GPR vs X-Ray Concrete Scanners - What’s Best for Your Construction Project?

Find out more about how these two concrete scanners work and how we can help you should GPR scanning be the best option for you.

Not only are ground penetrating radar and concrete X-ray equipment different hardware, they produce different results for construction projects. It’s important to understand how the technology works and what subsurface obstacles you need scanned in order to make the best decision on a service provider.

How do Concrete Scanners Work?

There are two pieces of equipment that are traditionally used to scan concrete: ground penetrating radar (GPR) scanners and X-ray scanners. The latter being the original technology and the former the newer and improved technology. While there are use cases for both, the majority of projects today will benefit most from GPR scanners.

Ground penetrating radar scanners transmit relatively low-frequency electromagnetic waves to detect materials beneath the ground. Similarly, X-ray scanners transmit electromagnetic waves to detect materials but at a far higher frequency. GPR scanner frequencies range between 1 to 1000 MHz while X-ray scanners frequencies range from 10 to the 16th to 10 to the 20th Hz. Practically, this means that GPR scanners are able to detect materials at a further depth while X-ray scanners give a clearer image of the materials to the human eye.

                 Image Obtained Through X-Ray                                                                   Image Obtained Through GPR
Sources: X-Ray Services and Ground Penetrating Radar

Vosburg Welsh provides concrete scanning with the use of GSSI and C-Thrue GPR scanners, two known and trusted brands. Due to the infrequency of projects requiring x-ray scanning, we do not provide X-ray scanning services.


C-Thrue is an all-in-one ground penetrating radar that specializes in concrete scanning.

Results from scans are represented in augmented reality, making data interpretation easier.

It's compact size allows for scanning in challenging locations.

Which is Better for my Construction Project, X-ray or Ground Penetrating Radar?

If your project requires locating objects in slab on grade, your only option is to use a ground penetrating radar as X-ray requires access to both sides of the concrete. In addition, if you need to know the depth or thickness of anything you are scanning, GPR scanning would be the best solution for you. X-ray scanners are unable to determine depth while ground penetrating radar depth penetration can vary between 12-24 inches on average and go up to 36 inches in concrete.

A time-sensitive project may benefit from the speed of GPR equipment; utilities located via GPR can be marked instantly as the data from GPRs is available in real-time. They don’t require setup time the way X-ray does. X-ray scanning requires the film produced from scanning to be developed off-site before technicians can return to the site and mark the utilities. In addition, X-ray concrete scanning typically requires the area to be cleared to avoid exposure to employees which may delay work.

If your project requires you to know the exact size of the objects being scanned, and you have access to both sides of a slab, X-ray scanning may be the best option for you. GPR technicians are able to determine the size of objects to a certain degree but cannot give as precise of measurement as X-ray allows. Unfortunately, the depth of said objects cannot be determined via X-ray.

The depth at which GPR is able to penetrate material is greater than that of X-ray due to the frequencies used by both.  Projects requiring the location of a target at a deeper level will likely benefit more from GPR.

Finally, if your project is in a compact space, such as the inside of a closet, X-ray scanners may not be able to fit while GPRs have handheld compact options that can get the job done.

      Ground Penetrating Radar Scanners VS X-Ray Scanners

Why You Shouldn’t Simply Rent Your Own Concrete Scanning Equipment

Besides the fact that we want you to hire us, while using a GPR scanner is physically possible by an untrained individual due to its compact size and low risk of health concerns, interpreting the data is incredibly complicated. GPR rental companies are unlikely to provide you with the knowledge and experience required to accurately read ground penetrating radar images. In addition to the skill required to interpret the results of a GPR concrete scanner, technicians benefit from their knowledge of troubleshooting methods, typical building compositions, moisture differences, history of buildings in that area, and more.

Data obtained through x-ray scanning may be easier to read for the layperson in comparison to the data obtained through GPR, unfortunately, concrete X-ray scanners are both complicated to use and pose potential health risks due to the radiation they produce.

Another factor to consider with ground penetrating radar rental is the control you have over the data being produced. Ground penetrating radar equipment uses specified software to image and store the data obtained while scanning. The licenses to the software belong to the company renting out the equipment meaning once you return the equipment, you no longer have access to the data.

What Should I Do if I Need Concrete Scanned?

Take a look at the area you need scanned and ask yourself which technology would work best for your project. While this blog discusses in greater detail some of the key differences, the chart above titled “Ground Penetrating Radar Scanners VS X-Ray Scanners” is a great reference to start.

A large majority of projects will benefit more from ground penetrating radar (GPR) scanning over x-ray scanning. With GPR being the newer technology, it is able to provide more information at a greater depth and doesn’t require scanning both sides of the concrete to work. Most importantly to many project managers, GPR scanning doesn’t create further delays in projects the way x-ray scanning does.

If you decide GPR scanning is the ideal concrete scanning method for you or would like more advice, tell us a little more about your project here and we will be happy to help.

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