It is easy to do, and it is easy to avoid. Step 1 is to use a stud-finder. Step 2 is to think like a plumber.
"I'm 99% sure I have shot a nail into a pipe, I just don't know it yet."
—Richard McMurray, DFW Crown Molding
A finish carpenter's worst nightmare is not inevitable, but it's not not-inevitable, either.
When shooting nails into walls, do this:
- Visualize what is inside the wall. If you're near a toilet or sink, understand that you are in the danger zone.
- Some contractors take photos of the plumbing and HVAC systems before the drywall goes up, which can be very helpful.
- Mark the subfloor in new construction to indicate where pipes and wires are located.
- Stud finders can help see the safe zones, and some can even spot pipes and wires.
When the unspeakable happens, and you have to fix it, especially if it is behind expensive paneling, be thoughtful about cutting into the wall—DO NOT think like a plumber.
—Richard McMurray of DFW Crown Molding has a good pile of videos on Finish Carpentry TV, his YouTube channel. Some of the best ones are highlighted here.