How To Locate Damaged Underground Pipes And Cables

Locating damaged underground pipes and cables is an essential part of the repair process for these underground utilities. Firstly they need to be located, so that they can be excavated and repaired before the damage becomes more serious.

Underground pipes can be particularly difficult to locate the damaged sections as they may be buried under your house’s foundation or a concrete slab or just buried in soil. While it may be easy to determine that a pipe is leaking, locating exactly where the damaged section is important to reduce the amount of excavation to enable repairs to be completed.Locating damage to storm water pipes in Adelaide with a pipe camera

Typical underground pipes that may need repairs are:

  • Sewerage pipes
  • Stormwater pipes
  • Water mains and
  • Garden water pipes.

There are many reasons why your pipes may begin leaking or are damaged. Soil erosion over time may damage your pipes. Natural disasters such as earthquakes that cause the ground to shift may also cause pipes to crack due to excess pressure.

How Can I Tell If My Underground Pipes Are Damaged?

There are some signs that can indicate that you have a leaky or damaged underground pipe.

The most obvious is if your water bill suddenly goes up, even though your water usage remains normal. If there are no obvious problems inside the house, such as a leaky toilet, then one of your pipes may be leaking.

You can confirm that there is a leak by shutting off all the faucets and other appliances that use water in your home. Then, mark the position of the gauge on your water meter.

Wait thirty minutes and then check the gauge again. If it has moved, even slightly, it is a sign that there is a leak in one of your underground pipes.

Other symptoms to look for include:A pipe camera can locate exactly where storm water or even sewerage pipes are damages

  • Sink holes or wet patches.
    If you detect one of these in your yard, it may indicate that a leaky pipe has saturated that area with wastewater.
  • Heaving or cracking of paved areas.
    This may also indicate that the ground underneath the pavement has become soaked with water.
  • A noticeable sudden decrease in water pressure.
    This may be a sign that the plumbing has been broken at a certain spot and water is leaking out.
  • Odd noises.
    Leaky or broken pipes will emit a variety of strange noises. These may include whistling and bubbling, hissing or whooshing, and splashing.
  • Contaminated water.
    If water that is dirty or has a strong odor is coming out of your taps, it may indicate that the plumbing has been corroded. The water running through it may have become contaminated.

In addition, leaky or damaged sewer lines may have the following symptoms:

  • A foul odour.
    If there is a persistent stench in your home of sewer gas or other unpleasant smell, it is a sign that a sewer line has cracked. Sewer pipes are normally air-tight and you should never smell an odor coming from them.
  • Backups.
    If you experience a backup whenever you run water down a drain or sink, or when you flush, it is a sign that there is a broken sewer line. However, if the problem is limited to only one particular drain, then the problem is likely limited to just that drain.
  • Foundation issues.
    If the sewer lines running underneath your foundation are damaged and not repaired, it may cause problems such as cracks and settlement.

What Happens If Damaged Pipes Are Not Repaired?

If damaged pipes are not repaired as soon as possible, they may get to the point where they fail completely. When this happens, the cost of replacing them will be much more expensive than it would have been to maintain them in good condition.

Underground water leaks may also start removing soil from around your foundations. In time, this may compromise the slab, resulting in structural issues that make your property unsafe to live in.

How Can I Locate Damaged Underground Pipes?

You will need to contact a professional utilities locator to find where the subsurface pipes are.

Utilities locating is the process of identifying the location of subsurface public utility mains, such as water mains, sewer pipes, telecommunications and fiber optic cables, and electric cables.  

The traditional method for locating utilities is by using an electromagnetic locator. The device sends out an electromagnetic radio frequency that is induced on underground cables and pipes. A receiver detects the frequency, allowing the operator to accurately trace the location of the pipes.

However, this method has a number of limitations. Electromagnetic locators can only find pipes made with conductive material. It cannot locate unmarked pipes that are made of materials such as concrete, asbestos and plastic. It also performs best within a range of ten to fifteen feet.  

Locating Damage To Stormwater Or Sewerage Pipes

One of the most effective devices for locating damage to stormwater pipes is a pipe camera. This is a small video camera on the end of a tube that can be fed through the stormwater pipe to locate damaged sections.

These can be then marked accurately to enable the damaged section to be uncovered and repaired.

