View Full Version : Possible to "cold patch" leaky heating oil tank?

04-17-2009, 05:44 PM
I just noticed my heating oil tank has a slow leak -- more like seeping than an active leak.

Is it possible to cold patch (or other solution) this before it becomes any worse? :scratch2:

Thanks in advance for recommendations, suggestions, etc. :yes:

04-17-2009, 05:51 PM
I just noticed my heating oil tank has a slow leak -- more like seeping than an active leak.

Is it possible to cold patch (or other solution) this before it becomes any worse? :scratch2:

Thanks in advance for recommendations, suggestions, etc. :yes:
Auto parts stores used to sell a two part claylike material that would seal a slow leak in a gas tank. Sand it and wipe it with acetone first.

Just make sure you don't have a huge area that is just about to go.......

04-17-2009, 06:06 PM
Thanks. Seems pretty solid overall.

04-17-2009, 06:23 PM
That's just a disaster waiting to happen. If it does, you have a heck of a mess, a dangerous condition, a terrible smell that won't go away AND a very expensive environmental clean up. Your best bet is to call your oil company. They have a magnetic patch (rubber gasket with strong magnets) to slap on the leak temporarily. They will then pump out the tank and put in a new one and refill to the same level, etc. I wouldn't court disaster here. Bite the bullet!
Good luck,

04-17-2009, 07:28 PM
First, you close all the doors and windows in the basement, then you get out your MIG welder.....

Just kidding! When it rains it pours, don't it?

04-17-2009, 07:59 PM
Oil company tech came by, found the leak (very, very tiny), applied the magnetic patch. This will buy us enough time for me to find a job (I hope) so we can afford to pay to have a new tank installed. Or, with the help of some contractor friends of mine, we'll install a new one ourselves. :smoke:

04-17-2009, 08:08 PM
as bad as it sounds,and tho it's probably not what you want to do..i'd have to go with Reece's your oil guy,and try to get it properly taken care of quickly,quietly and ASAP....its honestly the lesser evil here... if the "wrong" people get a whiff of a leaky oil tank,the cleanup from even a minor amount of oil can be very,VERY expensive...and you DO NOT want to deal with that!!!

04-17-2009, 09:59 PM
Look careful enough and you can probably find a good used one for little or nothing. I had been putting off getting a new one for the shop and finally my Dad's neighbor had a good one show up at a job site. Worst trouble with the freebies is you have to find a way to load it up by yourself. But really not too bad if you have a couple strong friends. If you can permanently place the new tank next to the old one then you could just use a cheap "kerosene" pump to transfer the oil. Well, that is what the cheapskate here would do. I wouldn't bother trying to fix the old tank...bad stuff could be getting ready to happen.

04-17-2009, 10:16 PM
As an old tank builder, let me explain what is happening here. Oil of and by itself does not and cannot corrode a steel tank. If there are impurities such as sulfur or sulfates in the oil (like in crude oil), then there can be accelerated surface corrosion, but for refined oils, this is not the case.

And if there is accumulated water that sits in a tank bottom, then corrosion from chemical or biological mechanisms (yes, there are certain sulfur-eating bacteria that act in concert with hydrocarbons to corrode steel) can quickly occur.

Okay - enough theory and education. Now for the bad news - when a small above ground tank springs a leak from corrosion that cannot be traced to a specific source like a tank support, then it is certain that the entire tank has experienced a significant reduction in shell thickness due to widespread corrosion, and the entire tank integrity is now suspect. Patching this thing is at best a very temporary expedient, and this tank needs to be replaced before a large scale leak springs, as it undoubtedly will. Imagine the consequences of a 250 gallon oil leak on your property if you need any other incentive.

04-17-2009, 10:40 PM
I don't know what the situation is in New England, but around here it's not uncommon to find a nice used tank in the "trader" papers for small money. It'd be worth thinking about... I'll repeat what others have said about the need to get something done as soon as possible. As Hokieman mentioned: if it's not leaking next to a bracket or weld, chances are it won't last long.

04-17-2009, 10:40 PM
Hokieman is wise,

listen to the wise men

04-18-2009, 06:59 AM
inlaws had a tank damaged by an oil company, the entire house was levelled and about "4 houses more" of dirt removed...

luckily insurance covered the entire hazardous nightmare for them and even built them a brand new home!!

04-18-2009, 10:00 AM
Man between the cost of heating oil and stuff like this you cold climate guys have my sympathy. Is it still cool enough to use the rest up. We are on a/c down here already. Anyway sounds like it would be safer to have the stuff reclaimed by someone than take a chance of a cleanup. Bearing in mind the only oil heater I ever saw was on "This Old House". :D

04-18-2009, 01:05 PM
I've seen first hand what damage an environmental cleanup can do, and believe me, its not pretty.

Lady across the street had her tank in her attached garage, and it sprung a leak.
they took down her garage, dug about 10-12 feet down, and removed everything, including a chunk of her foundation.

all that for about 70 gallons.

have it tended to before you spring a major leak.

04-18-2009, 05:42 PM
Oil company will empty tank, replace (my expense) and then pump the same amount of oil back into the tank that was there when we started.

Will call oil company on Tuesday. Monday is a holiday here -- Patriot's Day/Boston Marathon Day.

Will have to pay for new tank in installments. :thumbsdn:

04-18-2009, 11:10 PM
When I was very small (back in the 60's), our oil tank suddenly sprunk a leak. My God, the smell was terrible! Dad called the oil company, and Mom and I stayed out of the house all day. Back then, though, all they did was dig out the old dirt beneath the tank and that was it. No major environmental disaster way back then.

Fast forward to our present house. Ten years ago, we moved in and noticed the tank had a slow leak, just enough to need the bottom half of a plastic gallon milk jug with kitty litter in it to absorb the drips. The previous owner had had her oil company put some fiberglass patches and resin on the bottom, but it hadn't seemed to do much good. Just last year, when my Dad and I were replacing some main beam columns, we noticed that the brass oil line fittings on the side of the tank were a bit loose(!). A little bit of gentle tightening and presto! No more leak! No one had ever checked the oil line fittings or valve.

Good thing, too. To take the full size 275gallon tank out, they'd have to empty it, cut it up and move it out in pieces, because when the idiot contractor put the tank in, he built the basement with no way to remove the tank or put a new full-size one in! There's no hatchway, and the tank won't fit up the basement stairs or out the doorway! Yes, it's the original tank... from 1941. :yikes:

04-18-2009, 11:29 PM
Sorry to hear about your tank, but it looks like you're already going the smart way. If the oil company does the job, you know it'll be done right, & so will they. :thmbsp: