Locating Underground Utilities

CALLING 811 WON’T HELP YOU LOCATE UTILITIES ON PRIVATE PROPERTY.  811 only provides utility location assistance to your curb.

Private utility locators all over the country play an important role in the safety of underground utilities and mitigating potential damage during excavations. In a fire debris clean-up, unless your utilities are marked, saving them is not very likely.

To mark your utilities, you either need a private utility locator or figure out how to do it yourself.  It is difficult to find someone to do this work.

This is a brief video explaining what utility locating is and how it fits in to the ‘811’ process that you as the homeowner DO NOT benefit from directly.  They can however, point out where your utilities meet the property line.  I recommend making a request at their website because otherwise you will be on hold for up to an hour, as I was.

In locating these utilities, it is often beneficial to collaborate with your neighbors, because often the footprint for infrastructure is similar.    Variables to location of underground infrastructure include terrain, retaining walls and later modifications to the property.

The utilities that can be found and should be protected, with color designations are:

  • RED – Electric Power Lines, Cables, Conduit, and Lighting Cables (Any power cables not layed in conduit such as Coffey Park will need to be replaced in most cases from the pavement to the meter and beyond.  Fountain Grove had conduit, so they can feed new lines into it without excavation required.)
  • YELLOW – Gas, Propane, Oil, Steam, Petroleum, or Gaseous Material (Gas and power are often in the same trench with water and sewer on the opposite side of the house in most cases.)
  • ORANGE – Communication, Alarm or Signal Lines, Cables, or Conduit
  • PINK – Temporary Survey Markings, Unknown / Unidentified Facilities (IF IT CONTAINS METAL)

The utilities that CANNOT be found easily, with color designations are:

  • BLUE – Potable Water (public water or well) (Once a line is found a rod can be run through the pipes to detect where the line goes.)
  • PURPLE – Reclaimed Water, Irrigation, and Slurry Lines (Once a line is found a rod can be run through the pipes to detect where the line goes.)
  • GREEN – Sewers,  Drain Lines and Leach Fields (public sewer or septic) (This line is more difficult to trace because the pipes often have 1 way valve controls and branching tends to vary alot.)

The following is the standard for marking the proposed excavation area:

  • WHITE – Proposed Excavation (((LIMITS OR ROUTE!)))


I found a reputable company called Subtronics They service the whole state and are based out of Martinez, California.  To give us an idea of what is possible, they could offer their service for  $612 for the first hour (includes travel time) and their next job in the neighborhood is $175.  If a 2 man crew is hired for the day, they could negotiate a different rate.


I’ve tried finding utilities myself with zero training last year during the Clayton Fire Response and no tools… It didn’t work out so well.    I know more than most, but not enough to do it for any one with great confidence and certainly not without locating equipment.

I would love to get an expert to offer a do it yourself home course for home owners, post disaster.  I located an expert and am hopeful he can help us.

The training guy I found has been doing this since 1990 and does training nationwide since certified training was mandated starting in 2007.  He is very interested in helping and offering some services pro-bono because he sees the value in offering this to homeowners.

Alternatively, you can look for online training on YouTube.  You do need to buy a specialized piece of equipment that you might want to share with your friends and neighbors.  I believe the cost ranges for about $700-1300 for each unit.

This DIY advice is for people wanting to get a temporary dwelling permit ASAP.  However, you will probably need to pay a surveyor to come mark you lot lines and utilities as part of the formal process with your building permit.

~*~ Updated Nov. 30, 2017 ~*~
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