Underground lines, pipes, cables, etc.--what to watch out for??

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TRIVERS08

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Feb 12, 2008
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Hi: I'm looking at doing some trenching and post-holes. Can anyone tell me how deep the underground cables, lines and pipes are, etc. I don't want to have an unexpected surprise. Thanks.
 

OldMachinist

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Most areas have 1-800 number you have to call before any digging and they will send out someone to mark underground utilities. The penalty for not calling and hitting something is BIG BIG BIG.
 

mllud

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Call and get all the utilities located before you dig. In my state you call 1800-dig-rite. They come out within 3 days and locate everything. In Missouri its a law. This service doesnt cost you. I would find out who to call before you dig. Mike
 

140mower

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Hi there, you've asked a very difficult question for any of us to answer and to be honest, one that shouldn't be relied upon as to accuracy. Having said that I'll try and help you out some. In the front of your phone book, along with the emergency numbers there should be a call before you dig number listed. One phone call should get you all of the locates for all known utilities at the address given ie: gas, telephone, hydro, water, etc. The utilitey companies will locate and mark the location of their lines, and some will even give you an idea of how deep they should be, but this is a guesstimate at best and is best to hand dig over the utilities to at least expose them for positive location. Breakages can be very expensive and your insurance will be seriously tested especially if a locate was not called for and or heeded.
Now here's why I say it is impossible for any of us to say how deep things should be. Water lines in my area are a minimum of four feet, but more commonly closer to six especially under drives where vehicle traffic will drive the frost deeper than it would be under a lawn, but in areas of milder winters the lines can be much shallower. Another consideration is: say a power line is put in 25 years ago and it is three feet deep, but 10 years ago a new owner decides to build up the ground in that area three feet which would put the line six feet down now or worse yet, decides to cut out a high spot and maybe the line now only has a foot or maybe even less cover, not good if your expecting deeper.
Hope I'm not coming off as an a$$ here as that is not my intention, just trying to encourage a safe start to your project with-out any costly surprises or worse, as many of the things buried underground can kill. Also, watch your ditch depth if you're going to be working in it as around here anything over four feet must be shored or sloped to prevent cave-ins.
Good luck, Don
 

140mower

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Hi there, you've asked a very difficult question for any of us to answer and to be honest, one that shouldn't be relied upon as to accuracy. Having said that I'll try and help you out some. In the front of your phone book, along with the emergency numbers there should be a call before you dig number listed. One phone call should get you all of the locates for all known utilities at the address given ie: gas, telephone, hydro, water, etc. The utilitey companies will locate and mark the location of their lines, and some will even give you an idea of how deep they should be, but this is a guesstimate at best and is best to hand dig over the utilities to at least expose them for positive location. Breakages can be very expensive and your insurance will be seriously tested especially if a locate was not called for and or heeded.
Now here's why I say it is impossible for any of us to say how deep things should be. Water lines in my area are a minimum of four feet, but more commonly closer to six especially under drives where vehicle traffic will drive the frost deeper than it would be under a lawn, but in areas of milder winters the lines can be much shallower. Another consideration is: say a power line is put in 25 years ago and it is three feet deep, but 10 years ago a new owner decides to build up the ground in that area three feet which would put the line six feet down now or worse yet, decides to cut out a high spot and maybe the line now only has a foot or maybe even less cover, not good if your expecting deeper.
Hope I'm not coming off as an a$$ here as that is not my intention, just trying to encourage a safe start to your project with-out any costly surprises or worse, as many of the things buried underground can kill. Also, watch your ditch depth if you're going to be working in it as around here anything over four feet must be shored or sloped to prevent cave-ins.
Good luck, Don
Dang, I gotta learn to type a little quicker, maybe two fingers would help.
 

Tazza

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Dang, I gotta learn to type a little quicker, maybe two fingers would help.
LOL at the typing.
Over here we have essentially the same thing, call *this number before you dig* If you don't and hit something you are seriously screwed. Pulling up a phone line can cost you tens of thousands. A place up the road from work pulled up a phone cable between two exchanges, phones were out for 2 days. There were a bunch of guys working 24 hours splicing wires, even after that there are on-going problems with line quality. The look on the project manager was one of terror, he knew he was up for BIG $$$
 

perry

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LOL at the typing.
Over here we have essentially the same thing, call *this number before you dig* If you don't and hit something you are seriously screwed. Pulling up a phone line can cost you tens of thousands. A place up the road from work pulled up a phone cable between two exchanges, phones were out for 2 days. There were a bunch of guys working 24 hours splicing wires, even after that there are on-going problems with line quality. The look on the project manager was one of terror, he knew he was up for BIG $$$
Along with calling the 1-800, I have a metal detector, granted it's no good for PVC water lines but it's good insurance. Picked it up at a pawn shop.
I was skeptical of divining (dowsing) rods until I participated in an experiment with cup of water on the ground, using 16'' of 12/2 bare copper wire, it worked over and over every time!. I'm not recommending it as a primary tool. If nothing else, you can amaze your friends.
 

xtreem3d

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Along with calling the 1-800, I have a metal detector, granted it's no good for PVC water lines but it's good insurance. Picked it up at a pawn shop.
I was skeptical of divining (dowsing) rods until I participated in an experiment with cup of water on the ground, using 16'' of 12/2 bare copper wire, it worked over and over every time!. I'm not recommending it as a primary tool. If nothing else, you can amaze your friends.
recently a telephone repair man told me a story about a company that didn't call "dig -rite" and wound up cutting through a fiber optic cable bundle that partially linked the midwest to the west coast...the repair bill was billed out at something like $100.00 per mintue, the company that cut the bundle went out of business shortly after
 

