Mastering the Art of Sewer Line Location: Tips and Tricks

By Brian on June 6, 2024


Finding the exact path of your sewer line can be a daunting task. If you’re searching for a sewer line locator service, it’s important to understand why this process is key.

Quick Answer:
Overview: Sewer line locating identifies the position of underground sewer pipes.
Importance: Prevents costly damages and ensures efficient repairs.
Safety: Avoids accidents and health hazards during excavation.

You might be tempted to tackle this task yourself, but without the right tools and experience, it’s not practical. Professionals use advanced technology to locate sewer lines accurately and safely. This involves using equipment like ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and sewer inspection cameras to find the lines without digging up your yard.

Safety comes first. Knowledge of the sewer line layout prevents accidents and avoids hitting other utility lines, which can be dangerous and expensive to fix. With the right equipment and experienced professionals, you can save time, money, and prevent unnecessary damage to your property.

sewer line location benefits - sewer line locator service infographic pillar-3-steps

Understanding Sewer Line Materials and Structures

Sewer lines are essential but often overlooked parts of our plumbing systems. They can be made from various materials, each with its own properties and challenges. Let’s break down the most common types: HDPE, PVC, and clay.

HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)

HDPE is a popular choice for modern sewer lines. It’s flexible, resistant to chemicals, and has a long lifespan. However, because it’s non-conductive, it doesn’t work well with traditional locating methods that rely on electrical signals. This is where advanced technology like ground-penetrating radar (GPR) comes in handy.

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)

PVC is another common material for sewer lines, especially in newer constructions. It’s durable, lightweight, and resistant to corrosion. Like HDPE, PVC is non-conductive, making it difficult to locate using conventional methods. GPR and other advanced techniques are essential for accurately finding these lines.


Clay pipes have been used for centuries and are often found in older homes. They are sturdy but can become brittle over time. Clay pipes are also non-conductive, which poses a challenge for traditional locating methods. Advanced equipment like GPR can help identify these older pipes without digging up your yard.

Non-Conductive Materials

Most sewer lines are made from non-conductive materials like HDPE, PVC, and clay. This means they don’t carry electrical signals, making them hard to locate with standard tools. Advanced technology, such as ground-penetrating radar, is crucial for finding these lines accurately and safely.

Understanding the material of your sewer lines helps in choosing the right locating method. Advanced tools and techniques ensure that your sewer lines are found without unnecessary digging or damage.

sewer line materials - sewer line locator service

Next, we’ll dive into how modern technology can help locate these elusive sewer lines.

How to Locate Sewer Lines Using Modern Technology

When it comes to locating sewer lines, modern technology has made the process much more efficient and less invasive. Let’s explore some of the advanced tools and techniques used to pinpoint the exact location of sewer lines.

Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR)

Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) is a game-changer for locating underground utilities, including sewer lines. GPR works by sending radar pulses into the ground. When these pulses hit a buried object, they bounce back to the surface and are detected by the GPR equipment. This method is highly effective for finding non-conductive materials like HDPE, PVC, and clay.

Example: Imagine having a yard with lush landscaping you don’t want to disturb. GPR can locate the sewer line without any digging, preserving your garden.

Tracer Wire

Tracer wire is another valuable tool. This wire is laid alongside non-metallic sewer pipes during installation. Later, a locator device can send a signal through the tracer wire, making it easier to find the sewer line.

Case Study: A homeowner in Sacramento had an old PVC sewer line that needed repair. By using a tracer wire, the plumbing team quickly found the exact location without tearing up the entire yard.


A sonde is a small transmitter that can be inserted into a sewer line. As it moves through the pipe, it sends a signal that can be tracked with a receiver above ground. This method is especially useful for identifying the precise location and depth of the sewer line.

Real-Life Scenario: In a recent project, a sonde was used to trace a sewer line running under a busy street. This allowed the team to plan their work with minimal disruption to traffic.

Pipe Locator

A pipe locator is a handheld device used to detect the presence of pipes underground. It works by sending an electromagnetic signal that bounces off the pipe and returns to the locator. This is particularly helpful for finding metallic pipes but can also be used in conjunction with tracer wire for non-metallic pipes.

Tip: Always make sure to hire professionals who are trained in using these advanced tools. Misuse can lead to inaccurate readings and potential damage.

Using these modern technologies, locating sewer lines becomes a precise and efficient process, avoiding unnecessary digging and preserving your property.

