A quality stud finder is capable of detecting pipes in your walls. Digital stud finders often come with a “deep scan” mode that detects objects that are recessed inside your wall. That makes these stud finders ideal for finding plumbing and electrical wires. A good stud finder will also alert you when it detects a metal object, which makes finding metal pipes easier. Additionally, if you turn on your faucets to run water through the pipes, a stud finder can often detect plastic pipes in your walls.
Do Pipes Run Through Walls?
In site-built homes, apartments, and other buildings, plumbing runs through the walls. However, the location of the plumbing depends on the layout and style of your home. For instance, in a one-story home, the plumbing in your wall does not typically run any higher than the highest faucet or showerhead. However, in a two-story home, the plumbing runs up through the walls from the first floor to the second.
- Pipes run through the walls in almost all houses, apartments, and other buildings.
- The extent of the pipes in your wall depends on whether it has one or more floors.
- Mobile homes have very little in-wall plumbing. Most of the pipes are in the crawlspace.
If you are searching for plumbing in a mobile home, you will not find much plumbing in the walls. The plumbing in a mobile home mostly runs through the crawlspace under the home. Pipes will then branch off and come up through the floor to feed water fixtures. So, you’ll likely only find pipes in walls near a sink, shower, or washing machine.
How Do You Check if There are Pipes Behind a Wall?
The best way to check for pipes behind a wall is to use a digital stud finder with deep scan mode. For best results, turn on both the hot and cold taps for any faucets or showers in the room where you are searching for pipes. Water rushing through the pipes helps the stud finder detect plastic pipes as solid objects instead of missing them.
- This stud finder with “deep scan” mode can detect pipes in your walls.
- Turn on the faucets in the room where you are looking for pipes to make detection easier.
- Make sure to turn on both hot and cold taps to fill the pipes with water, which makes them easier to detect.
- Move your scanner slowly along the wall at waist height to search for pipes.
Once the water is running, place your stud finder on the wall at one corner. Slide the stud finder along the wall to the opposite corner. Go slowly. Give your stud finder a chance to locate each item. To keep track of where studs and pipes are, use a pencil to mark both the right and left edges of each in-wall object.
How to Know if it’s a Stud or a Pipe [4 Methods]
There are a few ways to know whether the object you’ve detected in your wall is a stud or a pipe. All you need is a good electronic stud finder that is capable of deep scanning as well as identifying metal and live electrical wiring. Here’s how:
It Sets Off A Metal or Wire Alert
If your electronic stud finder shows that it has detected a metal object or live wire you know it has found a metal water pipe, metal stud, metal conduit, or electrical wire. Because metal studs are rare in homes, this is seldom the cause of a metal alert on your stud finder.
The Spacing Between Objects is Irregular
Another great way to know if you have found a stud or a pipe is by the distance between objects. Wall studs are typically 16–24 inches apart (41–61 cm). Objects detected between these regular intervals are typically pipes, conduits, or electrical wiring.
The Object is Wider or Narrower than a Stud
You can often tell by the width of the object if it is a stud or a pipe. First, find the left edge of the object, mark it, and repeat for the right edge. Wood studs are about 1.5 inches wide (4 cm). Copper pipes, as well as PEX and PVC pipes for delivering water, are typically smaller than this.
Map Your Wall for Best Results
When using a stud finder, scan the entire wall, marking both edges of each object you detect. Once you’ve found every object in the wall, you can map out the exact location of studs by their regular spacing 16–24 inches apart (41–61 cm). The objects that aren’t regularly spaced are most likely pipes, conduits, and/or ducts. This system of scanning an entire wall and then determining the pattern of studs even works if you have metal studs.
Can a Stud Finder Find Copper Pipes?
A digital stud finder with the ability to detect metal can find copper pipes in your wall. For best results, set your stud finder to deep scanning mode. It should be able to find the pipes and will even alert you that it has found a metal object.
- A digital stud finder capable of deep scanning and metal detection can detect copper pipe.
- Magnetic stud finders are not capable of detecting copper pipes.
Do not use a magnetic stud finder to attempt to find copper pipes. Copper is not a magnetic metal, so it won’t be detected by magnetic tools.
Will a Stud Finder Detect PVC Pipe?
Most stud finders cannot detect PVC pipes unless there is water running through them. The same goes for other plastic pipes, such as PEX. To allow your stud finder to locate these pipes in your wall, turn on both the hot and cold taps in the room.
- Digital stud finders can locate PVC and PEX pipes as long as water is actively running through the pipes.
- Turn on taps to send water through the pipes, then scan the wall.
- Turn on upstairs faucets and showers to find where water pipes run through walls on lower floors.
If you are trying to find where pipes run from an upstairs room through walls downstairs, turn on the taps in the upstairs room. Then, while water is running through the pipes, scan the walls in the rooms below to find PVC pipes.
Will a Stud Finder Detect Pipes?
You can find metal and plastic pipes in your wall by using an electronic stud finder. The best tips for using a stud finder to locate pipes in your wall is to:
- Turn on hot and cold taps to send water through the pipes, making them easier to detect.
- Set your stud finder to deep scanning mode.
- Map your entire wall from corner to corner, marking the left and right edge of each object.
- Determine what objects are wall studs based on their regular spacing.
- Objects that are not studs are likely to be pipes, conduits, wiring, or ducts.
Newer electronic stud finders are extremely versatile, making them useful for both finding pipes and letting you know what they’re made out of. With a few tips and tricks, you can find the exact location of pipes in your walls with a single tool.