Brick walls can serve as gorgeous accent walls or make up the exterior of your home.
The problem with brick walls is that they’re dense.
It can be difficult to know if there are any water pipes or electrical wires behind them.
In most cases, plumbers will try to avoid putting plumbing through brick walls if they can.
When it’s unavoidable, you need a way to find water pipes in your brick walls.
We have six methods that you can use to find water pipes in brick walls.
How to Find Water Pipes in Brick Walls (6 Ways)
Method 1: Use A Metal Detector
Brick walls are thick and basic stud finders may not be enough to detect metal in the wall.
In that case, you need something that can detect metal at greater depths.
A metal detector is an ideal choice.
It may seem odd to run a metal detector along your brick wall, but it’s an effective method of tracing copper pipes.
This method won’t work if your plumbing uses plastic pipes.
Keep that in mind if you aren’t receiving a signal through your metal detector.
There may still be water pipes in your wall, but they may not be copper pipes.
Follow these steps to use a metal detector to find water pipes in your brick walls.
Step 1: Gather The Materials
The most important part of this method is to find the right metal detector.
You need one that can detect metal through several feet.
A better option is to find one that can detect metal through stone.
You may have to splurge on an expensive detector to serve this purpose.
The good news is that this is the only tool that you need.
Step 2: Choose A Logical Starting Point
You can make finding your water pipes a lot easier by understanding how plumbing works.
A fixture such as a sink, toilet, or tub is a great place to start.
You know for a fact that there are water pipes running to it.
The next thing to search for is where the water comes in and out of the house.
That location is going to be the nexus where all the water pipes convene.
With those locations in mind, you can logically trace where water pipes may be.
They always follow the shortest path.
Most pipes run horizontally through the wall.
Step 3: Turn On The Metal Detector And Search The Wall
If you think you have the right wall, then turn on your metal detector.
You’ll want to take a quick moment to consult the detector’s manual.
Be sure you understand its settings and how to change them.
You’ll want to increase its depth perception as much as possible.
If it has a setting for detecting through stone, then switch it to that setting.
Otherwise, you can hold the metal detector up to the wall and slowly start to move in a horizontal path.
Step 4: Mark The Area And Remove The Brick
Whenever your metal detector goes off, mark the area on the brick.
You know that there is something metal behind that area.
If the detector is working correctly, then it will continue to go off as you trace the length of the copper pipe.
If it only goes off now and then, you’re only finding studs.
To check what you’re detecting, you’ll want to remove a brick that’s either above or below the marked brick.
Go up a few bricks to avoid accidentally hitting the pipe on the other side of it.
Once you remove the brick, you can perform a visual inspection to see if your metal detector was correct.
Method 2: Use Infrared
If you have plastic pipes running through your brick walls, then using an infrared scanner is a better option.
Infrared can detect heat signatures through a variety of materials.
Since stone is harder to penetrate than other materials, you may need to invest in a professional infrared scanner.
The drawback with this method is that you can only detect hot water pipes.
If the water pipes in your brick wall don’t use hot water, then you won’t see anything.
You can always try to detect cold water, but you won’t find them with the same accuracy as with hot water.
Follow these steps to use an infrared scanner to find water pipes in brick walls.
Step 1: Gather The Materials
Like the metal detector, your infrared scanner is going to be the only tool that you need.
However, it’s important that you buy a high-quality one.
There are several infrared scanners on the market.
Each one has a certain feature that makes it ideal for a certain job.
You want a scanner that detects heat through stone.
Depth is also important since bricks are thick.
Look for an infrared scanner that can detect through stone and also has accurate readings for deeper depths.
Step 2: Run Hot Water
In order for the infrared scanner to detect heat, there needs to be heat.
First, try and determine what fixture may connect to the wall that you’re inspecting.
It may be a sink, shower, or tub.
Then turn on the hot water for that fixture.
If you don’t mind wasting water, then you can turn the hot water on all your fixtures.
