Your Place: Thanks to all with oil-tank experience

Posted: September 16, 2011

What I like most about "Your Place" is the sense of community it engenders.

When one reader needs help and I appeal for assistance, I'm usually overwhelmed with e-mail that, taken together, often solves the problem.

In this case, the reader was told that the 275-gallon oil tank in his basement needed to be replaced because of rust, but he had no idea how a new, proper-size tank could be squeezed down the stairs.

I received six detailed e-mails in 48 hours.

The first: "Several years ago I had a similar problem with my fuel-oil tank.

"I had some tank repair people come out. They pumped the tank out, turned it over where it stood, sanded it well, and applied fiberglass. They then painted the tank, turned it over, and returned the oil to the tank. Problem solved."

No. 2, from Kevin McGovern: "The contractor cut up the old tank to go out the door, and found an older, empty one hiding under the stairs. My doorway and stairs from the basement to an outside door had been modified from the original house. Once all the old tanks - no oil leaking, of course, since they were properly drained first - were removed, the contractor was able to fit through the openings two 1371/2-gallon new tanks. He set them up, balanced them, and connected them to my furnace."

No. 3, from John Heyser: "I own many tanks, and they probably all have rust on the bottom. I would lightly sand the tank and spray with a Rust-oleum paint. The tank will not all of a sudden fall apart, so just look for weeping.

"Not knowing what the staircase looks like, possibly they could remove a portion of stair- case and lift the tank out. A 275-gallon tank is about 72 inches long, 22 inches wide, and 45 inches high. On end, they take up no more room then a man, and will go very easily through a door."

"If the present tank remains, it should have the inside bottom cleared of any water. The oil company can test to see if there is water on the bottom and remove it. One of the ways to remove water is by adding an emulsifier to the fuel to get rid of the moisture. On an outside tank, that should be done every year."

No. 4, from Rose Webster:

"We had the same problem about 25 years ago. We had a 225-gallon oil tank behind a wall in our finished basement. It began to leak oil from rusted-out holes at the bottom of the tank. It was a horror, and the smell was horrendous. Someone from New Jersey recommended by our oil company came and drained it, turned it upside down (after we tore down the drywall), and relined the bottom with fiberglass and gave us a 20-to-25-year warranty."

"Last summer we decided to convert to gas heat, but we had no more problems with the tank after that repair."

No. 5, from David Horowitz: "Pryco ( and Roth ( make small oil tanks that may squeeze down his stairs."

No. 6, from Kevin Kean, who had two tanks installed in his old house. One was a 275-gallon tank, brought into the basement in four pieces. The installer assembled them into the tank, welded the seams, attached feet and fittings, pressure-tested the joints with soap suds, and set it up.

He has had two 275-gallon tanks installed in the basement of his current 18th-century stone farmhouse. They were fully assembled and had to be hauled through three narrow doorways. Both had to be maneuvered on end to manage the tight turns.

To be honest, when he first planned on installing the two tanks here in Pennsylvania, he thought getting finished tanks into the basement would be a problem. Between the tight turns and the stone doorway, he just assumed he'd need to bring them in as pieces, but the installer looked, measured the stone doorway, and said, "No problem."

And it wasn't, he said.

Six ideas for our reader, all based on others' experiences.

Your Place:

This week on Al's Place: Using a laser thermometer.

Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies. He is the author of "Remodeling on the Money" (Kaplan Publishing).

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