How to Locate Buried Power Lines

When you decide to do a home improvement or landscaping project that requires you to dig in your yard, your first step should be to have the location of underground infrastructure lines marked.

A typical home might have electrical, cable, telephone, water, sewer, and gas lines buried in the yard, and if you damage any of these lines while digging, you could interrupt service to your house or your neighbors' houses, or even injure or kill yourself or someone else. You'll also be on the hook for any repairs and fines related to damaged lines.

Contact your local utilities to come out and mark any buried lines. You can get information about buried lines from your state government or the utility companies, but the easiest thing to do will be to call 811 or go to call811.com rather than contacting each individual utility.

Allow the utilities at least 3 business (non-weekend, non-holiday) days to come out and mark your property. They'll do this by spray-painting lines on your lawn or by planting flags, using different colors to designate different lines. Red lines are electrical lines; orange lines are communications lines (cable, phone); blue lines are potable (drinking) water; green lines are sewer or drainage lines; yellow lines are for oil or natural gas; purple lines are for reclaimed water (water used for irrigation purposes but not safe for drinking); and white lines mark where you plan to dig.

If there are still lines that are unmarked about 5 days after you called 811 (taking into account weekends and holidays), call again to make sure that all lines have been marked. Once they have been marked, you can begin digging. Dig around where the lines are marked, taking care not to go too deep all at once, as some lines may be buried at a shallow depth.

Warning

  • In most places, you are required by law to call to get utility lines marked before you dig. Striking an electrical or gas line could result in injury or death, and striking a sewage line could create a health hazard. The repair costs for any lines you damage would most likely have to be paid by you (as well as any fines that would be assessed), and your neighbors would be inconvenienced if you disrupted service to their home.

About the Author

Carson Barrett began writing professionally in 2009. He has been published on various websites. Barrett is currently attending Bucks County Community College, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in sports management.