Practical tips on how to find a water pipe underground


Car­ry­ing out a zero cycle of work dur­ing the con­struc­tion of an object or dig­ging trench­es for tech­no­log­i­cal pipelines, cables requires knowl­edge of the spe­cif­ic loca­tion of the pos­si­ble pas­sage through the site of pre­vi­ous­ly laid engi­neer­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

The task of find­ing a water pipe (under­ground com­mu­ni­ca­tions) under­ground, an elec­tric or strand­ed tele­phone cable and not dam­ag­ing them when work­ing with an exca­va­tor or bull­doz­er is quite fea­si­ble if you approach the search sys­tem cor­rect­ly and com­pe­tent­ly.

This task must be solved before the start of earth­works on the site in order to pre­vent the risk of dam­age to com­mu­ni­ca­tions, fines and mate­r­i­al costs for restora­tion, cov­er­ing the dam­age caused.

Administrative ways to search for water pipes underground

When the site for the con­struc­tion of an object is locat­ed with­in the bound­aries of a set­tle­ment, it is like­ly that com­mu­ni­ca­tions of the cen­tral hot or cold water sup­ply, sew­er­age, elec­tric or tele­phone cable are laid through it. The lay­ing is done in the area of ​​the red line along the street, but there is a trace in the most incred­i­ble direc­tions.

Offi­cial­ly laid com­mu­ni­ca­tions are reg­is­tered in the depart­ments of archi­tec­ture and urban plan­ning, applied to the plans of tech­ni­cal doc­u­men­ta­tion with pre­cise ref­er­ence to the red lines of the adja­cent areas. It is rec­om­mend­ed that you first con­tact these orga­ni­za­tions for infor­ma­tion.

It hap­pens that data on the lay­ing of under­ground util­i­ties are not report­ed to super­vi­so­ry orga­ni­za­tions. Con­tact the appro­pri­ate orga­ni­za­tions before start­ing exca­va­tion work. Take infor­ma­tion about the pres­ence of com­mu­ni­ca­tions laid along the con­struc­tion site, if any, the depth of lay­ing, accu­rate trac­ing with ref­er­ence.

This will allow safe exca­va­tion and remove lia­bil­i­ty in the event of dam­age to an unspec­i­fied pipeline or cable. When a pipe with an unau­tho­rized tie-in pass­es through the site, the own­er of the tie-in is respon­si­ble for the dam­age.

The search for water pipes under­ground is inde­pen­dent­ly car­ried out by the fol­low­ing meth­ods:

  1. With the involve­ment of a spe­cial­ized orga­ni­za­tion;
  2. With the help of tech­ni­cal means pur­chased inde­pen­dent­ly or rent­ed;
  3. Inde­pen­dent search with the help of the sim­plest frame.

Involvement of a specialized organization


To obtain the most effec­tive result in find­ing a pipe for a water sup­ply net­work locat­ed under­ground, the best option is to entrust the work to a spe­cial­ized orga­ni­za­tion. The pro­fes­sion­al actions of the com­pa­ny’s work­ers, the use of mod­ern con­trol and mea­sur­ing equip­ment will reduce to zero emer­gency sit­u­a­tions dur­ing earth­works with the help of mech­a­nisms.

Turn­ing to pro­fes­sion­als has a num­ber of unde­ni­able advan­tages:

Technologies and methods of independent search for underground utilities


Under­ground util­i­ties that may be locat­ed on the site include:

  1. Met­al pipes for hot or cold water sup­ply, heat sup­ply, cast-iron sew­er pipes, pow­er sup­ply cables, tele­phone lines;
  2. Water pipes that do not con­duct elec­tric­i­ty — plas­tic, poly­eth­yl­ene, polypropy­lene, made from mod­ern inno­v­a­tive mate­ri­als.

Which pipe to use for lay­ing a pipeline under­ground depends on the pres­sure in the net­work, the con­di­tion of the soil, the lev­el of ground­wa­ter, aggres­sive­ness and oth­er fac­tors. There­fore, the search is orga­nized by meth­ods using appro­pri­ate tech­no­log­i­cal equip­ment.

Metal detector application

Met­al pipes locat­ed at a depth of 1.5 meters are eas­i­est to look for with a con­ven­tion­al met­al detec­tor. At the same time, the ther­mal insu­la­tion of water pipes in the ground does not affect the result of the search. Met­al detec­tors allow you to get accu­rate results with­out sig­nif­i­cant mate­r­i­al costs, on your own.

Met­al detec­tors for sale are cat­e­go­rized as:

  • for begin­ners;
  • mid­dle class;
  • pro­fes­sion­al.

