Detector Find a Septic Tank

Can a Metal Detector Find a Septic Tank?

Can a metal detector find a septic tank? If you want to know, then this article is for you. Most people will agree that finding a septic tank is not easy, especially if it is underground. A septic tank resides underground, concealed from view, but this does not mean you can’t find it.

Depending on the ground you are searching for, a metal detector may be an effective tool for locating this underground structure, including a septic tank. In this article, I’ll explain how it works and give you easy steps for finding it using a metal detector.

How Can I Locate My Septic Tank?

Metal detectors can help find septic tanks built of steel or even concrete reinforced with steel. The answer is simple, and it is based on science. Metal detectors are designed to detect metals, which means you can use them to find anything made of metal. (Source)

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Thus, a metal detector is a simple way to locate septic tanks with metal covers. In addition, it can detect the presence of reinforced bars, which are often employed to support the tank. You can locate the tank more quickly if you slip a plumber’s snake into the sewage pipe. But before you can use your metal detectors, you need to do these steps first:

1. Locate the Primary Drain Line for the Sewer

Your plumbing system consists of fixtures connecting to a single drain pipe that empties into the toilet, sink, and shower. The end of this pipe connects to your septic tank. (Source)

Check this line out if you have a basement or crawl area. Make a note of this spot on the opposite side of the wall. You’ll be able to see the sewage’s final destination this way.

2. Verify Authorizations and Existing Documentation

County health agencies often keep septic system permits in the public domain by county health agencies. The plans include a graphic of the tank and drainage fields in their current intended locations, among other information. You may use this information to aid in the search for a buried tank lid. (Source)

Public records may be available online if your county’s health department has begun digitization work and your septic system is older. However, a request form and a little charge are required before you may see these records.

3. Identify the Material for the Septic Tank

There will be specifics concerning your septic tank’s dimensions, shape, and finish if you have a valid permit. If, for whatever reason, you don’t have access to the relevant paperwork, find assistance to identify the material from which the tank is constructed.

4. Know When Your House Was Built

Finding out how old your home is the first step in getting data on your septic system. Often, all that’s needed is a glance at the home’s front.

You may also review the county tax assessor’s files for a more precise evaluation. It’s vital to remember that this is done on a regional scale, so the specifics of your search will differ based on the accessibility of the digital data maintained by your local government.

Can a metal detector find a septic tank? A metal detector can locate your tank if built of steel or steel-reinforced concrete.

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What Metal Detector to Use for Septic Tank?

Magnetic locators or pinpointer detectors can be used to locate septic tanks. However, many different detectors have been designed specifically for this purpose.

Some are designed specifically for detecting buried objects, such as pipes. In contrast, others are designed for locating coins and other valuables that might be buried in the ground.

Septic Tank
Septic Tank

However, all these detectors have one thing in common: They use electromagnetic induction (EMI) technology to detect underground objects. These objects may exist at distances ranging from inches to hundreds of feet from the surface, depending on the signal’s strength and weakness.

An average metal detector has a depth of detection of up to 8 inches. The flow depth of a standard septic tank is 48 inches. (Source)

Magnetic Locators

Can a metal detector find a septic tank? The answer may depend on which type of detectors you use.

Devices called magnetic locators use the earth’s magnetic field to detect buried metal items, such as iron ore. They do not put out any kind of signal but rather detect and quantify changes in the magnetic field around a buried metal target. (Source)

Surveyors, excavators, and construction workers use magnetic locators to track down stationery items ranging in size from tiny corner pins to massive tanks, drums, and septic tanks.

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Magnetic locators, a subset of metal detectors, can probe depths of up to 16 feet. The ability to pick up on steel and iron makes it an excellent device for finding things like steel tank walls and handles.

Pinpointer Detector

Can a metal detector find a septic tank using a pin-pointer?

Another metal detector you can use is pin-pointer-based. A pinpointer is a small metal detector that doesn’t move and stays in one place. You can use it to find a target, like a septic tank. It’s small and can work with batteries. It can also dig smaller holes to reduce the time it takes to recover.

