- Finding buried pipe can avoid damage and repair.pvc image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com
The law requires you to call 811 and have the utility company mark out major utility lines before you dig. You will have to locate private conduits and pipes on your own, or pay professional locators to find them. Because plastic is more susceptible to punctures and breaks, locating buried plastic pipes before digging can save a lot of repairs. Working without expensive locating equipment is a bit more involved, but the results are often more dependable. Another good idea is to make a map of underground lines as pipes are located, so that you only have to locate them once.
Examine the Area
- Once buried, plastic pipe can be troublesome to locate.construction material image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com
Start by walking around your property and observing where faucets and other other piped lines terminate. Pipes are usually placed in straight trenches when they are first laid, and a line-of-sight layout will provide you with a rough idea of where the more intense locating techniques need to be used. Be sure to draw in the the line terminations, but don't add the pipes to the drawing until you are certain of their location.
- Plastic pipe is invisible to magnetic locators.tuyaux image by Nath Photos from Fotolia.com
Probe rods are T-shaped devices with a cross handle on top of a long straight shaft. Hold the handles and press the probe down into the soil. If you do not connect with anything, move the probe slightly to the left or right and try again. Probing is a tedious task, but it is one of the easiest ways to locate pipes and conduits without the use of electronic devices. Once each end of the pipe has been located underground, a string can be stretched between the points and used as a guide for locating the remainder of the plastic pipe. Keep in mind that the string method is only effective on a straight run of pipe, and underground turns will result in the pipe "disappearing" in places.
- Hand digging may be your only option.shovel image by Gudellaphoto from Fotolia.com
Digging by hand is time consuming and should be reserved as a last resort. Avoid breaking the pipe by digging at a shallow angle instead of straight down. It is much better to dig a larger hole than necessary than to have to repair a pipe that is broken during the location process. Similarly, do not ram the shovel point into the soil, but dig with slow, precise motions. Unless the pipe is being removed, you will not need to dig a continuous trench but can simply dig "spot" holes to ensure that the pipe is running in a straight line, or to find areas where joints or turns have been made in the original trench.
- Professional locators use sonar to find pipes.radar image by Eray Haciosmanoglu from Fotolia.com
Underground pipe locators are typically small radar devices. These tools are expensive to own, but can be leased from tool rental companies. To use one, turn it on and roll the device across the suspected pipe trench. The imaging system has a screen that will display possible pipes, while audio versions will make one of several tones, depending on what has been located, how deep the pipe is buried, and the size of the pipe you have found.