What I'm Seeing Now


When An Oil Tank Is Too Heavy, It's Too Heavy!

Coming around to the rear of this house I immediately thought that when an oil tank is too heavy, it's too heavy!

This is an old tank!  It has been here quite a while.

Certainly this patio was not made to handle its weight.

This is settling that has happened for some time.

It brings other problems with it.  The differential settlement of the patio leaves the four legs of the tank unevenly planted.  The front right leg is off the ground, putting more strain on the rear leg.  This could lead to a catastrophic collapse one day when that tank is filled!  Maybe the next time!

Also, the house was built in 1955, apparently with wood siding.  Some time in the 70s I am guessing they covered it with this aluminum.  The wood siding can be seen upper left where the aluminum siding has come off.

The problem is, the original wood, and now aluminum, siding is lower than the patio and soil.

As this patio has sunk, its inclination sends water toward the house, and this siding. That is quite the conducive condition for termites and interior moisture problems.

Beyond this is a crawl space.  I was thinking it will be easy to scooch over there and have a look.

Well, the access hole was not much larger than my tape measure!

Even The Shadow isn't squishing into there, and I have seen photos of him going where few could go (except some of my 12 year old Boy Scouts!).

Reaching my camera in there, it looks like we have a healthy 12" or so to negotiate!

That's plenty of room!

Whoops.  No vapor retarder over the soil and no insulation under the floor.  This will be one moist house when it's wet and warm, and one comfy house come winter!

My client asked me how the termite guy will be able to see all this.  He won't unless he has a chihuahua with a camera to go in there to walk around.   A Little Doggie Cam!

In this case one thing is leading to another, which in turn is contributing to another problem not connected, which itself is yet another issue altogether! 

My recommendation:  remember, a home inspection examines things as they are.  But the house has to be looked at as a whole as one system will certainly affect another, which can affect, in turn, yet another!  The suffering of one can lead to suffering of other aspects of the house.  It's all symbiotic interaction.  And seeing and taking all of this into account is the very essence of a home inspection!  I got an email early this morning from my client.  He said, "Thanks Jay. I think you have given a very detailed assessment of the house which is useful for us to make some decisions."  Indeed, he says with a wink and a smile.




Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 34 commentsJay Markanich • May 15 2013 01:23AM


Hello Jay,

If these were some of the issues on the oustide, I can only imagine what was waiting for you on the inside.  

And, you have identified another business opportunity - "chihuahua cam"!

Posted by Lisa Von Domek, ....Experience Isn't Expensive.... It's Priceless! (Lisa Von Domek Team) over 7 years ago

Good morning Jay.  Another great information post.  Thanks.  BTW, I don't think many folks under 50 know about "The Shadow" radio program, love the humor.

Posted by Kenneth Cole, NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson (Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com -) over 7 years ago

These conditions are all too common with homes of this age.  Say what we will about building codes, they serve a purpose when it comes to basic home construction.

There are thousands of homes in this area that still have these oil tanks installed.  Each one is a pending problem.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 7 years ago

Hi Jay.  That is an environmental disaster waiting to happen.

Posted by Conrad Allen, Webster, Ma, Realtor (Re/Max Professional Associates) over 7 years ago

Looks like the old saying and the list goes on.  Interesting how one problem can lead to so many more. 

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) over 7 years ago

Oh yes, this looks like several issues waiting to happen. And, while it may not be an issue initially, for anyone looking to settle for a while, it will be an issues soon.  It's just a matter of when.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 7 years ago

Piece of cake...at least it as not underground as some have been here which is REALLY not fun....one inspection included hunting with a metal detector cuz there MIGHT be one that no one knew was there !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 7 years ago

Lisa - let's just say there was a whole lot going on here!

Ken - Charlie has a shadow avatar often, so that is how I refer to him.

Lenn - this one is leaking to boot!  In two places!

It is Conrad.  Certainly needs replacement.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

James - that is often the case with home inspections!

Debbie - these just scratch the surface of what's up with this house.

S&D - this is not the original tank probably, but that is hard to tell!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Hi Jay,

I'm sure glad we don't have any of these Oil Tanks here in New Mexico. But in Michigan though they were prevelant everywhere.

But not here. I really dont like those tanks.

As far as the doggie cam goes.

I did see a plumber the other day with a Rover cam.

He could look anywhere as long as there was a six inch clearence.

Have a good day in Bristow my friend.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 7 years ago

I have been considering getting a sewer-line camera Clint.  There are not many of them around here!  But a doggie cam would be very cool.  Throw treats around to get him to walk where you want!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago


Terrific information for we agents to be aware of.  You inspectors are so valuable to us.  You post on oil tanks and their sometimes complicated issues is thought provoking. Thanks.

