Unless you work in construction, you probably don’t think much about the process of building a home or excavating a site for commercial real estate. There is a complex system of pipes under many homes and buildings, and hitting one during excavation can create a big disaster.

In order to make construction work go smoother, pros use tools to help detect pipes and work around them. What do you do, though, if you’re not a pro? Read on to learn how you can detect underground pipes on your own!

1. Probe Along Probable Lines

The first thing you’re going to do is map out probable water and gas lines. You can accomplish this by identifying where your faucets are located. Draw a line from your faucet to the street on your map.

Head to your local hardware store to get a probe rod. A probe rod is a simple rod with a handle that you insert into the ground to identify whether a line exists in a certain area.

Start from the house or building in the areas that are closest to the house and move outward until you’ve covered the area in which you will be working. You’ll find that most sprinkler lines lie about 8 inches below the surface and main lines are about 18 inches below. Mark identified pipes with flags so you can come back to them later.

It might be worth a shot to try and locate the blueprints for the location in which you are digging. Many blueprints include some plumbing, which will give you a head start.

2. Start Digging

Once you have a rough idea of where your lines are, you’re going to want to start digging. Start with small holes, especially if you aren’t sure if a pipe exists below the surface.

Make sure that you angle your shovel so you’re not digging straight down. Digging with shallow pushes can help protect the pipe when you detect it since you’ll be digging over it and not into it.

3. Get a Sonde

If the probe and dig method seems like too much work, you can always invest in more advanced tools like a sonde transmitter.

A sonde is a frequency locator that detects pipes and any associated blockages or defects by sending out waves. They are accurate up to depths of approximately 15 feet, but it is possible to increase the depths to which it can detect pipes. These are especially effective if you have a leak in an underground pipe that you’re trying to locate.

Do You Need to Locate Underground Pipes?

Accidentally hitting a water or gas line while excavating land for your next big project is not only costly, but it can be dangerous for you and others in the area. Utilizing basic tools and techniques to detect underground pipes can help make your project move forward with as few hiccups as possible. If you’re still struggling to find pipes with these techniques, it might be worth a call to the pros to help you out.