Being a homeowner comes with a variety of responsibilities, and that means knowing what is located on your property, including what’s underneath! You may never think you will need to access the ground surrounding your home, but if you own a septic system or you decide to build an in-ground pool, or you need to remove a tree, knowing what lies beneath will be important and potentially life-saving information.
Depending upon where you live, you can always go to the local utility company to determine where the lines are in and around your property. However, if you’re looking for gas lines, your gas company will not have access to where the cable lines are lying. You can always contact the previous homeowner or ask the local zoning office to see if they might have some indication to the location of your underground pipe locator sewer, water and gas lines. This will come in handy if you have a sewer blockage, or a water or gas leak.If you dig and hit a line, regardless of the kind, you could be liable for any costs incurred. Before you decide to dig, there is some information you need to know.
First, it is important to know that if you are going to dig for any reason, that you call 811 first. This is the number to the Utility Notification Center, available 24 hours a day. Each state has their own call center and this agency is in place to protect people from the hazards of underground utilities, as well as maintaining the infrastructure of the underground utilities that serve you and your neighbors. Each state has specific laws, so it is very important to make that call to save yourself some undue headaches. If you start to dig before you know where key lines and pipes are located, you run the risk of bodily injury or even death! In addition, you can disrupt service to your home and your neighbors if you damage anything underground.
Once you have called 811, you can have the utility companies to come out and mark the lines so that you don’t dig within two feet of the marked lines. The American Public Works Association (APWA) has universal colors to indicate what you can find underground. Red indicates the presence of electrical lines, cables, conduit and lighting cables. Cutting through these lines can be deadly, so caution is necessary when digging. Yellow signifies gas and gaseous material lines, as well as possible oil and steam. Orange means television cable lines, fiber optics, phone systems or wiring for alarm systems. Blue lines are for water, which may not be as hazardous as some other lines, but can cause quite a mess if you hit one. Green indicates sewer and drain lines and should be avoided for obvious reasons. Whether you are a contractor starting a new project or a homeowner looking to dig in your yard, you need to know the APWA’s standards and expectations before you start your work.
To accurately determine your dig, you can purchase a professional, all-purpose line locator, that can trace underground cables, and save you from potentially dangerous and expensive digging mistakes. The line locator uses a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter sends out an electrical signal to the underground pipe or line that is being traced and then sends back a signal to the receiver, letting you know the path of the line. The transmitter can be set at a particular frequency to pick up a particular conductor in the cable or line. A single line locator can tell you if you have multiple lines, but it can’t distinguish between gas lines, power lines or communication lines and it can’t tell you the depth of the lines. You will also want to determine the depth of the cables, since there may be several cables located close to one another, so you may want to use a multi-frequency system to adjust the pitch of the frequency. Since different lines are made of different materials, you can often ascertain which line is at which depth. It might seem expensive to purchase all this equipment unless you are going to use it for business, so renting equipment from a reputable company might be more cost effective. If you do decide to purchase your own equipment, for future use or for business, you want to make sure you buy something that is easy to operate and that is durable, especially if you will be using it on a regular basis. When you buy a line locator, ask about its limitations and how it operates in inclement weather. Also ask for a multiyear warranty, if you can get one. Units can run anywhere from $1000 to $4500, depending upon the type of unit you get and the frequencies and features that accompany it.
When trying to locate any lines yourself, remember that the soil can actually be a hindrance to your search. If at all possible you will want to moisten the ground to get the best signal with less interference. Dry soil impedes the reverberation, making the signal less clear. Adding water to the soil may help with your ability to penetrate the soil better and get a better signal from your equipment.
You can also hire a professional company to determine how far down the cables are, and how close they are to one another. Hiring a professional company ensure the safety of everyone involved in the project, from your family members to the contractor you hire to dig your pool. A professional company will also make sure the underground lines are protected, helping you avoid costly mistakes and hazards. Additionally, a professional line location company will have the most advanced technology, including GPR, or ground penetrating radar and EM, an electromagnetic locator. The GPR provides a view of the ground below the surface in most soil types and the EM technology completes the image process by using multi-frequency to provide the most accurate underground picture before digging. It’s a quick, cost-effective manner of determining what is buried beneath the ground and one that protects you from costly mistakes. Line locator services have the experience you need before you start your project.