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These are better for locating things like septic tanks because they can detect tiny objects with high sensitivity. Still, they can’t detect anything larger than a quarter of an inch deep without unique accessories or modifications. (Source)

How Does Metal Detector Work?

Now that I have answered your question, “Can a metal detector find a septic tank?” maybe you are also wondering how metal detectors work.

Metal detectors work by emitting electromagnetic pulses that bounce back to their source when it encounters metal objects underground, like septic tanks. (Source)

What makes a metal detector buzz when it’s moved over a buried metal?

A battery in the metal detector’s top surface turns on a red transmitter circuit, sending electricity to a red transmitter coil at the bottom.

When electricity flows through a transmitter’s receiver, it creates a magnetic field around it. If you move the detector over something, such as a metal object, the magnetic field will go through it. The electricity then flows around the receiver and up into the top receiver circuit, which makes a loud noise when you detect something.

Metal detectors generally have different modes for different purposes, like finding specific objects like coins, gold rings, and jewelry. Still, you can always turn these off if you don’t need them.

Some devices even have advanced features like GPS tracking. It can record what a metal detector finds and what the GPS says during a search. You can mark essential points with the help of the data module. You can also use it to store one piece of data every second.

Some GPs tracking can make the user transfer the contents of the memory to a computer using a cable and some software and save in two formats: KML and CSV.

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Why Should I Locate My Septic Tank?

Another question that maybe comes to your mind, aside from “Can a metal detector find a septic tank?” is why you need to find your septic tank.

​Septic tanks are an integral part of any home or property. They perform an essential function: treating the wastewater produced by homes and businesses. About 48% of houses in the US have septic systems that treat their wastewater. Many of these systems don’t need to be fixed. If you have a septic tank, you must find it as soon as possible.

The problem is that they are often difficult to find on the ground. It can be a problem during construction, remodeling, or even an emergency where you need to locate a septic tank quickly. A working septic system would have required regular maintenance, and you should contact a plumbing company if you have questions about its location.

Are Septic Tank Locations Public Record?

Regardless, your question, “can a metal detector find a septic tank?” has been answered here. You should know if there’s a public record of your septic tank.

If you want to find out where your septic system is, you can ask the health department in your area for public records. In these documents, a map should show where the system is buried. If your system is older, you might be able to request this information.

Check to see if your septic tank has been registered. You can call your environmental regulator to determine if a previous house owner or contractor registered the tank. If you’re not sure, it’s best to check so you don’t pay for something you don’t need to. (Source)

If your local government does not have records of your septic tank, it could have been installed without a permit or an older system that was not required.

One More Sweep With Your Detector

Can a metal detector find a septic tank? A metal detector can be highly beneficial when used with other tools for locating septic tanks.

People often use metal detectors when attempting to find buried treasure, lost items, and pipes hidden underground—basically, anything made of metal, including your septic tank.

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David Humphries, Writer and Creator of METAL DETECTING TIPS. After borrowing my son’s detector and finding $.25. I felt like a treasure hunter. FREE MONEY! I was seriously bitten by the metal detecting bug.


  1. “Metal Detector.” Wikipedia. Accessed October 4, 2022.
  2. ” Plumbing.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed October 4, 2022.
  3. “Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal” Alabama Public Health. March 6, 2017.
  4. Riordan, James. “SEPTIC SYSTEM CHECKUP: THE RHODE ISLAND HANDBOOK FOR INSPECTION.” RI DEM Water Resources. Accessed October 5, 2022.
  5. “Magnetic vs Pipe & Cable Locators.” Schonstedt. Accessed October 20, 2022.,surrounds%20a%20buried%20metal%20target
  6. “How To Use A Metal Detecting Pinpointer Like A Pro.” Tech Metal Research.October 2, 20221.
  7. Woodford, Chris. “Metal detectors.” Explain That Stuff. May 9, 2022.
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