The cost of prod­ucts ranges from 5.5–125 thou­sand rubles. To search for a pipeline, it is rec­om­mend­ed to use a medi­um-class met­al detec­tor. It is not worth buy­ing a device for one-time use, rent it or from a friend.

Special equipment and methods of working with it

To accu­rate­ly deter­mine the loca­tion of var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ca­tions under­ground, spe­cial equip­ment is used that is designed specif­i­cal­ly for per­form­ing such tasks. Types, a line of such equip­ment is pro­duced from sim­ple devices to sta­tions that allow you to receive data, process infor­ma­tion, and trans­mit via satel­lite over a net­work.

The equip­ment is expen­sive and is used by com­pa­nies spe­cial­iz­ing in such stud­ies. Search equip­ment includes:

  • geo­radar (Geo­max);
  • radars;
  • radars;
  • cable loca­tors;
  • route find­ers;
  • trac­ers;
  • trace sta­tions;
  • tape and mark­er find­ers.
Uni­ver­sal met­al detec­tor Fish­er CZ 21–10
Loca­tor Search 410
Leica Dig­i­cat 650i loca­tor

The choice of search method and equip­ment depends on the type of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, the mate­ri­als from which the pipes are made, the avail­abil­i­ty of one of the ends of the pipe (cable) or the lack of data on the pres­ence and rout­ing of cable lines and pipelines.

The prin­ci­ple of oper­a­tion of equip­ment for mon­i­tor­ing the trace and the state of com­mu­ni­ca­tions is based on cap­tur­ing by a het­ero­dyne receiv­er an elec­tro­mag­net­ic induc­tion field that is formed around a met­al object in the ground or direct­ly by a gen­er­a­tor. This method is called induc­tive.

Types of pick­ups of elec­tro­mag­net­ic fields in which the induc­tive search method is used


Meth­ods for search­ing for an induc­tive, elec­tro­mag­net­ic field cre­at­ed around pipes or cables:

  1. Con­tact. This method includes active meth­ods of cur­rent induc­tion using a gen­er­a­tor — direct con­nec­tion (gal­van­ic) or using a ring induc­tion clip. In both cas­es, direct access to one end of the water pipe or cable must be pro­vid­ed in advance to deter­mine the route. This is the most effi­cient and accu­rate way;
  2. Active con­tact­less. In this case, the gen­er­a­tor cre­ates an elec­tro­mag­net­ic field using a built-in induc­tion anten­na over the place of the pro­posed pipeline pas­sage;
  3. Pas­sive. Here the gen­er­a­tor is not used. A pipeline or cable is found by induced elec­tro­mag­net­ic fields. The method is used when there is no data on the pres­ence and trace­ol­o­gy of com­mu­ni­ca­tions. In this vari­ant, the accu­ra­cy and search effi­cien­cy are min­i­mal.

The set of equip­ment con­sists of the fol­low­ing ele­ments:

  1. Gen­er­a­tor;
  2. het­ero­dyne receiv­er;
  3. Set of cables for con­nect­ing pow­er, ground­ing, direct con­nec­tion to the pipeline with clamps or an induc­tion ring clip.


Gen­er­a­tor — a device that gen­er­ates a sig­nal of one of the dis­crete set of fre­quen­cies set by the oper­a­tor depend­ing on the state of the search object. To deter­mine the trace of an elec­tri­cal cable under volt­age, the fre­quen­cy is set to 50 Hz, to search for pipes with cathod­ic pro­tec­tion — 100 Hz.

The gen­er­a­tor is designed for forced cur­rent exci­ta­tion with direct con­nec­tion (gal­van­ic) to the test pipe or induc­tive. When cur­rent pass­es around a cable or pipe, an elec­tro­mag­net­ic field of a giv­en fre­quen­cy is arti­fi­cial­ly cre­at­ed. The elec­tro­mag­net­ic field sig­nal is received by the detec­tor with a pulse or induc­tion anten­na.

In the case when there is no direct access to a water pipe or cable cores with­out volt­age, a forced sig­nal is giv­en to them by a gen­er­a­tor installed above the objects through a built-in induc­tion anten­na.

For pas­sive search, the gen­er­a­tor is not used.

With prop­er use of the devices of the kit, man­u­fac­tur­ers guar­an­tee a ser­vice life of up to 5 years.

heterodyne receiver

The receiv­er is the most impor­tant ele­ment of the kit. The receiv­er receives elec­tro­mag­net­ic field sig­nals from under­ground util­i­ties gen­er­at­ed by a gen­er­a­tor or nat­ur­al from oth­er emit­ters. After switch­ing on, match the receiv­er-gen­er­a­tor pair for cor­rect oper­a­tion on the oper­at­ing fre­quen­cy and sig­nal pro­cess­ing method.

