When searching for water pipes inside your brick walls, an electronic stud finder can be used to detect metal pipes and plastic pipes with water running through them. For a more precise and reliable way to locate pipes in brick, use a wall scanner. A standard metal detector is a very accurate tool for finding metal pipes in brick walls. Additionally, pipes sometimes run through your attic or basement. It’s worth checking these locations to get a good idea of the path your pipes follow.
Do Pipes Run Through Brick Walls?
If your home has brick walls, there will be plumbing running through them. However, you should also consider the size of your home when searching for a way to detect pipes. Single-story homes often have their plumbing mostly in a crawlspace under the home. In this case, the pipes inside your walls will only come up to the minimum height necessary to feed plumbing fixtures such as sinks and showers. However, multi-story homes will have pipes that run all the way up through the walls to the floors above.
- Brick-walled homes will have pipes inside the walls.
- If you have a single-story home the pipes may start at ground level and only go up high enough to feed plumbing fixtures.
- Pipes in multi-story homes will run all the way through the wall to serve top and bottom floors.
- Pipes may run from under your home (from your crawlspace or basement) or from your attic.
It’s a great idea to check your basement, crawlspace, and attic before you begin searching for pipes with other methods. Not only will you get a good idea of where the pipes run, you will also know if they will be high or low in the wall. Pipes in a basement will start at the bottom of the wall and only come up as far as they need to in order to feed your sinks, toilets, and showers. Pipes in an attic will come down from the top of the wall.
Can a Stud Finder Detect Water Pipes in Brick Walls?
A high-quality electronic stud finder with deep scanning mode and metal detection capabilities will be able to find water pipes in your walls. A simple laser stud finder or a magnetic stud finder is not a reliable way to find the exact location of a water pipe in your wall. You’ll need a stud finder with a screen so you can determine what the stud finder has detected.
- This electronic stud finder is capable of finding pipes in brick walls.
- Your stud finder needs deep scan mode and metal detection in order to be useful for finding pipes in brick.
- Simple stud finders without a screen are not useful for finding a water pipe in your wall.
- Turn on both the cold and hot water in the room to fill pipes with water and help your stud finder detect them.
Most stud finders will not detect plastic pipes unless there is water running through them. This is because plastic pipes do not have a lot of solid mass. However, you can help your stud finder detect plastic pipes by turning on both the hot and cold water to all the sinks and showers in the room. The water rushing through the pipe turns a hollow tube into a solid object, as far as your stud finder is concerned. You’ll be able to pick up plastic pipes even through brick.
5 Ways to Find Water Pipes in Brick Walls
Drilling into a brick wall without knowing the exact location of your in-wall plumbing can lead to costly water leaks. Rather than risk flooding and structural damage to your home, use one of the methods below to easily find pipes behind brick.
An electronic stud finder with deep scan mode is one of the best, most affordable tools for determining the location of plumbing in your brick walls. In order to use a stud finder for this job, you should:
- Use an electronic stud finder with a screen readout.
- Set your stud finder to “deep scan” mode.
- Turn on both the hot and cold faucets in the room to send water through all the pipes.
- Begin scanning your wall from side-to-side.
- Mark every item your stud finder detects.
- Make a special notation when your stud finder finds metal—this is probably a metal water pipe.
- Eliminate any items your stud finder detects as “live wires”—these are electrical, not plumbing.
It’s important to note that a simple magnetic stud finder is not a good choice. Most in-wall plumbing is made of copper, which is non-magnetic. A magnet will completely ignore these pipes.
A wall scanner is more accurate than a stud finder when searching for pipes in brick or concrete walls. A good wall scanner will have a mode for “concrete.” Use this setting when looking for pipes in your brick wall. Then, follow the same steps used for an electronic stud finder. This includes turning on all the taps in the room to fill the pipes with water. A wall scanner is more expensive than a stud finder, but it’s more accurate and reliable as well.
If you’re certain that your in-wall pipes are made of metal, a metal detector is a very good way to find them. Unlike a magnet, which will only find steel and iron pipes in your wall, a metal detector will pinpoint all types of metal. However, it’s important to note that unlike a wall scanner or stud finder, a metal detector will not differentiate between metal electrical wiring and metal pipes.
Check Your Basement
Many homes have the main plumbing network in the crawlspace or basement under the home. In most crawlspaces and unfinished basements, it’s easy to follow the path of these lines. You can then see where they turn upward to enter through the floor. Typically, they will go straight up through the floor to feed sinks, showers, and toilets.
- If you have a crawlspace or basement, enter it.
- Look at the ceiling of the basement or crawlspace—plumbing lines will run there.
- Follow the path of the lines to see where they go up through the walls.
- Determine where the lines run through walls in rooms above based on their location in the basement.
A benefit of finding plumbing lines in your basement is that you will know that your plumbing is coming up from the floor instead of down from the ceiling. This means that most rooms in your home will not have plumbing higher than the level of the tallest plumbing fixture (typically a shower head).
Take a Look in the Attic
Homes in the southern and western United States may have plumbing lines in the attic instead of a crawlspace. So, if you don’t find plumbing lines near ground level, look higher. Enter your attic and search for plumbing lines running along the floor or walls of an unfinished attic. Then, follow the lines to see where they go down into the walls. Plumbing lines typically follow a direct path from the attic to feed fixtures in the rooms below.
- Homes in warmer climates commonly have in-attic plumbing instead of ground-level plumbing.
- Search for your attic for plumbing lines.
- Follow the path of plumbing in your attic.
- Determine exactly where the lines go down into the wall to feed rooms on the lower levels.
- If your home has attic plumbing, water pipes will come down from the top of the wall to serve sinks, toilets, and showers.
If you have in-attic plumbing, your water lines will come from the top of the wall and run to the bottom. This makes putting holes in your wall to hang items more dangerous, since you may break or puncture a water line. Take the time to locate the lines in your attic and determine the path they take to the lower rooms.
How to Locate Water Pipes in Brick or Concrete Walls
In order to prevent water leaks and other damage caused by drilling into in-wall plumbing, use the following methods to find cold and hot water pipes in your wall:
- Use an electronic stud finder with deep scan and metal detection.
- Use a wall scanner with a “concrete” or “masonry” setting to scan your wall for pipes.
- Try a metal detector for locating metal pipes.
- Check your crawlspace or basement to see where pipes lead.
- Go into your attic to see if your plumbing path can be followed there.
These tactics help you trace your water service lines even through layers of brick or concrete blocks. Just remember to work patiently and mark the location of each object you find as you scan your walls with an electronic tool.