FREE PDF FORM – Underground Utilties
Before you dig, call 811 for FREE Tennessee One Call. It’s FAST, EASY, FREE and it is the LAW!This free service notifies service member utilities that you are about to dig and they have 3 working days to come out and mark participating utilities in your yard…FOR FREE.
You are required to stay 2′ off the painted lines in both directions. Do they always get the lines marked right? No! Sometimes they don’t get it right, and if you cut a line that was marked wrong, take a photo where the lines are and are not. You are not responsible for cutting a line that is marked wrong, but you need proof, AND a confirmation number!
But what about the “OTHER UNDERGROUND LINES” that may be hidden in your yard? After 4 decades owning a residential fence company we have cut about every line that is out there.
Old timers (builders) did not have location devices, so they used what they had on hand at the time. Gray builders sand! They would backfill over the pipes they laid, then cover about 6″ layer of gray builder sand and then finish backfilling the ditch. So if your are digging out in the yard and hit a layer of gray sand (or any odd color) stop and check it out, you may have pipes down there.
Paint Colors Code – What They Mean
Every color has a purpose. So if you mark areas in your yard use a white marking paint. Home Depot and Lowes carry the marking paints (sprays upside down). Utility companies do not use white paint they have their own assigned colors.
Water companies only mark the water line to the water meter, which is usually near the street. The builder then runs the water line from the meter to the house.
Trying to guess where the water line is from the meter to the house? Look for an outside water spigot closest to the meter and then run a string line from it to the meter.
What to do if you break your water line on your side of the meter? First flip the lid to the water meter by the street and turn off the water shutoff valve. Then you will need to dig out the broken pipe and repair it.
Electric lines are marked as red paint lines up to the main box, NOT FROM THE TRANSFORMER BOX TO THE HOUSE! This is a bit tricky here. If the electric lines are overhead then no problem, however if they are underground there is serious voltage going thru those lines.If the breaker box line enters on the side of the house, then the line is probably from there to the front transformer box. But to be safe always hand dig around possible underground lines.
How do they know where the gas line runs? Look at your gas meter outside of your house and you may notice a small wire wrapped around the meter. By attaching a signal to the wire they can follow the signal underground with a pretty good idea of the natural gas line.
How deep are the gas lines in your yard? Well we are told they are set 3′ deep, but I have cut them at 8″ deep before. So always be cautious.
It’s a great idea to put a landscape gate straddling the gas line. If it ever needs replacing it will not interfere with your fence.
What to do if you cut a gas line? Stop what you are doing and back away at least 100′. Gas lines are under high pressure and release lots of gas. So no matches, cigarettes, anything with a flame. Immediately call your gas company to fix the line. Gas lines need professional repairs … do not attemp to repair.
If you have a length of gas line showing you can fold it over and tape it to stop the gas escaping. But by all means call the gas company to professionally fix it.
Cable and Telephone Lines
These lines are marked in orange paint as communications. If your cable or internet line is cut, don’t let anyone splice it! First time it raines you will have problems, So make sure it is replaced as a home run.
These lines run all over the place and are sometimes only an inch in the ground. Easy to cut, so be extra careful. When we need to set a post near a cable line by the house it is easy to pull up out of the ground when only barely in the ground. Pull it up out of the way then dig the post hole, set the post and rebury the line.
If the line is out in the middle of the yard and crossing where you need a post hole, then using a round point shovel perpendicular to the paint line to try and get under it. It may feel like a root so don’t force it. Use your hands to loosen the soil and feel around. Now if you dig with the line you will probably cut into the line… so don’t do that.
So those are the lines that will be marked, but what about the OTHER LINES. What else might be out there? You may buy an existing house and may have lines you don’t know about. We see that all the time, where the previous homeowner added electric lines to barn or extend water lines into a back area. So these lines are unmarked and no one knows exactly where they are. Most fence companies have a clause in their contract that they are not responsible for unmarked lines as they are drilling blind.
It is best to be cautious and let your contractor know where possible lines might be. Even so it falls on the homewoner to pay for repairs to unmarked lines.