How to Use a Borescope for Plumbing

Plumbers have surprisingly high levels of job satisfaction — likely because a plumber can expect an extremely varied working day that’s always filled with new challenges. Over the course of a typical day, a plumber might go out on an emergency call to fix a burst pipe, evaluate the quality of preexisting plumbing for new homeowners or businesses, install new appliances like dishwashers, and weld pipes together.

What do all of these tasks have in common? Plumbers have to work with pipes and tubes that are largely hidden from view, making it impossible to evaluate the entirety of work spaces with the naked eye.

If a bathroom pipe has burst, for instance, that fact will likely make itself known — often in a rather dramatic fashion — right away. The precise source of the leak will, however, remain unclear.

To locate the source of the problem, a plumber has two choices. The plumber can demolish part of the wall or flooring to find the source of the leak, often causing widespread damage that will subsequently need to be repaired. They can also opt to use a borescope to get a closer look. These handy viewing tools consist of a camera and a light at the end of a rigid or flexible tube, and they can either have a built-in LCD screen or connect to your laptop, Android phone, or iPhone.

When you use a borescope, it becomes possible to perform a non-destructive remote visual inspection. You can, in other words, perform quality control or locate leaks and obstructions without ever needing to demolish or disassemble the surrounding structures. In the case of of a leak, invasive work will still have to be carried out — but, knowing precisely where the problem is located, it now becomes possible to work in a much more targeted manner, thereby limiting the damage.

It’s clear, then, why a borescope can be so useful for professional plumbers as well as DIY enthusiasts who are trying to locate and fix problems in their own homes. What do you need to look out for when you are shopping for an ideal borescope for plumbing jobs, though, and how do you use a borescope for plumbing?

What Features Should a Plumbing Borescope Have?

How to Use a Borescope for Plumbing

Inexpensive borescopes have flooded the market in recent times — but if you are going to be inspecting U-bends, S-bends, and long sewage pipes, it is important to pick the right borescope for the job.

Borescopes can:

  • Have rigid, semi-flexible, or flexible probes. To inspect long and curved pipes, you will need to purchase a flexible borescope.
  • Ship with cables that range from less than 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) to over 15 meters (50 feet). Plumbers, or people hoping to fix their own plumbing problems, will likely require a longer probe that can travel over greater distances.
  • Be water-resistant, waterproof, or not be designed for use in wet, moist, or damp environments at all. Plumbing borescopes should always be fully waterproof.
  • Ship with a built-in LCD screen, or connect to an electronic device you already own, such as a smartphone or laptop, via WiFi or a USB port. USB borescopes have the advantage of being more portable, and they also tend to be significantly less expensive.
  • Have articulating probes, meaning that the camera can make a full turn with the help of a control system, or have non-articulating probes that do not turn. Dual-camera borescopes that allow users to switch between two separate lenses are also available.
  • Have varying probe diameters, another thing to pay attention to as you consider the diameter of the pipes you think you might want to inspect with a borescope.
  • Ship with a variety of accessories, such as mirrors, magnetic attachments, and hooks, to remove small obstructions or to get a better view.

It is not necessary to spend thousands of dollars to get your hands on a reliable borescope that makes your plumbing jobs a lot easier, and you can realistically find a great plumbing borescope for less than $100.

Pay attention to the fact that the cheapest borescopes might not be waterproof, though, and check whether the cable length of the borescope you are considering is satisfactory, as well.

How Do You Use a Borescope for Plumbing?

How to Use a Borescope for Plumbing

Using a borescope is deceptively straightforward. Here is a look at the steps:

  • Make sure your borescope is in good working order. If you are using a borescope that relies on battery power, it will need to be charged first. In the case of a USB borescope, you will want to ensure that the laptop or phone to which you will connect the borescope has enough battery power.
  • Clear your working area first. As you maneuver the probe around, you will need to have a full range of motion. Should the pipe you are intending to inspect have dirt or debris around its opening, it can help to clean this away, as well.
  • Gently maneuver the borescope to its destination, inserting the probe into the hole and guiding it carefully, while avoiding any obstructions. The screen is there not just to help you diagnose problems, but also to enable you to view the working area as you are inserting the probe. Keep an eye on it the entire time. As you guide the borescope’s probe, it is extremely helpful to be familiar with the anatomy of the pipe you are inspecting. If you have an articulating borescope, you can make full use of this feature by rotating the lens to get a better view.
  • Once you locate the problem (or ascertain that everything is OK, if you are performing quality control), remove the borescope from the pipe slowly and carefully.
  • Having diagnosed the problem, you can now get to work on fixing it — and, thanks to the use of the borescope, you can limit the damage you cause in the process.

That’s it! Using a borescope for plumbing is easy. Thanks to the information you gain from the borescopic inspection, the rest of the job can unfold more smoothly, too.