5 Things New Homeowners Should Know About Buried Utilities

May 25, 2018

Starting outdoor projects is exciting for many new homeowners.  You want to improve your curb appeal by digging out those overgrown shrubs and designing a fresh landscaping layout.  You make a run to the hardware store to stock up on all the supplies you need or borrow a few tools from your Dad and are all ready to dig in on Saturday.  Are you aware that in Wisconsin, and most other states, you are required to call 811 to get the underground utilities marked out before you dig?  Stay safe by remembering these tips when starting any digging projects.


1. There are buried utilities everywhere

Underground utility lines include: water, sewer, electric, gas, fiber optics, internet lines, and telephone.  According to the Common Ground Alliance, there are nearly 20 million combined miles of underground facilities nationwide.  Utility lines can be just below the surface of the ground so never assume you are not digging deep enough to hit a line.











2. Diggers Hotline is Wisconsin’s one-call center

You just need to make one call and Diggers Hotline will take your intent to dig information and pass it along to all the utility companies that have lines near your work area.  The utility companies are then responsible for marking their lines in your work area within 3 business days.  Did we mention it is a FREE service! 

You need to call EVERY TIME you plan to dig in your yard.  The state statute’s definition of excavation is: any operation in which earth, rock or other material in or on the ground is moved, removed or otherwise displaced.  So that covers all types of digging including homeowners using shovels or post hole diggers.










3. Hand digging is required within 18” of the marks

The painted lines and flags placed by the utility locators provide an approximate location of the buried lines.  It is best to avoid digging in areas where buried utilities are located.  If you need to dig closer than 18 inches from the marks, proceed carefully using only hand tools.












4. Damaging a utility line is dangerous

Damaging a buried cable could cause you to lose your internet service so you can’t binge-watch your favorite Netflix shows.  Wireless inside your home is often delivered to your house by a buried cable or fiber optic line.  Damaging this type of line may be a nuisance, but hitting a gas line can cause serious injury or property damage.  Every 9 minutes a utility line is hit in the US because someone didn’t call 811.  Why would you want to do anything that would put yourself, your kids or your new home in danger?









5. Private lines are not marked by the utility company locators

Diggers Hotline services only cover public utility lines.  Private lines are considered to be owned by the property owner (aka: you).  It is your responsibility to identify private lines before excavating.  Locators can be hired to locate private lines.  As a new homeowner, it is important to confirm if you have any private lines and where they are located.  Examples of private lines include propane lines, a line after the meter, water and sewer laterals, electric lines to detached garages or lamp posts, underground sprinkler systems and invisible fencing for your dog.












Safe digging is no accident and the first step in Wisconsin is contacting Diggers Hotline by dialing 811 or filing a locate request online at www.diggershotline.com at least 3 business days before you start your project.  Keep yourself and your property safe by always contacting Diggers Hotline before you dig.