I'm planning to install some glass shelves in one corner of my washroom. The problem is, there are some plumbing pipes snaking around underneath the ceramic tiles and I risk punching holes while mounting the metal brackets. Is it possible to use an ultrasonic sensor like this one to detect the water pipe behind the ceramic tiles?

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Or is there any other inexpensive way to do this?

  • That ultrasonic sensor is for measuring distance. It'll reflect back as soon as it hits the tile (or any other solid obstacle). – stevieb Jan 13 '19 at 19:34

An infrared thermometer would probably be a better solution. You should be able to see them if you run hot or cold water. You may need to decrease or increase the room temp to get better accuracy but I would go this router vs anything else.

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  • Have you ever used this method successfully? I would not trust an infrared thermometer to locate pipes through tile and whatever wall finish is behind the tile, and possibly insulation between the pipes and the wall finish. – batsplatsterson Jan 13 '19 at 11:44
  • @batsplatsterson - yes. and it is really easy. You put either really cold or really hot water in lines. At worst you get nothing, at best you get pretty clear temp lines. – DMoore Jan 14 '19 at 5:05

I wouldn't have too much faith in a homemade ultrasonic sensor, but I don't think it's necessary in this case.

If your shelves are not too heavy, you could use plastic anchors to mount the shelf brackets. These only require a small hole that will barely extend through the tile and the finish wall under the tile. You just have to be very careful when drilling not to overdrill into the wall void, where you might hit a pipe. Just keep in mind that with these anchors the tile will be carrying some of the weight, and you don't want to damage a tile, so don't try to use these unless the shelves are quite small and light.

plastic anchor

If you have to support heavier shelves, I'd use toggles, and in this case you'll definitely want the new / improved type toggle rather than the old fashioned type.


Again you'll want to be careful not to drill past the wall into the void. You can use screws shorter than the ones that come with the anchors if there are any obstructions beyond the anchor.

If you have the bad luck to land directly on an obstruction, without even enough room to expand the anchor - not likely, but not impossible - you may have to repair a small hole in the tile.

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