Wait at least 15 minutes for the copper pipe to heat up from the water.
Waiting longer will give you a more accurate reading.
Plastic pipes will take longer than copper pipes to heat.
You may need to wait an hour for a plastic pipe to heat enough to detect.
Step 3: Run The Infrared Detector Over The Wall
Consult the manual and learn how to use the infrared scanner before you turn it on.
Understand how to adjust the correct settings for depth perception through stone.
Then hold the detector close to the wall.
If the pipes are hot enough, then you should see a yellow, orange, or red mass glowing through the brick on the viewscreen.
This indicates that there is heat on the other side of the wall.
Accurate infrared scanners may even show a picture that clearly represents a pipe on the other side of the wall.
Less accurate infrared scanners will show you a blob of heat.
A more accurate reading can help you determine the exact location of the pipe in the wall.
A less accurate reading means you’ll want to be careful when you perform your visual inspection.
You still can’t be 100% sure where the pipe is in the wall.
If you don’t see any heat signatures, then none of the pipes behind the wall delivers hot water.
You can try running cold water instead.
Turn off the heat and turn on the cold tap instead.
Look for light blue and dark blue readings on your viewscreen to find your pipes.
Step 4: Mark The Area And Remove Brick
Mark the area where the bricks indicate heat.
Then remove a brick that’s either a few bricks above or below it.
Perform a visual inspection to see if the infrared detector was correct.
Method 3: Use A Stud Finder
Stud finders are also an effective tool for finding pipes in a brick wall.
Most stud finders can detect metal which means this method is ideal for finding copper pipes.
Other stud finders can find other materials behind the wall as well.
It’s worth shopping around to see if there’s a stud finder that can detect plastic if you have plastic water pipes.
Follow these steps to use a stud finder to find water pipes in brick walls.
Step 1: Gather The Materials
The problem with trying to find metal through stone is that you need to use professional-grade tools.
These are the only tools that have the right strength and detection depth to perceive through stone.
That means you’re going to need to invest in a high-quality stud finder.
That can carry a hefty price tag.
When looking for your stud finder, try to find one that can detect through brick or stone.
If you don’t see any of these, then opt for one that can detect through several depths.
Step 2: Try To Follow Natural Plumbing Path
Like with the metal detector, you’ll want to try and find the most logical pathway for your pipes.
Start with a fixture and figure out where it drains and receives its water.
These pipes are somewhere on the exterior wall of your home.
They connect to your sewer or septic tank.
The main water line connects to your water.
Once you know the two locations, trace the shortest distance between them.
This is likely the path that the water pipes take.
If the brick wall is a part of that pathway, then you can be sure that it has water pipes within it.
Since most water pipes travel horizontally, you can start your search.
Step 3: Run Stud Finder Along The Wall
If your stud finder is electronic, then take the time to understand its manual.
You’ll need to put the stud finder at the correct setting to ensure you’re detecting at the maximum depth.
Once you’re using the right setting, run the stud finder horizontally across the wall.
Go slow to give the stud finder every opportunity to detect the copper pipe.
Don’t mistake signals for studs.
Receiving a few signals at a time means you’re finding studs in the wall.
You want a continuous signal as you trace the path.
This indicates there’s a copper pipe on the other side.
Mark the area for further inspection.
Step 4: Remove Brick And Inspect The Area
There are plenty of reasons your stud finder may not be accurate in its reading through brick.
To avoid hitting a water pipe, remove a brick that is several bricks higher or lower than the marked one.
Double-check that you aren’t receiving any signals from that area before you remove the brick.
Then perform a visual inspection to see if the stud finder found your water pipe or only studs in the wall.
Method 4: Detection Scanner
A detection scanner is another tool that can help you find water pipes in a brick wall.
A tool like the Bosch D-TECT 120 works by peering through material and informing you if something is behind it.
The problem is that it can’t tell you what the object is.
Therefore, the detection scanner may tell you about studs, structural supports, or pipes.
