How to remove a residential heating oil tank

Written by larry darter | 13/05/2017
How to remove a residential heating oil tank
(Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Removal of a residential heating oil tank can become necessary for a variety of reasons. Replacing a leaking tank, replacing an old tank that has exceeded its useful service life, or deciding to discontinue using oil as the method of heating a home are the most common reasons. Both underground and above-ground heating oil tanks are in use. Having to comply with complex environmental laws and regulations makes removing an underground tank an undertaking better left to professionals, but removal of an above-ground tank, a simpler task, can be accomplished by a homeowner.

Contact the office of the fire marshal or the building department for the city or county and ask whether any local requirements exist regarding removal of a heating oil tank before proceeding. The Washington State Department of Ecology notes that while the state does not prohibit homeowners from removing heating oil tanks, "some local governments do have requirements or guidelines that must be followed."

Remove any remaining oil from the tank. Use a hand-operated oil transfer pump to remove the oil and transfer it to a temporary storage container if the tank is being replaced and the oil will be used later. Otherwise, contact the company that the oil was purchased from to empty the tank.

Clean the tank of sediments and sludge. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment recommends having the tank cleaned by a commercial tank cleaning company prior to removal.

Disconnect all piping from the heating oil tank. Remove the installed piping unless the tank is being replaced. Cap or remove the exterior fill piping for above-ground basement tank installations if the tank is not being replaced to avoid heating oil being accidentally pumped into the basement after the tank has been removed.

Cut the tank in half using a reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade to simplify removal and disposal of an above-ground tank. According to the Delaware Valley Fuel Dealer's Association, residential heating oil tanks typically have a capacity of 275 gallons, making them heavy and bulky. Moving and hauling a tank in pieces is easier than moving one that is intact. Dispose of the tank by taking it to a local metal recycling facility as recommended by the Michigan Department of Resources and Environment.


Use safety goggles, gloves and hearing protection when using metal cutting power tools.

Tips and warnings

  • Use safety goggles, gloves and hearing protection when using metal cutting power tools.

Things you need

  • Oil transfer hand pump
  • Pipe wrench
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Metal cutting saw blades

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