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How to Find a Water Pipe – 7 Best Ways

Find a Water Pipe

As you might expect, when carrying out water leak detection services, one of the things that is important is being able to find water pipes in homes and businesses. Water pipes come in many forms, with many different materials involved (e.g. copper vs plastic pipes) and can be located in a number of locations.

It’s common for water pipes to be hidden in properties and so locating them can be a challenge. So in this useful guide, we list 7 of the best ways to find a water pipe and how each of them work.

Find Water Pipe
Find Water Pipe – How?

We have mentioned previously how there is no ‘one size fits all’ method to detect a leak and the same applies to finding a water pipe. Each of the methods we will now run through has applications it works best on, whereas others are more versatile with a number of applications.

Find a Water Pipe Plans
Find a Water Pipe – Plans

1) Finding a Water Leak on Plans

This might not be something you would have first thought of but in some instances properties, especially commercial or new build homes might have plans or blueprints which map out all the water pipes in your property. This might show central heating pipes, hot and cold water pipes, drainage or even things like underfloor heating if you have that.

On top of that, in some situations builders or installers might mark on walls and floors etc where pipes run which can also be a great additional help, assuming they are marked correctly.

It is important to say that these should not be relied on alone to find a water pipe, they are a guide and are best backed up with some of the other methods on this list to be more certain, especially if you are planning on excavating to find a water pipe!

How to Find Water Pipe
How to Best Find Water Pipe?

In no particular order, let’s run through some of the next best ways to find a water pipe, other than using plans or diagrams etc. We will explaining how they work and their benefits they have vs each other. This will help to understand the strengths and applications each is best for.

2) Thermal Imaging to Find a Water Pipe

This is no doubt one of the ways to find a water pipe that you might have predicted or expected. We carry our thermal camera leak detection and it can be highly effective, especially in certain situations where locating a pipe (or a leak) is essential.

Find Water Pipe Thermal Camera
Find Water Pipe Using a Thermal Camera

In our guide to Radiator Leak Signs, thermal imaging cameras are discussed in there. We explain how thermal imaging cameras work very well on locating hot water pipes.

They can work on many types of leak, especially:

It is worth noting that using a thermal imaging camera to find a water pipe is not as simple as you might expect. Our staff are highly trained and experienced in using such devices efficiently and effectively to get better results. Their experience helps this greatly.

Find Water Pipe Acoustic
Find a Water Pipe With Acoustic Listening

3) Find a Water Pipe With Acoustic Listening

We have a stand-alone guide to how acoustic water pipe leak detection works, but put simply the devices are a more modern version of ‘listening sticks’ which worked to listen for the sound of running water or water leaks. They work on a similar principle as a stethoscope.

Clearly, in order to listen for these sounds to find a water pipe, there needs to be the sound a water running or the sound of a leak, otherwise, there is unlikely to be anything to listen for.

Again, a but like we mentioned with thermal imaging, these devices are best utilised in the hands of a water leak detection specialist, who will be trained and experienced in using them.

Detector Find a Water Pipe
Detector to Find a Hidden Water Pipe

4) Pipe Detectors to Find a Water Pipe

The next method to find a water pipe is using a pipe detector. Again, like some of the other things on this list, we have a separate dedicated page on water pipe detectors so feel free to read and review that if you are interested in going into more detail.

In summary, pipe detectors come in many shapes and sizes, including multi-detectors (designed to locate studs, electrical wiring and pipework often) and the more expensive and professional ‘Cat and Genny’ devices. These work in different ways. A pipe detector most commonly is picking up / detecting the materials in the pipework when looking to locate a water pipe.

In comparison, a Cat and Genny transmits a signal down the pipework, which can then be picked up by it’s scanner to trace water pipes through a property. It can be very effective.

Drain Borescope Camera Find Water Pipes
Drain and Borescope Cameras to Find Water Pipes

5) Borescope Cameras and Drain Cameras

We have coupled borescope cameras and drain cameras into one section here. Although they have their differences as a method to find water pipes, they also have a lot of similarities.

Basically, they both work on the principle of a compact camera (attached to a snake-like connection – often to a LCD screen) which can fit into confined spaces, holes, pipes and voids. Such inspection cameras can show where water pipes are and help to locate water leaks too.

The key difference between these 2 devices is that, typically, drain cameras are used to inspect internally within drainage / waste pipework and sewer pipes etc. Nonetheless, both are versatile and useful tools used for trace and access leak detection, these can help with early leak detecting.

Remember that, if you have Trace and Access on your home insurance policy, the cost of locating and fixing the water pipe leaks could be paid for by your insurance company.

The next 2 methods of finding a water pipe are more indirect methods in that they may not necessarily locate the pipe but provide secondary information that indicates proximity of pipes. They work well with the other methods above and help to compliment them often.

Moisture Meter to Find a Pipe (indirectly)

6) Moisture Meter to Find a Water Pipe (indirectly)

As our informative guide to different types of moisture meter indicates, there are many different types on the market, each designed with different specifications and applications.

As we said just before, these do not typically directly help to find a water pipe, however, in many situations (like looking for pipes when doing leak detection) they do pick up secondary water damage – i.e. where the water is leaking out. This might be damp concrete from a slab leak, or a damp ceiling etc.

Where there is water damage, many times that water has come from water pipes and can help to give clues as to help find a water pipe, especially when used in conjunction with other previous methods. The more evidence you can collect, using various devices, the better your chances of getting accurate results and an increased likelihood being able to find a water pipe.

Advanced Leak Detection Alarms
Advanced Leak Detection Alarms and Sensors

7) Tracer Gas to Help Find a Water Pipe

Again, we explain this in more detail in our article detailing tracer gas water leak detection, but a bit like the moisture meter example in (6) above, it can help to find a water pipe.

In simplified terms, here is how tracer gas leak detection works:

  • Let’s use Central Heating Water Leaks as an example
  • Water is ‘drained down’ from the network of pipes
  • Tracer gas is pressurised into the system
  • A gas sniffer is used to trace the gas leaking out
  • It then indicates proximity of a water leak
  • Other method can help with pinpointing exactly

Both this method and the previous one regarding using moisture meters are best supported with other methods from earlier too, especially as both moisture from a water pipe leak and tracer gas can migrate or travel to adjoining areas. You need to make sure that where the water or gas is manifesting itself is the location of the leak, but that is not always the case!

We hope you enjoyed the information and advice given in this guide, there are other methods to find water pipes, some of them less common nowadays (like water dowsing!) but we have focused on the ones advanced leak detection companies use.

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How to Find a Water Pipe – FAQs:

How do I find out where my water pipes are?

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Assuming you do not have detailed plans of where your water pipes are, then other methods to find a water pipe need to be used and plumbers and leak detection companies can help with this. Different methods can be used, depending on the property design and type of pipe being located. For example, thermal imaging cameras are good for hot water pipes which might be hidden underground.

What tool is used to find water pipes?

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There are a wide variety of devices used to find water pipes, even in challenging situations. Each has a different application and usage. For example, ‘CAT and Genny’ devices can help with underground pipes, thermal imaging cameras can help with locating underfloor heating pipes and borescope cameras can help search in confined / hidden spaces.

How do I find an underground water pipe in the UK?

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Finding water pipes underground can be challenging but how difficult it is, and the best method to use depends on where the pipe is located and what type of pipe it is. For example, finding a deep outdoor underground pipe is different to a shallow indoor pipe in concrete. We use a number of methods to find underground pipes, depending on the situation.