You'd probably be surprised to learn about the vast network of utility lines underneath your property. Even more surprising is the shallow depth at which many of them are buried. That's why it's necessary to have the lines located before you dig. You probably know you need to locate utility lines before you do something major like put in a swimming pool, but what you may not realize is that you need to know this information before you do any digging at all, even if it is to just put in a fence or some landscaping. This is what you should do.
Locate Public Lines
Before you dig in your yard, whether it's to plant a new tree or sink a post, you should call 811. This is a nationwide number that connects you to public utility locating services. You inform the operator where you plan to dig and representatives from your different utility companies come to your property and mark the location of their underground lines on your property. This service is for lines that connect to metered services such as electricity, cable, water, and gas.
Failure to call before you begin digging could result in a fine if you knock out the power in your neighborhood. However, if you hit a utility line, you could do even more damage than that. You could receive a fatal shock, or you could cause a dangerous gas leak. You could even bust a pipe that causes an expensive water leak.
Hire A Private Company
In some cases, you may also want to hire a private utility locating service to find other types of buried lines under your property. Companies like Delta Geophysics Inc can search for underground obstacles. While the electric company marks its own lines and the water company marks theirs, a private locating company marks all the lines under the ground no matter what kind they are. The lines are marked with small flags in the dirt and painted symbols on concrete. The lines are located using various means such as ground penetrating radar and electromagnetic scanning.
In addition to finding public utility lines, a private company will also find and mark French drains, sprinkler lines, invisible fences, and secondary electrical lines to outbuildings and outdoor lighting fixtures. Radar can also pick up underground structures you may not even know are there such as an old well or septic tank.
It's likely there have been several generations before you living on the same property. There is no way to tell what has been buried under the ground. There could be anything from buried containers, old utility lines, or even live electrical or gas lines. It's estimated that every six minutes a line is damaged because someone started digging before checking for underground utilities. It's better to be safe and have all lines and structures found and labeled before you dig.