Private Utility Locating 101

If you are thinking about doing any home or garden renovations, it is important to know what is beneath the ground before you start digging. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Call Before you Dig.” In most situations, you will most likely have to make two calls -- one to a company such as 811 who will mark the public lines, and one to a private utility locator to mark the private lines.

What are Utility Lines?

Utility lines are pipes, cables or other linear conveyance systems used to transport power, water, gas, oil, wastewater or similar products. Utility lines fall into two categories - public and private.

What is the Difference Between Public and Private Utilities?

Public utility lines are owned and maintained by a utility company, regardless of whether they are located on public or private property.

The most common public utility line is often referred to as the “main line.” The main line runs close to the road and provides the main supply of water, power, gas and telecommunication services to properties. Additionally, any line that connects the main line to a meter in the home is also considered a public utility. To locate and mark these utilities, you would use a public utility company such as 811.

Lines that connect from the meters to the home are generally considered private utility lines. Private utility lines are managed directly by the property owner. Because the owner is responsible for managing the private utility lines on their property, it is up to them to have them marked prior to doing any digging.

These are a few examples to illustrate the delineation between private and public utility lines:

Water Meter:

  • Public Utility Line: Main line to the water meter
  • Private Utility Line: Water meter to lines connecting to the home

Telecommunications Box:

  • Public Utility Line: Main line to telecommunications box, telecommunications box to the point where the line enters the home
  • Private Utility Line: If a homeowner extends a telecommunications line to another building (i.e. a garage for a satellite TV)

Gas Meter:

  • Public Utility Line: Main line to the gas meter
  • Private Utility Line: Any line extending beyond the meter (i.e. a line installed for a fire pit)

Power Meter:

  • Public Utility Line: Main line to power meter
  • Private Utility Line: Any line extending beyond the meter (i.e. a detached garage that is fed by the power meter).

What is a Private Utility Locator?

A private utility locator can mark privately owned and maintained lines. These can include, but are not limited to, septic tanks, satellite tv lines, sprinkler systems, fire pits, gas burning lamp posts, power to a detached garage and even underground grave sites.

How Much Does a Private Utility Locator Cost?

The cost of a private utility locator depends on a variety of factors related to the scope of work. A main factor in pricing is timing, as pricing is typically quoted hourly or by half-day/full-day. To request an estimate, simply fill out the form on our website with some additional details about your project.

What are Offset Marketings?

When your dig site is done being marked, there will be flags and spray paint on the ground in varying colors. These marks will designate which specific utilities are underground. The marks will be color-coded, each color representing a different type of utility.

  • White - proposed dig site
  • Red - electric lines & any unknowns.
  • Yellow - gas, oil, steam, petroleum or gaseous materials
  • Orange - communication, alarm or signal lines, cables or conduit (television, phone lines and fiber optics)
  • Blue - water lines
  • Purple - reclaimed water, irrigation and slurry lines
  • Green - sewers and drain lines
  • Pink - temporary survey markings

Because utility locating is not a perfect science, these lines will not always be 100% accurate. Make sure you allow a 2-3 foot buffer on either side of the utility lines when you begin to dig to ensure any damage is avoided.