OldMachinist

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recently a telephone repair man told me a story about a company that didn't call "dig -rite" and wound up cutting through a fiber optic cable bundle that partially linked the midwest to the west coast...the repair bill was billed out at something like $100.00 per mintue, the company that cut the bundle went out of business shortly after
I have a ATT fiber optic than runs along my driveway and was told by them when we gave them the right of way the normal repair cost for severing it was between $500,000. - $1,000,000.
 

skidsteer.ca

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I have a ATT fiber optic than runs along my driveway and was told by them when we gave them the right of way the normal repair cost for severing it was between $500,000. - $1,000,000.
Wow, thats quite a window. I would not want to hire them by accident.
Ken
 

pelpel

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Also keep in mind sewer pipes / septic tanks / drain tiles. If the owner can't be certain as to where they are located, either don't do job or get owner to sign waiver.....
 

Tazza

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Also keep in mind sewer pipes / septic tanks / drain tiles. If the owner can't be certain as to where they are located, either don't do job or get owner to sign waiver.....
Thats a very good point. I didn't think of that....
 

OldMachinist

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Thats a very good point. I didn't think of that....
Just another note on this because I have lots of experience with this underground stuff. I have a little over 70 acres with several different right of ways. I have a water main line, several oil pipe lines, phone line and the fiber optic. Most of these run along or cross my half mile long driveway at some point.The last time I planned on trenching across the driveway I called the 1-800 number and the local phone company, water company, oil pipe line company and electric co-op showed up the next day but ATT didn't show up for four days so I called again and they showed up two days later. Hope you don't have a rented attachment waiting for them to show up. And then they tell you that you have to hand dig on three feet of ether side of where they mark just in case the line isn't where they think it is. I kind of regret ever allowing them the right of way but you think they are giving you some money and it won't effect you.
 

sandhills-elect

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Just another note on this because I have lots of experience with this underground stuff. I have a little over 70 acres with several different right of ways. I have a water main line, several oil pipe lines, phone line and the fiber optic. Most of these run along or cross my half mile long driveway at some point.The last time I planned on trenching across the driveway I called the 1-800 number and the local phone company, water company, oil pipe line company and electric co-op showed up the next day but ATT didn't show up for four days so I called again and they showed up two days later. Hope you don't have a rented attachment waiting for them to show up. And then they tell you that you have to hand dig on three feet of ether side of where they mark just in case the line isn't where they think it is. I kind of regret ever allowing them the right of way but you think they are giving you some money and it won't effect you.
In Nebraska we have the 1-800 or you can do it on the net with a contractor #. It is the law and you better call or you are in trouble with them and probably your insurance company is not going to like you or get along very well. It is the law here they must show within 48hrs not including weekends or holidays. I never tested to see what would happen if they didn't show and you went ahead anyway. Most get out the next day and get it located and give a depth if you ask. Most know me buy name and they always call me and we talk about what is going to happen. Most all we have here are phones and some electical high voltage buried. Here if you are around somthing large they show and help you uncover. So pretty easy. See ya Brent.
 

CanAm

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Mar 22, 2008
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After you have the utilities located your best investment will be a probe to try and locate things exactly. When you're digging watch for changes in the soil ie. different color of soil from old trnch lines.
 
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TRIVERS08

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Feb 12, 2008
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After you have the utilities located your best investment will be a probe to try and locate things exactly. When you're digging watch for changes in the soil ie. different color of soil from old trnch lines.
Hi CanAm: Can you elaborate, ie: the "soil color" and the "probe". Thanks, Tom
 

CanAm

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Hi CanAm: Can you elaborate, ie: the "soil color" and the "probe". Thanks, Tom
Different soil layers have different colors so when somethings been trenched in the soil's been mixed. Sometimes the discoloration is faint after time. Most times you'll see a lighter colored strip. sometimes you can even see a ditch line where the trench settled. A probe is a "T" handled metal rod 4-6 ft in length with a point. Just push it into the ground. We use for finding everything from sewer and water services to power lines. When probing the ground is usually softer in a trench line. So if you're job site has had the utilities located you can start probing where things have been marked. Just move left or right until you find it. Great way to find a depth of a utility before you start.
 

CanAm

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Different soil layers have different colors so when somethings been trenched in the soil's been mixed. Sometimes the discoloration is faint after time. Most times you'll see a lighter colored strip. sometimes you can even see a ditch line where the trench settled. A probe is a "T" handled metal rod 4-6 ft in length with a point. Just push it into the ground. We use for finding everything from sewer and water services to power lines. When probing the ground is usually softer in a trench line. So if you're job site has had the utilities located you can start probing where things have been marked. Just move left or right until you find it. Great way to find a depth of a utility before you start.
Forgot to mention the shaft of the probe is only about 1/4 in. rod.
 

Bandit1047

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Forgot to mention the shaft of the probe is only about 1/4 in. rod.
Here is my .02 worth. These markings can be a great distance off from where the lines actually are. This is why you need to have a probe and someone hand digging in the trench. You need to ask the utility Protection service if there are any lines not serviced by them. In Ohio some gas sales lines are not covered by OUPS and if they have lines running in your area you would want to know about them. If there are oil or gas wells in the area you are digging in, chances are there is an underground sales line running from well to well. Joe
 
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