Sewer Line Locator Service: What You Need to Know

Service Scope

When you hire a sewer line locator service from Go Pro Plumbing, you receive comprehensive support tailored to your specific needs. The service typically includes:

  • Initial Consultation: We start by understanding your specific needs and issues.
  • Comprehensive Inspection: Our team uses advanced tools like cameras and ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to accurately locate your sewer line.
  • Detailed Reporting: We provide a clear map and video of the sewer line’s condition.
  • Recommendations: Our experts offer solutions for any identified problems, such as blockages or leaks.

For example, at Go Pro Plumbing, we offer a customized approach, ensuring that all your sewer line needs are met efficiently and effectively.


The process of locating a sewer line is straightforward but requires specialized equipment and expertise.

  1. Access Point Identification: The first step is finding a cleanout or another access point to insert the equipment.
  2. Insertion of Camera or Sonde: A camera or sonde (a small device that emits a signal) is inserted into the sewer line.
  3. Signal Tracking: Using a handheld receiver, the technician tracks the signal emitted by the sonde or camera.
  4. Data Collection: The technician collects data on the sewer line’s location, depth, and condition.
  5. Reporting: A detailed report, often including video footage, is provided to the homeowner.

This process ensures that the exact location and condition of the sewer line are identified without unnecessary digging.


While the process is generally safe, there are some precautions to keep in mind:

  • Call 811 Before You Dig: Before any digging, it’s crucial to call 811 to mark public utilities. This is required by law in many places, including Oregon and Washington.
  • Use Licensed Professionals: Always hire licensed and insured professionals to avoid liability and ensure quality work.
  • Understand Limitations: Some sewer lines, especially those deeper than 15 feet, may require specialized deep-sewer locating services.

By following these precautions, you can avoid potential hazards and ensure a smooth and efficient sewer line locating process.

Common Challenges in Sewer Line Locating and How to Overcome Them


A challenge in sewer line locating is depth. Sewer lines can be buried several feet underground, sometimes exceeding 15 feet. The deeper the sewer line, the harder it is to locate accurately.

Solution: Use specialized deep-sewer locating services. These services employ advanced equipment that can locate sewer lines up to 50 feet deep. Tools like ground penetrating radar (GPR) can penetrate deeper soil layers, providing accurate readings even at great depths.

Material Confusion

Sewer lines can be made from various materials like PVC, clay, cast iron, and even older materials like Orangeburg. Each type of material interacts differently with locating equipment, causing potential confusion.

Solution: Utilize a combination of technologies. For instance, a GPR can be used along with a video pipe inspection to identify the material of the sewer line and confirm its location. This dual approach minimizes the chances of error.

Signal Loss

Signal loss is another common issue, especially in areas with a lot of underground utilities or highly conductive soils. This can make it difficult for traditional pipe locators to maintain a consistent signal.

Solution: Use a sonde attached to a sewer camera. This device emits a signal that can be tracked above ground, even if other signals are lost. Additionally, newer technologies like electromagnetic locators can help maintain signal integrity in challenging environments.

Saturated Soil

Wet or saturated soil can interfere with locating equipment, making it difficult to get accurate readings. This is especially problematic in areas with high water tables or after heavy rainfall.

Solution: Schedule locating services during dry weather conditions if possible. If immediate locating is required, using GPR can help, as it is less affected by soil moisture compared to other methods.

By understanding and addressing these common challenges, you can ensure a more accurate and efficient sewer line locating process. Next, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions about sewer line locator services.

Frequently Asked Questions about Sewer Line Locator Service

How do I find an underground drain line?

Finding an underground drain line can be tricky, but there are effective methods to do so. One reliable way is to use a pipe locator. This device sends signals into the ground, helping to detect the sewer line’s location. A professional plumber usually inserts the pipe locator through a cleanout or a drain.

Another method is to use ground penetrating radar (GPR). GPR sends signals into the ground and bounces off buried materials, creating a reading that shows the sewer line’s approximate depth and location. This method is non-destructive and can locate all types of buried utilities.

If you prefer a more visual approach, a sewer camera can be used. The camera is inserted into the drain and visually identifies the sewer line. This camera communicates with a locator above ground, which then pinpoints the camera’s location and the direction of the sewer line.

How much does GPRS cost?

The cost of Ground Penetrating Radar Services (GPRS) can vary depending on several factors, such as the size of the area to be scanned and the complexity of the job. Generally, stand-alone sewer locating costs around $150 per hour. However, if the service is performed simultaneously with other utility locating tasks, the overall cost might be lower.

It’s always a good idea to get quotes from multiple service providers to ensure you’re getting a fair price. Additionally, some companies offer package deals that include video inspections and other related services.

