There are several common questions that people ask about underground utilities. Some of the most common questions include: 

How accurate are utility markings? 

Even though utility markings can be reasonably accurate, you should not trust them without verifying. Just because you see a utility marking on the ground does not mean their location is precise. The ground can shift over time, meaning that the utility marking may not be as accurate as you think. It is always important to rely on professional verification before you start digging underground. 

How do you dig around utilities? 

If you are digging around utilities, you should always use a rounded or blunt-edged shovel. You should always start by digging to the side of the marked utility. You should not pry around a utility line to remove soil. Once you find the actual line, you need to exercise extreme caution. It can be incredibly easy to damage a utility line, which is why it is always better to reach out to a professional who can help you with this project. 

How deep are utility lines buried? 

The depth of utility lines can vary depending on the type of utility you are talking about. For example, cable and telephone lines in a conduit are typically buried one foot or less underground. Typically, sewage lines, electrical lines, and telephone lines not in a conduit are buried approximately two feet underground. Finally, water pipes, electrical lines, and larger sewage pipes are typically buried three feet underground. All of these utilities can be vulnerable to being damaged if you dig without verifying their location. 

How deep can you dig before calling 811? 

There is no prescribed depth that you are allowed to dig before you call 811. Regardless of whether you are installing a few small shrubs or putting in some fence posts, it is important to reach out to the authorities to make sure you do not hit anything important. Anytime you put a shovel in the ground, it is important to take a few minutes to call 811 first. That way, you can reduce your chances of suffering a serious accident in your project. 

How can I ‘see’ what’s underground in my backyard without digging? 

If you want to see what’s underground in your backyard, ground-penetrating radar is the best tool to use. GPR is a geophysical technology that makes a visible model of what is below ground using radar pulses. This non-destructive approach detects reflected signals from underground structures, including utility lines, by using electromagnetic radiation waves. 

How do you find utility lines under your property? 

The best way to identify gas lines, water lines, electrical lines, and other types of utilities underground is to reach out to a professional team. A professional team has the right equipment to identify potential utilities that you may have otherwise overlooked. Even though calling 811 is a great place to start, it is always best to reach out to a professional. That way, you can reduce your chances of hitting a utility line when you start digging in your backyard. 

Learn more about how to find underground pipes and water lines. 

Can you be fined for digging if you hit a utility line? 

Yes, you can be fined if you start digging and hit a utility line, particularly if you don’t reach out to a professional service first. The exact nature of the fine will depend on the identity of the utility you hit, the damage you do, and the state in which you are located. For example, the fine for hitting a gas line underground can be between $400 and $800; however, depending on the nature of the accident, you might be facing a fine of more than $2,300. That is why it is always important to reach out to a professional service that can help you identify utilities before you start digging. 

How do you check if an underground cable is live? 

If you uncover a cable underground, you need to figure out whether it is still live. If it is live, it means that it is carrying an electrical charge. The best way to do this is to use a voltage tester. A voltage tester will measure the current flowing through the wire, letting you know if it is still carrying a charge. Regardless of whether the wire is carrying a charge, you need to exercise extreme caution. You should always reach out to a professional team that can help you. At SoftDig, it would be our pleasure to assist you. 


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