LARGER IMAGE: sketch of drain field and D-boxes or drop box locations. How to Find the Precise Location of Septic Drainfield Piping

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Accurate septic drainfield or soakaway bed location:

How to probe pipes, make measurements & use electronic or other buried pipe locating tools to make a precise location of septic drainfield components. This article series and our accompanying septic system location videos explains how to find the precise leach field or drainfield portion of a septic system.

We include sketches and photos that help you learn what to look for, and we describe several methods useful for finding buried drainfield components. (Septic drain fields are also called soil absorption systems or seepage beds.)

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

How to Use Special Equipment to Locate Unknown Drainfield Piping Location Precisely

PHOTO of a back hoe being used to dig up and locate septic system components during a sewer line repair.Guide to Finding Septic Drainfield Componentss - Part 6

At the end of the day, if you must locate an exact leach field trench and if there are absolutely no visual clues (such as visible parallel settlement lines marking a sewer pipe or drainfield trenches) then proceed to find the buried drainfield trenches & piping as follows:

Using a backhoe for excavation to find drainfield components

This is the most heavy-handed "tool" to locate septic components, but is often what's really needed. [Photo above]

But often some careful digging by hand can locate key drainfield components without causing damage to the ground surface and components buried below it.

So when do we use a backhoe to dig up septic or drainfield components?

  1. When more extensive exploratory excavation is needed to find components - more than is reasonable to dig by hand. For example an excavator may cut a test trench across a property section to find buried piping that was not located using pipe locating equipment.
  2. When we already have determined that extensive replacement of drainfield or septic piping is required.

Test holes to confirm exact drainfield line locations and drainfield line condition are discussed at EXCAVATE to LOCATE DRAINFIELD

Buried Utility Locating Equipment Finds Pipes, Wires, Cables

How do electronic utility locating devices work?

Some pipe locating tools work entirely above ground and rely on magnetic field sensing or radio frequency and density measurements. But the most popular and precise buried utility component locating equipment that is used for nonmetallic piping (such as plastic drainfield lines) may combine a signal wire inserted into the buried piping from an access point and an above-ground sensor.

In between these two and used for locating buried gas lines, water lines, and cables, a transmitter may be clipped to an exposed setion of the buried line and an above ground receiver then scans the property surface to locate and allow marking of the precise location of the utility.

Where to Buy or Rent Buried Pipe or Utility Locating Equipment

In most communities, local plumbers, some well drillers, some septic system excavators, and (if present) local gas or electric or water companies all have and make regular use of buried-utility locating equipment & systems. It is also possible to rent this equipment from local construction equipment rental companies, or to buy it from the manufacturer's outlets.

DitchWitch buried utility line locator 150R - permission requested 11/19/2012

Some examples of utility locating tools & equipment include:

Other pipe finder products & brands

Inductive Bleed-Over Errors When Locating Buried Pipes & Utilities

Watch out: for bleed-over problems when using buried pipe or cable locating equipment. Making a mistake can be catastrophic if you hit a gas line or high pressure water line. In Fishkill N.Y. we watched a backhoe opertor hit a high pressure gas line. A white plume of natural gas shot into the air as we and everyone else ran like mad. Luckily an explosion was avoided.

At another occasion we needed to locate a buried well pipe at a New York Property. Working in freezing conditions we rented a jackhammer to open solid frozen ground adjacent to a building where a prior owner told us the well was located. First, because we knew there were nearby buried gas pipes, we called Central Hudson Gas & Electric to locate and mark the gas lines. The technician clipped his transmitter to an exposed gas line in the building and, using his pipe locator, he sprayed red paint on the "exact" location of the buried gas line.

Banging away two feet distant from the red gas line markings we worked carefully - luckily, as we found (and did not damage) the yellow gas pipe was exactly where we were excavating - a bit over 24 inches away from the "precise" red paint stripe placed by the tech.

Why did this happen? Later excavation found that at this home, built in the 1920's, there were two other old steel water lines buried in parallel and close to the gas pipe. The combination of multiple metal pipes close to one another can confuse pipe locating equipment.

Pipehorn [5] and other buried utility locating experts have suggestions for avoiding inductive bleedover, including


Continue reading at EXCAVATE to LOCATE DRAINFIELD or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see SEPTIC TANK, HOW TO FIND for details about finding the septic tank or chamber or drywell or seepage pit.



Or see How to Find the Septic Tank. More videos on septic system location & maintenance are at SEPTIC VIDEOS

Or see these

Septic Drainfield Location Articles

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DRAINFIELD PIPE LOCATION, PRECISE at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


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