Using a pipe camera is extremely efficient and cost effective means of locating damage to hollow pipes that the pipe locating specialist has access to an opening to feed the camera through.


Ground Proximity Radar

Most professional utilities locators these days use Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) since it is more effective. The way ground penetrating radar works is simple: the unit transmits a radar signal through the earth. When it hits something buried underground, the signal bounces back. The data is displayed as a “digital map” on the device’s LED screen.

The GPR signal reflects back at different velocities based on the shape, size and conductivity of the object. For instance, a plastic pipe has low conductivity, and the reflected signal will have lower velocity.Locate underground pipes and services with ground penetrating radar

GPR units use different types of frequencies to detect different targets. Higher frequencies are used to detect smaller objects at depths closer to the surface. 1000 MHz is used to provide high-resolution detail, but can only penetrate to a depth of 24 inches.

Objects with identical or similar conductive properties may be difficult to detect, or even undetectable, to the GPR operator. For instance, clay pipes buried in loose soil may reflect the signal back at the same velocity as the surrounding material.

In addition to locating buried objects, GPR can also be used to identify air pockets, and changes in geological features and ground strata. It can also locate ground disturbances such as back-filled and excavated areas.

These units have to be operated by experienced field personnel since they require extensive training to learn how to use. Since GPR waves may travel through many different types of materials, each of which affect them differently due to their varying conductive and dielectric properties, the operator must also interpret the data the radar collects in the field.

The most common use of GPR is in construction, since it is vital to identify metallic and non-metallic subsurface objects before excavation begins. In addition, it is used on structural elements to detect metal bars, de-lamination and sub-surface voids.

GPR is also used by the mining industry in order to perform subsurface mapping of the proposed area where the mine will be dug. It can help in determining rock quality, establishing the depth of the bedrock and exploring groundwater.

Why Use an Accredited Service Locator?


Accreditation is a certification process that ensures that the contractor is proficient in providing locator services. In the past, simply completing a course and demonstrating that they were competent was enough for locators to get certified. However, there was concern that the locators being certified had inconsistent skill sets, which could lead to assets in the surveyed areas accidentally being damaged, and workers in these sites possibly suffering serious injury.

These days, certification has become stricter. Organizations such as Dial Before You Dig have implemented a stricter accreditation process, which requires locators to demonstrate that they are knowledgeable about the theory of utilities location, as well as having practical knowledge and experience.

Using specialist equipment like a pipe camera to discover where your drainage pipes are damaged can save in excavation costsIn addition, certified locators are required to have the necessary equipment that meets the certifying organization’s requirements. They can no longer simply buy a cheap piece of equipment that they will present in an attempt to get certified.

These more stringent standards mean that the industry has become increasingly more professional. Thus, if you are using the services of an accredited locator, you are assured that they will be able to accurately and efficiently locate underground utilities.

This means that you save time and money since you know exactly where to dig so that the damaged pipes can be repaired or replaced. There is no risk of unwanted damage to other pipes and cables by excavating in the wrong place.

Accredited services are also required to carry insurance. This means that in case there are any problems and you have to make a claim, the insurance carrier will shoulder the expenses. For instance, if the locator makes a mistake and fails to identify a water main, and it is damaged when the site is excavated, insurance will pay to repair it.

Many certified contractors are also members of industry associations such as the National Utility Locating Contractors Association. This requires them to not only follow high work standards, but also maintain the best work practices.

SA Cable & Pipe, Your Professional Service Locator in the Adelaide Hills

SA Cable & Pipe Locating is a 100% Australian-owned company that is based in the Adelaide Hills.

Find the damage to your underground pipes and services quickly by use of an pipe cameraWe are able to locate underground pipes and cables for private residences and businesses such as those engaged in construction.

Our certified location technicians will use state-of-the-art detection devices to identify what subsurface pipes and cables are located on the site and provide their location, as well as how deep they are buried.

We also use GPR to create a map of the area that includes the coordinates and depth of the utilities so contractors will know where to dig safely. 

In addition, we also have a pipe camera that we can use to find blockages and broken pipes, as well as inspect pipe joints. The camera can also help pinpoint the location of the problem so that you’ll know where exactly to dig.

We service Adelaide and the Adelaide Hills, as well as the Riverland, Barossa, Fleurieu Peninsula and the Murray Lands.

Call us now so we can locate your damaged underground pipes and cables. Potentially saving you hundreds of dollars