Oil Tank Failures & Leaks

How to Prepare for an Oil Tank Failure and Leak


Over time all things fail whether it's your car, your roof, or your oil tank. It is an unfortunate truth that you will need to prepare your home for an oil tank failure in the form of a leak or other issues.

First, we’re going to look at leaks; this is when oil from inside the tank gets out of the tank, this can happen in different ways. Some leaks are more dangerous and damaging to your home and the surrounding area depending on the severity of the leak.


  • Weeping: Weeping is when a little bit of oil gets out around the seams of the oil tank. This is a relatively slow leak and can be identified by streaking or discoloration on the side of the tank around the seams.

  • Stalactite: This can be identified by a buildup of oil under the tank, think of oil icicles. Again this is a slow leak but as the stalactite continues to grow it represents a faster, more dangerous leak.

  • Drip/Steady: This is the fastest and most potentially damaging leak, this is when the oil just simply flows from a hole or crack in the tank. The rate of the flow is dependant on the size of the hole or crack. The leak can be lessened by sludge on the bottom of the tank, if for some reason the sludge that is acting as a block is eliminated, the only place your oil has left to go is on your floor.

  • Now these failures if caught early do not represent a major environmental issue, they will require a new oil tank as patches only represent a temporary fix. If a leak is left unnoticed for an extended period of time it can present a large environmental headache. If you just have a dirt floor in your basement or if you have a leaking outside the tank, the only place your oil leak has to go is in the ground. Over time this can lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage and clean up costs when the spill is discovered. In many cases, homeowners insurance won’t cover the clean up without a special kind of coverage on your plan. With a cement floor over time, the oil will eventually soak through the floor and into the dirt below it.

    There are a few things that you can do to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen to you. First, you can get a tank tray, tank trays slide under a traditional oil tank, and hold up to 13 gallons of oil. This will protect you against small leaks collecting in the ground without your knowledge as any leaked oil will be trapped in the tray. You should have annual preventative maintenance done on your heating system, during this maintenance you should make sure that the technician is taking a look at your oil tank. This will help you catch any potential leaks when you don’t have a tray under the tank or if you don’t frequently check your tank. You should, however, check your tank on a regular basis, for many of us our oil tank is in an unfinished basement, tucked away in a corner. In this situation, many homeowners simply forget about the tank, or attribute any odd smells from or in the basement, as basement smells. This can result in a small leak going undiscovered for an extended period of time, resulting in the hefty damages discussed earlier.

    A more permanent solution to the inevitability of steel oil tank failures is a Roth tank. These are double insulated tanks that almost 100% protect against leaks. The tank actually acts as two tanks, the main tank made of blow-molded high-density polyethylene that forms a seamless belly. If for some reason that tanks fail and spring a leak there is a secondary galvanized enclosure that can hold up to 110% of the inside belly’s contents. Roth tanks are a little more expensive than traditional steel oil tanks, but they provide an almost 100% guarantee to not leak, with two layers of protection, plus a 30-year warranty with a $2 million insurance policy against it to help in the event of a leak.