Most concrete jobs involve digging. You might need to dig a foundation up to 24 inches deep before pouring concrete. Or, you may need to use a jackhammer to remove old concrete before laying a new foundation.

Whenever you dig, you run the risk of encountering unseen utility lines buried underground. When building sidewalks, for example, you’re likely working near the road where utility lines tend to be buried.

Do: Err on the Side of Caution

There may be multiple underground utility lines located at varying depths within a single area. If you begin construction before finding out where these lines are located, and you accidentally hit and damage one of them, you can interrupt essential services for an entire neighbourhood. You will then be subject to expensive fines and repair costs.

Taking the proper precautions before you begin will reduce your risk of encountering costly and dangerous issues during construction.

Don’t: Underestimate the Danger

Accidentally hitting an underground utility line not only causes property damage, but it can also lead to serious bodily harm. If you damage a natural gas pipeline, for instance, you are endangering both your own safety and the safety of others. You might also be responsible for the cost of repairs.

Do: Call Before You Dig

Before beginning any construction project, dial 811 to schedule an appointment with your local utility locator service. A representative will come to the property and mark the locations of buried utility lines.

Then, contact each of the companies responsible for the different utility lines over which you will be building. Ask them to verify how deep the lines are buried. Typically, electric lines are buried approximately 18 inches below ground. Cable TV lines, on the other hand, tend to be buried higher up.

Don’t: Start Construction Right Away

It’s important to take the proper precautions and plan carefully before you begin construction. Do not begin digging until your local utility company or private utility locating company has marked the locations of your utilities. They will place flags indicating where it is safe for you to work.

Do: Plan Carefully

If possible, try to build around any underground utility lines. If you’re building a shallow concrete slab, you should be able to build it on top of existing lines, as long as you take the proper precautions.

Do: Check if You Need a Permit

If you’re planning to do concrete work, you may need a building permit before you begin the job. Building permit requirements vary depending on location, so it’s essential to consult the building permit laws relevant to the location of the construction site. If you are building in a neighborhood governed by a Home Owners Association or similar organization, then the rules may be even more complicated.

Do: Begin Digging by Hand

The “Call Before You Dig” service will place flags to mark the locations of buried utility lines. They advise that you dig by hand, rather than by machine, anywhere within 18 inches of the flags. Use a shovel with a fiberglass handle and dig with extreme caution to avoid electric shock.

Be careful not to pull, nick, or break any underground utility lines. If you come across any lines or pipes within your construction zone, contact the relevant utility company for assistance moving the lines.

Do: Know When to Consult a Professional

Companies that offer underground utilities construction services have the knowledge and experience to safely and successfully complete concrete construction projects, including pouring concrete over utility lines.

If you are unfamiliar with the laws and guidelines pertaining to utility lines construction, it might be wise to seek professional guidance to avoid potentially dangerous and expensive consequences later on.