Gas lines are buried at a minimum of 24 inches away from the ground, but this depth varies from region to region. If you plan to dig holes or trenches, call 811 in advance to have any utility lines marked. Doing this will help avoid mishaps that may affect public utility supply or cause accidents.
There are thousands of underground utility lines beneath our yards that might get faulty when we dig without caution. You can try and identify gas lines by yourself, but it is not recommended. You better be safe than sorry, and so it would help if you called beforehand to have utility lines marked for you. In this guide, we take you through some effective ways of locating underground utility lines before you dig. Read on!
When to call 811 for utility marking
Here are some of the reasons you should call 811 before you dig in your yard for them to come and mark any gas or utility lines:
- When digging post holes for putting up a fence
- Creating your garden pond
- Digging foundations for a garage or shed
- Installing irrigation systems or drainage lines
Utility lines that require marking before you dig
The call before you dig service does not mark some utilities such as security systems, landscape lighting wires and systems, lawn irrigation systems, and other utilities that were installed by private companies. It is also important to note that 811 only marks utility lines up to the initial connection point to a home. If these lines continue underground, 811 consider them your property and not theirs. Here’s a list of utility lines that are usually marked by 811:
- Natural gas pipes
- Internet and cable tv wires
- Electric service wires
- Water and sewer mains
- Telephone service wires
How to find utility lines by yourself
Finding utility lines by yourself is challenging and comes with high chances of failure. Different utility lines are buried at different depths, and sometimes, these lines are not marked. However, sometimes it is possible to find these lines by yourself though we do not recommend it. The easiest way to find utility lines is to find out where they start and end then find a route between those two points. For example, to locate a gas line, mark where the pipe joins your house from the street and mark this point. Next, find where the gas lines are connected to your house and figure out a straight line between these two points. Never try to probe the ground to find a utility line as it might be dangerous and costly in the long run. It is wise to call 811 to countercheck before you dig since this method is not conclusive, and the 811 marking service is free of charge.
How ‘call before you dig’ marking system works
811 has been the number to call before you start any digging since 2005. The U.S federal government set up this number to alert regional services that locate underground public utilities throughout the country. In New England, this service is referred to as dig safe while in all other areas; it is known as ‘call before you dig.’ Here’s a detailed step by step insight on how the process works:
- Call 811 at least three days before when you want to dig/ this lead time may vary according to your region
- Your call is directed to a central call center, and you are asked questions regarding the nature of your digging project. The call agent then reaches out and informs any public utility that might be affected by your digging to come and mark utility lines.
- The utility company then sends workers to come to your facility and mark underground utility pipes or wires using either paint or flags. These markings have color codes that represent different utilities:
- White: Proposed excavation
- Green: Sewer line
- Pink: Survey markings
- Purple: irrigation and reclaimed water
- Orange: alarms and communications
- Red: Electric lines
- Yellow: natural gas, oil, steam
- Blue: Potable water
- 811 markings are valid for one month since this paint may wash off over time. Ensure that all utilities are marked before you start digging. If for some reason, you delay your project for a month, it is advisable to call 811 to have the process repeated.
The free utility location service is amazing and free, but it also has some limitations. This service only marks utilities up to their initial point of entry. The service doesn’t coordinate marking of utilities that were installed by private companies. In case you want to locate underground cables or pipes installed by a private company, you may have to call the company and part with a fee.
Key points to note when digging around utility lines
- It is helpful to know the depth of different utility lines before digging so you can avoid them. For phone and cable lines, they are buried about 12 inches deep, water pipes are buried about 12 inches deep, but some are buried an extra 12 inches below the frost line. Natural gas and electric pipes have buried a minimum of 24 inches deep.
- Once utility lines are marked for you, it is advisable to keep a distance of about 15 inches from either side of the marked lines. This is because the gadgets used to detect utility lines are not 100% precise
- In case you bought a home with existing utility lines and you don’t know their exact location, it is advisable to contact a private locating company. This will help you pinpoint the exact location of utility lines and plan your projects around that.
- Be careful when digging and do it slowly to protect any lines that were not identified for marking.
There are millions of underground utility lines in our yards, and we need to be extra careful when we dig to avoid accidents or explosions. Knowing their exact location and depth is crucial in ensuring we are safe. Ensure you call before you dig to ensure you don’t cut out public utility supply. We hope this information was enlightening and helpful to you.