You can detect plastic, PVC, or pex water pipes in your wall without removing a section of drywall. The best methods for finding plastic pipes in your wall are:
- Use a wall scanner.
- Use a stud finder to detect pipes while water is running through them.
- Use a borescope camera that links with your smartphone.
- Run water and use a stethoscope to locate pipes by sound.
- Turn on the water and use a screwdriver to find pipes by sound and vibration.
Each of these methods is useful for finding pipes in your walls, whether you’re looking for plastic pipes, polyethylene pipes, or even metal pipes.
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5 Ways to Detect Plastic Pipes in Your Wall
Many remodeling and home decor projects require you to cut or drill into your walls. During kitchen or bathroom remodels, it’s essential to make sure you won’t damage the pipes in your walls during the renovation process. Damage to in-wall plumbing can result in burst pipes, water leaks, and hundreds of dollars in damage. To find plastic piping before you begin to cut or drill, try these solutions.
Specialized wall scanners are the tools used by the pros. Products such as this one will detect plastic pipes in your walls, as well as metal pipes, studs, and any other obstructions.
- Use a pipe detector to find plastic water pipes in your wall.
- Run a nearby tap or shower so the wall scanner can detect pipes.
- Open both hot and cold taps to make sure all water lines are full and detectable.
In order for a wall scanner to find a plastic pipe, it must have water running through it. For this reason, it’s essential to turn on both hot and cold water nearby. This will ensure that water is running through all the supply pipes in your wall. Once the water is running, use the wall scanner to find the pipes.
A high-quality stud finder is an ideal tool for finding the location of pipes in the wall. Choose a model that identifies what material has been detected. This will let you know whether you’ve found a wooden stud, metal, electrical wire, or a pipe. This way, you can plan your project without cutting a hole in your wall.
- This stud finder identifies wood, metal, and live wires.
- As with a wall scanner, turn on both hot and cold taps to make detecting pipes easier.
- Switch to deep scanning mode to find recessed water pipes.
While wooden studs are just behind a sheet of drywall or paneling, there is often a gap between the drywall and any in-wall plumbing. To allow for this and detect recessed pipes, choose a stud finder with a deep scanning mode. This will make finding all types of pipes much more accurate.
Borescope Camera for Your Phone
Eliminate the guesswork of finding pipes in your walls by getting a look yourself. You can get your eyes on what’s inside your wall without ripping off any drywall. A borescope camera fed through a small hole in the wall can be used to get a look. Most new borescope models pair with smartphones to allow you to watch the video feed. This is a foolproof method for seeing what’s going on inside your walls.
- This borescope syncs with your smartphone, allowing you to see a real-time video feed from the borescope on your phone.
- Choose a borescope with LED lights, to illuminate the interior of the wall.
- Drill a small hole in your wall and feed the borescope inside.
- Use the borescope/endoscope camera to find water pipes, studs, and wiring in your walls.
All that’s required for the borescope camera to get a look inside your walls is a small hole drilled through your drywall. This can be easily patched and is a lot more convenient than tearing off an entire section of drywall.
Stethoscopes aren’t just for doctors. This simple tool can be used to find water pipes in your wall. To do so:
- Purchase this inexpensive stethoscope.
- Turn on the taps in the room, to run water through the pipes.
- Use the stethoscope to listen to the walls. Move toward the sound of rushing water until you locate water pipes.
- Mark the location and path of any water pipes you find.
In order to reduce interference and locate pipes one at a time, it may be beneficial to run cold water first, followed by hot water. This way you can pinpoint individual supply pipes.
Similar to a stethoscope, a screwdriver can be used to find water pipes by following sound and vibration. To use a screwdriver to find plastic pipes in your wall, do the following:
- Run water through one or more taps.
- Place the tip of the screwdriver firmly against the wall.
- Put your ear to the end of the screwdriver handle.
- As with the stethoscope, move the screwdriver toward the sound and vibration of running water.
- Mark the path of any in-wall pipes.
This process is not as accurate as using a wall scanner or borescope, but it is very simple to perform without any additional tools. You can use the screwdriver technique in a pinch to get a good idea of where pipes are, then decide if it’s necessary to use more sophisticated measures to find their exact location.
Can a Stud Finder Detect PVC Pipe?
A high-quality stud finder can locate PVC and pex pipes, in addition to wood, metal, and electrical wire. The key to using a stud finder to locate plumbing is to turn on the water in the room where you are working. This will help the stud finder read the pipe as a solid object. Additionally, if your stud finder has a deep scanning mode, use this. Often, pipes are an inch or more away from the drywall.
How to Tell if You Have Studs or Pipes
The key to determining whether you’ve found a wooden stud in your wall versus a conduit, wire, or pipe is to use a stud finder or wall scanner that provides feedback on the material it’s detected. A stud finder will not only locate objects in your wall, but it also provides a readout letting you know the type of object it has found, whether it is metal, wood, or live electrical wire.
- Use a stud finder or wall scanner that indicates the material that was detected.
- If you are unsure whether your stud finder has located a pipe or a wood stud, turn on the water. Use a stethoscope or similar tool to listen closely. If you can hear running water, it’s a pipe.
Additionally, it’s helpful to use other techniques, such as running the water and a stethoscope, to determine if the object you’ve located is a stud or a pipe. When searching for plumbing in your wall, it’s better to double-check than to forge ahead.
How Do You Find Hidden Pipes in the Wall?
To find hidden plumbing in your wall, use a wall scanner, high-quality stud finder, or drill a small hole in your wall and insert a borescope camera to get a closer look. These high-tech options are the most accurate. For a simpler solution, run water through your taps and use a stethoscope to listen to the wall to find the sound of water running through the pipes. A similar method is to press the tip of a screwdriver against the wall and put your ear to the handle, to create a makeshift stethoscope that can pick up the sound and vibration of running water. These methods are the most reliable and simplest for finding plastic water pipes. All of them are preferable to cutting a hole in your wall to get a look.