However, if you’re desperate to find out if something is on the other side of your brick wall, then this tool can help.
Follow these steps to use a detection scanner to find water pipes in brick walls.
Step 1: Gather The Materials
You’ll want to buy the Bosch D-TECT 120 detection scanner or something like it.
If you choose to go with another brand, then make sure it can detect through brick or stone.
Keep an eye out for a tool that X-rays through walls.
That’s the detection scanner you’re looking to use.
Step 2: Determine If Wall Is In The Plumbing Path
Because the detection scanner will tell you if anything exists in the wall, you need to do a little bit of work beforehand to separate other possibilities from water pipes.
The way to do this is to first find out if the brick wall is even in the path of the plumbing.
Since most plumbers choose not to put plumbing in brick walls, they may have run the plumbing above or below the wall.
They may also have chosen to take a longer route to avoid the wall altogether.
Locate a nearby fixture and the inlet and outlet water pipes to your home.
Then determine if it makes sense for the plumber to have laid piping through the brick wall.
If it doesn’t, then you know that anything the detection scanner detects is likely electrical wiring or structural supports.
If it does, then you know that the detection scanner could be detecting water pipes in the brick wall.
Step 3: Turn The Scanner On And Hold It Against The Wall
The scanner may have a few settings that you can use to make your readings more accurate.
Ensure that it’s set to X-ray through stone or brick.
You’ll also want to increase the depth if it doesn’t have a material setting.
Then hold the scanner against the wall and start to make your way down it.
Move in a horizontal path.
If the scanner detects something, determine if it’s a continuous detection or only a detection every few inches.
Continuous detection could indicate that you have either water pipes or electrical wires running through the wall.
Mark the areas for further inspection.
Step 4: Eliminate Electrical Wiring Suspicions
The next step is to figure out if the detection scanner is detecting electrical wires or water pipes.
One way to do this is to look for an outlet.
If an outlet is nearby, then there’s a good chance that the wall has electrical wires running through it.
The scanner could be detecting those wires.
If there isn’t an outlet near the wall or on the wall, then your scanner could be detecting water pipes.
Step 5: Shut Off Electricity And Remove Brick
To be safe, shut off the main power in your home.
Then return to the marked area and remove a brick that’s either a few bricks above or below the mark.
Use a flashlight to peer within the wall and inspect the area yourself.
Method 5: Inspect The Attic
This method may not apply to everyone, but it’s sometimes possible to find water pipes coming down through the attic.
They’re also sometimes run through the basement.
The pipes are then fed vertically through the wall and travel horizontally to other parts of the home.
That means you’re able to inspect your attic or basement to locate the water pipes.
Once you find the water pipes, you can figure out where they trace to in your interior walls.
This method requires you to understand the layout of your home well.
Take measurements in your attic, then perform them on the main floor to figure out where the pipes are running.
You can tell with your measurements whether a pipe is feeding through a brick wall or not.
Method 6: Find Building Plans
The last method requires you to find the architectural plans for your home.
Speak with the previous owner, if possible, to see if they have any plans that they took with them.
They may be able to give you information about the builder and plumber.
Contact those agencies to see if they have plans for your home.
The plumber may even remember whether they put water pipes in the brick wall and their approximate location.
If neither of these parties can help you, then consult with your local county.
Counties usually keep records about building plans to ensure they’re compliant with local regulations and zoning.
They may have a plan in their records that will show you the plumbing of your home.
Keep in mind that these plans may not be accurate.
Sometimes plumbers need to deviate from plans when they come across a problem or obstacle.
With the plans, you can see where they installed the pipes in your brick wall.
Finding water pipes in a brick wall can be difficult.
In some cases, you may need professional-grade tools to detect the pipes through brick or stone.
You can also try to find the pipes on your own through the attic or use the home’s building plans to trace the pipes.
Consider these methods above and follow their steps to find water pipes in your brick walls.