Are you thinking of installing patios, decks, walls, or any other structure in your yard? You may want to check first for utility lines. Utility lines supply your home with gas, electricity, TV, and water, as well as remove sewage. They also make it possible to have proper irrigation and gardening. It is important to know where the utility lines are buried so you can avoid them when digging in your backyard.
|Utility Line||Typical Depth|
|Electrical Lines||24" below ground|
|Gas Lines||24" below ground|
|Sewage Lines||24"-36" below ground|
|Cable and Telephone Lines||12" below ground|
|Water Lines||36" below ground|
|Irrigation and Lighting Systems||5" below ground|
Please consider calling a professional service to check your garden for underground utility lines. They will get in touch with companies that have installed underground lines in your location, and mark special lines from the street to your yard. This will prevent any interference with existing power lines. Failure to contact a utility service can lead to repair costs on your part if you damage the lines buried in your garden.
Why Are Utility Lines Buried from View?
Many, if not all utility lines are buried underground for aesthetic purposes. It’s easier to disguise them that way. It reduces the risk of damage due to human activity such as sabotage, theft, and illegal connections. But that raises a challenge, of course. It’s difficult to monitor where these lines are and keep them from damage when installing structures in your garden. For that reason, there are legal guidelines to help avoid incurring damages costs.
It is therefore wise to get utility companies to mark these lines in your home so your construction activity won’t damage them. Different utility lines have different depths. Here’s the breakdown.
Electrical lines pass below the ground for various reasons. The main reason is strengthening the electric utility system by keeping the lines away from strong winds, human sabotage, and illegal connections. The minimum depth for underground electric cables is 24 inches, but 36 inches is the preferred depth for most electric utility companies that run high-voltage lines.
Laying electric cables underground helps keep humans safe from electrocution. It’s also for aesthetic purposes. Electric cables aren’t exactly pleasing; passing them underground preserves an area’s scenic views. Furthermore, the electric cables should be laid to avoid any damage or disturbance in the future.
Another utility line you should know about when you set out to dig or excavate is the gas line. Hitting a gas pipeline can have severe consequences, including leaks, poisoning, and explosions.
How deep are gas pipelines? The answer to that depends on your location. For example, in California, laws state that underground gas lines must be placed at least 18 inches deep, while in New York, it’s 24. In general, most states require gas lines at least 24-36 inches below ground with plenty of covers. It depends on the size of the traffic. Expect to find the pipeline deeper in highways, footpaths, and roads than you would in a private property.
Gas pipelines are buried to keep them from corrosion, impact, and abrasion. Utility companies will use markers to show the location of the pipeline. These markers indicate the approximate location of the gas line, the material being transported, the utility company’s name, and their contacts in case of emergency. It’s always wise to know the entire layout of the gas line before carrying out any digging activity near it. Get the plans from your local pipeline operator, map out the area via GPRs and find out what the pipes are carrying.
This is the one that’s always underground to reduce the risk of contamination. It carries wastes from properties to disposal or treatment facilities. You wouldn’t want to mess up with this network of pipelines.
Except in extremely cold climates, sewage lines do not freeze easily. Usually they require slope. Therefore, the depth of sewer lines varies greatly and depends on how deep the street sewer is. In most parts of the country, sewer lines are 24 -36 inches below the ground.
It’s vital that you locate your underground sewer system and map it out before taking on any home improvement project. You can check with your city’s zoning department or look for your area’s interactive underground utility map on the web. Most plumbing companies have the tools to locate sewer lines and record the depth at various intervals.
Common Sewer Line Problems – Infographic
A water pipeline is another utility that usually passes through your garden. It supplies water in your home and makes it possible to have garden irrigation, or construct a swimming pool. The main advantage of laying water pipelines underground is to prevent impact from human activity.
Generally, you will find underground water lines deeper than other utility lines. The national standard is 36 inches. However, the pipes can be any level underground if not susceptible to freezing. The depth is measured from the finished ground level to the top of the pipe.
Furthermore, if the water pipe is laid near other utility lines, such as a gas pipe, a minimum distance of 3 feet shall be maintained. And when installed near a road, it should be laid in a manner that prevents future conflicts in case of road improvement projects. Water and gas pipelines can run in the same trench, but electricity and gas cannot. Check local rules and guidelines.
Cable and Telephone Lines
Telecom cables come in different varieties. There’s copper, fiber, cable telephone, and cable TV. The national electricity safety code does not have standard depths for telecom lines. However, there are general guidelines.
You can lay a copper telephone line at any depth underground as long as it’s in conduit. Otherwise, it should pass at least 24 inches below ground.
Fiber cable depth depends on topography and local conditions. For example, in case of placement near road crossings, unfinished road, or drainage ditches, experts recommend laying the fiber 30-42 inches deep.
Additional factors to consider when laying fiber optics cables is climate. Burying the cable at 30 inches minimum keeps it beneath the freeze line. Furthermore, you should place sand around the cable to keep rocks from pushing against it and interfering with the signal. Additionally, you should lay copper and fiber cables as straight as possible with minimum bends.
Irrigation and Lighting Systems
Do you want to install irrigation or lighting in your garden? Just 5 inches below the ground is sufficient to keep them out of the way of edging tools and aerators. Utility companies don’t monitor irrigation and garden lighting lines; check with your irrigation and lighting companies for specifications. Above all, keep records, measure, take pictures, and document for future purposes. It would be a waste of time to search for the lines every time you want to take on a major construction project.
How Should You Locate Utility Lines On Your Property?
Many state laws require you to contact the central-line locating service at least 2 days before you start digging and excavating to prevent damage to underground utility lines. You can call the 811 service number toll-free. Contact them even when you plan to dig small holes. They will contact your local utility companies to send their teams to map the pipeline layout. Failure to comply leads to expenses on your part if you damage the lines.
Don’t rely on the regulated depth. Just because the line was installed at a particular depth doesn’t mean it’s still there. In the case of landscaping activities above the utility lines, the final depth will be different from the original. Have the companies send their people in for assistance. It doesn’t cost you anything.
Can You Lay Utility Supply Lines Down Yourself?
That’s a no, especially when dealing with gas, water, or electric lines. There are strict rules and guidelines regarding the type of work and materials. You’ll want professionals to help you form the right trench, do the ductwork, and make sure the connections meet safety codes.
A qualified engineer will help ensure the new utility supply cable or pipe is installed correctly. Furthermore, they can help with digging, or perform work around or under public land. You aren’t allowed to dig near roads, verges, or any other public land without the right qualifications and paperwork. A qualified engineer can help you get the permits and organize the digging.
Unless you live in an isolated location off the grid, there’s a network of pipes and cables under your property supplying various utilities like gas, water, internet, TV, and sewage. Different states have rules and guidelines for these utility lines. However, for most lines except irrigation and garden lighting, the general depth is 18 inches, and the ideal depth is 36. Call 811 and get free help mapping out the utility lines in your property before taking on any major construction project.