Posted by Kathy Scipione, Kathy Scipione, CRS, GRI, AHLS, ABR, (Long and Foster Re Inc) over 7 years ago

I might consider installing a trap door access from inside the house, or digging out that access hole and installing a window well. The concrete patio and oil tank wouldn't bother me ( except for the leaking). Lots of those still around. I would be more concerned with the wood behind the aluminum being too close to ground and rotting. But, the house has been there since mid 50s, and if it's livable, you're buying what you see, a 1955 house with potential, but needs work. If price is right...... someone will take on that project.

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) over 7 years ago

Good morning James,

There must be a camera that would not have the extra expense of doogie treats to get at those hard to get places.

Make yorself a great day. 

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 7 years ago

I see oil tanks installed on slabs on the outside of the home here quite often. I think the bigger problem is that patio up against the house. The sill has to be rotting. Might be a few...thousand happy termites too! 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

It won't be long until that's a proble for somebody...hopefully not the new buyer. 

Posted by Marc McMaster, Putting my clients before myself (RE/MAX Centre Realty) over 7 years ago

Jay, I can see where this is a disaster waiting to happen. When are you going to start advertising that you can go anywhere with your Doggie Cam? lol

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 7 years ago

Jay, while the price of the home may be attractive, the ultimate cost for all the repairs could be huge.

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 ) over 7 years ago

Jay.  THAT  is a serious problem for the EPA, the State of Virginia, etc.  Hopefully, the agent for the buyer informs the buyer that ONCE HE TAKES TITLE to that property, he also buys the liability for any environmental damage from leaking oil. 


Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 7 years ago

Jay, I just purchased a drone with two video cameras to take aerial pictures for my listings. .the crazy thing is that I can operate it with my iPad . .

you don't need a Chihuahua. .buy an off road remote control vehicle with a light and a camera. I'm sure they sell this somewhere.. .

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) over 7 years ago

Jay, I only have heard about such things... oil tanks?  Any way that patio looks to be a real issue along with that sweet crawl.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay -- looks very much like the weight of the oil tank caused that section of the patio to sink bringing water back toward the house - not helping it flow away.  Does the current owner have to cover any oil that has gotten into the ground so far?

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) over 7 years ago

Jay-This could be very scary for anyone.. imagine if it fell on top of a child or a pet

Posted by Scott Fogleman, Greater Good Group (New Home Team 804-573-9592) over 7 years ago

Chihuahua cam... I love it! It looks like that soil has a very high hydrocarbon content as well! No smoking allowed in the back yard!!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 7 years ago

Your list would have probably grown quite a bit if you could have gone in the crawl space.

Posted by Robert Sole (REM Inspections LLC) over 7 years ago

Kathy - these are sticky!

Jeff - I said an interior access would be great.  If this gets that far...

Raymond - how fun would the Doggie Cam be?!

Ay, ay Cap'n Jim.   This place is wet, to be sure.

Marc - I think this tank will be an issue right away, especially with the loan.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Mike - would be fun!  In my dreams I will conjure up one tonight!

Ed - this post has not scratched the surface of the repairs this home will need!

Ahh, Lenn!  Dual agency on this one!  I asked the buyer who the agent represents.  I really did.  But you're right.  I think this thing has been leaking for some time.

Fernando - it would have to be an off-road toy vehicle!  Crawl spaces are rough and tumble.

Both to be sure Don.  That tank is a mess.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Bank owned Steven!  And they don't care.

Scott - that tank is a disaster waiting to happen.

Fred - them there hydros are all over!  You're right - a No Smoking sign should be put up!

Robert - I have been bitten by black widows in crawls before!  That will grow you up a bit!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

That negative slope can be a real problem over time Jay. Better get the lighter oil.  :)

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 7 years ago

Isn't that 3 in 1 oil pretty light?

They should convert that tank into a slurpee machine Tom.  Much lighter.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

A crawl like that around here would undoubtely have "issues."  Starting with access. :)  Even sideways I would not fit in that opening.  Once inside I might be able to deal with the 12"---but the opening is certainly a problem at tapeX2!  I am at least tapeX3 :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 7 years ago

There is a lot going on with that house Jay.  I'm sure you gave the buyer a lot to think about.  Now let us know when you get that chihuahua cam worked out. 

Posted by Jim Patton, Realtor - Stanislaus ,Merced, San Joaquin Counties ( Aspire Home Real Estate 209-404-0816) over 7 years ago

The opening is about 7" Shadow, but a healthy 12" once inside!  My mom always said if "they" can get their heads in, "they" can get their bodies in.  She may have been referring to a different animal though...  And I can't think of a single Boy Scout I know who would want to go in there!

Jim - that would be loads of fun!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay -  I wonder if the oil delivery guy warned the owners about the oil tank. That's a huge problem waiting to happen, even for the oil company.

Posted by Eric Middleton, Professional Property Inspector (Closer Look Property Inspections Inc.) over 7 years ago

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