The receiv­er receives a sig­nal with two anten­nas — pulse and induc­tion. The sig­nal is processed by the pro­gram, if the data from both anten­nas match, the infor­ma­tion is dis­played. The amount of data dis­played on the dis­play, the loca­tion and con­fig­u­ra­tion varies with dif­fer­ent types of equip­ment, the num­ber of avail­able func­tions, the man­u­fac­tur­er’s com­pa­ny.

Dis­play and mode but­tons

Below the dis­play are the set­ting and con­trol keys. Here the receiv­er is turned on, the sound lev­el in the head­phones is set, the dis­play screen res­o­lu­tion is set, the fre­quen­cy is set, the oper­at­ing mode is set. Sep­a­rate keys call up the menu and select items. In addi­tion to infor­ma­tion about the trace, the screen shows how deep the pipe is buried, but only at the max­i­mum sig­nal (the dis­tance is indi­cat­ed to the cen­ter of the object).

The use of the loca­tor, con­nec­tion, pur­pose of each key, dis­play indi­ca­tions, dis­crete fre­quen­cy set­tings and the user menu are described in the attached doc­u­men­ta­tion or on the body of the receiv­er, gen­er­a­tor.

Care­ful­ly famil­iar­ize your­self with the pos­si­ble func­tions of the device, the order of change and dis­play.

See the video for instruc­tions on set­ting up the Ridg­it loca­tor as an exam­ple. It tells how to work cor­rect­ly and cor­rect­ly with devices, pos­si­ble func­tions.

Finding plumbing plastic pipes

When search­ing for plas­tic, polypropy­lene water pipes, the induc­tion method is not suit­able — there is no elec­tro­mag­net­ic field around the pipe and there is no pos­si­bil­i­ty of using a gen­er­a­tor.

Find­ing pipes with a probe

To detect the posi­tion of such non-con­duc­tive pipes, the method of lay­ing a met­al cable, probe or float inside the pipe is used. When con­nect­ed to a gen­er­a­tor, these ele­ments emit a sig­nal at a giv­en fre­quen­cy. The direc­tion to the probe is deter­mined by rais­ing the receiv­er anten­na at an angle with rota­tion until a sta­ble max­i­mum sig­nal is obtained.

Frame application

Using the frame to search the ground for met­al and plas­tic pipes, elec­tri­cal, tele­phone or fiber optic cable gives results with­out the mate­r­i­al costs of acquir­ing expen­sive equip­ment. The nature of this phe­nom­e­non from the point of view of sci­ence and med­i­cine is not explained, it occurs at the lev­el of human intu­ition.

Not every­one is giv­en to work with a frame, do not be upset if it does not work out.

Fac­to­ry frame. Nice but not prac­ti­cal


  1. Take two even alu­minum wires 35–40 cen­time­ters long. Bend them with the let­ter “G” so that one end is no less than the width of the palm. It is per­mis­si­ble to use met­al wire or elec­trodes with­out a sheath with a diam­e­ter of not more than 3 mm. It is impor­tant that the frame is light;
  2. Take the wires in your hands, you don’t need to clench your fists, the effort is only to hold the frame;
  3. Bend your arms at the elbows, with the long ends of the frame placed for­ward, par­al­lel to each oth­er and in rela­tion to the ground, keep the dis­tance between them 15–20 cen­time­ters;
  4. Find the area where the pipe or cable runs under­ground. Move 2–3 meters away from the axis of the pipeline, take the frame as in para­graph 3, slow­ly approach the axis of the under­ground pipeline. In this case, do not clamp the wires in your fists. When approach­ing the axis, the wires cross. Above the axis of the pipe, the wires will final­ly cross and stand par­al­lel to the axis. Fur­ther move­ment will cause the wires to return to their orig­i­nal posi­tion;
  5. Regard­less of whether it worked or not, do this 5–6 times. Pay atten­tion to the dis­tance to the axis at the begin­ning of the cross­ing of the wires, at the exit. An expe­ri­enced prac­ti­tion­er deter­mines the depth of the pipeline or cable from these dis­tances.

By com­bin­ing the meth­ods described above, active or aban­doned com­mu­ni­ca­tions are found with high accu­ra­cy, regard­less of the depth of the loca­tion. This will avoid com­pli­ca­tions dur­ing the zero cycle work at the con­struc­tion site or find a pipe or cable rup­ture.


Leave a Reply

You May Also Like