Take Photos During Construction To Document Hidden Utilities

By Todd Fratzel on Plumbing

Construction Photos – Document Plumbing and Electrical

One of my biggest pieces of advice for anyone building a new home or under going an major renovation is to take as many photos as you can during construction to document hidden utilities. Every house contains hundreds if not thousands of feet of wire, piping and duct work hidden beneath drywall, insulation and framing. It’s extremely useful to have photos available of the exact locations of each of these utilities for future reference.

Document Critical Utilities

I’ve included a couple of photos that I took during the construction of our new home. In the first picture you can see a mess of red, blue and white PEX pipes all running vertically from the basement to the 2nd floor in a 2×4 interior wall. The blue PEX pipes are domestic cold water home runs from the manifold in the utility room up to the two bathrooms on the second floor. The red PEX pipes are domestic hot water home runs serving the same function. There are also two white 1/2″ PEX tubes that deliver and return the hot water for the baseboard heat in the bedrooms.

The nice thing about these photos is if you do have a problem, or you undertake some type of future renovation you can really pin point the locations and also know exactly what is in the wall before you start demolition. For one thing I’d seriously consider whether or not to even hang a picture frame on that wall for fear of puncturing a pipe.

The second photo shows another interior wall more water lines. This wall has cold water, hot water and supply and return piping for the radiant heat in the 2nd floor bathrooms. This photo was important to me when I installed our home office. You can see all the blocking that was installed for the cabinets and my fear was puncturing a pipe during the cabinet installation.

Obviously having this type of information can be quite helpful if you need to locate and repair a leaking water line.

Types of Features To Document

There are lots of features in a new or remodeled home that should be documented for future reference. I recommend documenting the following items.

  • Hot and Cold Water Supply Lines
  • All plumbing Drain and Vent Lines
  • Heating and Air Conditioning Supply Lines
  • Duct Work
  • Electrical Wires
  • Structural Elements Such As Beams, Trusses and Structural Connectors

So next time you build a new home or have a major renovation done make sure you take lots of photos. The photos you take may end up saving you a good deal of money and time when you do your future projects around the house.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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  1. Ethan says:

    Todd, I’ve heard that a person can take photos and show them to inspectors to obtain permits (rather than wait for the inspector). If everything passes… no worries. Else, you’ll have to undo your work to fix it. Is that true?

  2. Todd says:

    @ Ethan – You’ve asked a great question. There are instances when building inspectors will accept photos instead of a site visit. However, generally most do not do this unless they are unable to get to your site prior to a certain time critical deadline. For instance, one of the local building inspectors around here only works part time. So, if I need to pour concrete on a Friday (when he’s not working) he allows me to take photos of the reinforcing prior to the pour and submit them. However, it’s still my gamble and if he were to get a complaint then I might be out of luck. I’d say take them as back up but don’t rely on photos for inspections. I always say call your local building official before you start a project and ask them about these issues.

  3. Keith says:

    Todd, what an obvious, but rarely taken advantage of option to keep track of what is behind the walls. It would be good for all utilities in the walls ie: electric, plumbing. and mechanicals.

    Years ago, when I was an electrician in Orlando, Fl. the inspector would allow us to take pictures only in instances where we were digging underground utilities, showing the ditch with a tape measure in it to show the depth, so we could cover up as we went. It was a very large project, and this prevented the inspector from coming out daily.

    Great post, I gave it a Digg.

  4. Todd says:

    @ Keith – It is amazing how such a simple thing is often over looked. I can’t tell you how many times I wish I had pictures of framing, electrical or plumbing that was later covered over by drywall.

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