How to find the depth of a sewer line?

Finding the depth of a sewer line is crucial for any excavation or repair work. Using GPR equipment is one of the most accurate methods to determine the depth. GPR can provide depth accuracy within +/- 10-15%.

Another method is using a sewer camera combined with a locator. The camera is inserted into the sewer line, and the locator above ground identifies the camera’s position and depth. This method is particularly useful if you need to diagnose issues within the sewer line, such as blockages or damage.

For more precise measurements, professionals often cross-check the elevation of the buried utility with existing plans or maps. This ensures that the depth readings are as accurate as possible, helping you avoid costly mistakes during excavation.

Next, we’ll explore some advanced techniques and equipment used in sewer line location.

Advanced Techniques and Equipment in Sewer Line Location

When it comes to locating sewer lines, advanced techniques and equipment can make a world of difference. Here are some of the top technologies used by professionals to ensure accurate and efficient sewer line location.

Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR)

Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) is a non-invasive method that uses radar pulses to image the subsurface. This technology is excellent for detecting buried utilities, including sewer lines. GPR works by sending high-frequency radio waves into the ground and then measuring the reflected signals. These reflections help create a map of the underground structures.

Benefits of GPR:

  • Non-Invasive: No need to dig up your yard to find the sewer lines.
  • Accurate: Provides precise locations and depths of sewer lines.
  • Versatile: Can be used on various ground types, including concrete and soil.

Video Pipe Inspection

Video pipe inspection involves inserting a small camera into the sewer line to visually inspect its interior. This method is particularly useful for identifying blockages, cracks, or other issues within the pipe. The camera sends real-time video footage to a monitor, allowing technicians to see exactly what’s going on inside the sewer line.

Steps in Video Pipe Inspection:

  1. Insertion: A camera is inserted into the sewer line through a cleanout, roof access, or toilet.
  2. Inspection: The camera travels through the pipe, capturing video footage.
  3. Location: A locator above ground pinpoints the camera’s position and depth.
  4. Analysis: Technicians analyze the footage to diagnose any issues.

Concrete Scanning

Concrete scanning is another advanced technique used to locate sewer lines, especially those embedded in or running under concrete structures. This method employs advanced equipment like GPR to scan the concrete and identify the exact location of the sewer lines.

Why Use Concrete Scanning?

  • Precision: Accurately locates sewer lines without damaging the concrete.
  • Safety: Reduces the risk of hitting other utilities during excavation.
  • Efficiency: Speeds up the process of locating sewer lines in complex settings.

Leak Detection

Leak detection technology is crucial for identifying leaks in sewer lines without having to dig up the ground. This method uses specialized equipment to detect the sound of water escaping from a pipe, pinpointing the exact location of the leak.

Advantages of Leak Detection:

  • Non-Destructive: No need to excavate to find the leak.
  • Time-Saving: Quickly identifies the leak location.
  • Cost-Effective: Reduces the need for extensive digging and repairs.

By using these advanced techniques and equipment, professionals can locate sewer lines more accurately and efficiently, minimizing the disruption to your property and ensuring the job is done right.

Next, we’ll dive into some common challenges in sewer line locating and how to overcome them.


When it comes to mastering the art of sewer line location, choosing the right service provider is crucial. At Go Pro Plumbing, we pride ourselves on delivering top-notch sewer line locator services that are both efficient and cost-effective.

Why Choose Go Pro Plumbing?

Customer Service: Our commitment to outstanding customer service sets us apart. We understand that plumbing issues can be stressful, so we aim to make the process as smooth as possible. From the moment you contact us, our team is dedicated to providing you with top-tier service and clear communication.

Same-Day Service: Plumbing emergencies don’t wait, and neither should you. That’s why we offer same-day service, seven days a week. Whether you have a burst pipe at 2 am or a clogged sewer line on a Sunday, we’ve got you covered. Our quick response times ensure that your plumbing issues are resolved promptly, minimizing any disruption to your daily life.

Expert Technicians: Our team of trained professionals uses the latest tools and technology to locate sewer lines accurately. With over 40 years in the business, we have the experience and expertise to handle any sewer line issue, no matter how complex.

Get Started Today

Don’t let sewer line issues disrupt your life. Trust the experts at Go Pro Plumbing to provide you with reliable, efficient, and cost-effective solutions.

Schedule your service today and experience the difference that professional, customer-focused plumbing can make.

By choosing Go Pro Plumbing, you’re not just getting a service; you’re gaining a partner dedicated to keeping your plumbing system in top shape.

Category: Home Maintenance