How Plumbers Find Pipes in Walls Using a Detector

Pipes in Wall

Need to drill into your walls? Are you a plumber and want to know the best ways to avoid puncturing a pipe in a wall? If so then you should know how to find pipes in walls. Puncturing a water pipe can be very messy and expensive. In fact, a punctured water pipe can cost anywhere between $150 and $350 to repair. And that’s not even counting the damage to the wall which can cost as much as $750

Like most things in life, a little foresight and preparation can make all the difference. Learning the right way to find pipes in walls is extremely important whether you are a plumbing contractor or just a determined DIYer. So in today’s post, we are going to be walking you through how to find pipes in walls as well as answering some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding this task. For more plumbing resources, be sure to contact us and ask us how to become a Plumbing Heating & Air Alliance member.

Why Use a Detector?

In this guide we will be showing you how to find pipes in walls using an electronic detector. So why should you use this method to find where your pipes are? Because it is the safest and most accurate method. You can’t simply knock on your walls and listen for the variance in sound to find pipes like you can with wall studs. Pipes are recessed in the walls so you will not be able to hear the difference.

You might think you can follow the water lines from your basement upwards into your walls but piping often needs to change direction to avoid studs, electrical wiring and other obstructions in the wall. Using an electronic detector is quite simply the most precise and affordable way to find pipes.

How to Find Pipes in Walls

Now that you know why using a detector to find pipes in the walls is the best practice, let’s go over a brief guide of how to use your detector:

  • Rent or Buy – We included this step because we know plumbers and non-plumbers are likely to read this post. If you are a plumber, you are definitely going to want to buy a good pipe detector since you will be using it a lot. It’s important to find a sturdy, reliable, and accurate one. Here is a list of the best pipe detectors for plumbers to help you out. If you aren’t a plumber by trade, buying a detector may still be a good idea because they are very handy to have around. But if you don’t want to spend the money on a one-off project, you can easily rent one at your local hardware store.
  • Practice – Now that you have your detector, practice with it. Certain detectors can pick up studs, electrical wiring, and pipes and will make different noises or flash different indicator lights for each item. Try using the detector on an area you know has piping. Get to know the sound it makes. 
  • Indicate – Once you feel you are ready to use your detector in the field, don’t forget to make marks on the wall indicating where you find pipes. 

Can you Detect Plastic Water Pipes in Walls?

That will depend. A lot of modern stud finders can actually pick up plastic piping in walls. And if the plumber who installed the plastic piping abided by regulations and placed metallic tape on the piping, then your standard pipe detector will be able to pick up on it.

Can a Stud Finder Find Water Pipes?

In general, yes. Stud finders are designed to find any obstruction in the wall – including water pipes. So if you are just handling a project around the house, you can rely on your stud finder to locate pipes. But if you are a plumber, you will still want to invest in a specific pipe detector.

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