How to Locate Underground Cables

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Proper location of underground cables may prevent accidents and serious injury. When you decide to put in a garden, an irrigation system or a new building, digging into the ground surrounding your home will most likely be necessary. Buried cables may make digging dangerous or inconvenient. Some areas have buried electric, phone, water and sewage lines. Hitting any of these with a backhoe or even a shovel may cause bodily harm or costly repairs.

Things You'll Need

  • GIS map
  • GPR device
  • Small wooden stakes
  • Look for utility boxes in the yard and on the side of the home. Electric, phone and cable lines will come out of the ground into a utility box. These are the first indicators as to where underground wires and cables may be located.

  • Search through graphic information system, or GIS, maps. Some towns and cities have GIS maps showing the location of buried lines and cables. You will need to know the latitude and longitude of your property, along with the city, town or county lot number. These should be on the deed to your home.

  • Call your local utility company. Most cities and towns offer "call before you dig" numbers by which you can inquire about the location of underground cables. Use the information given to pinpoint the general positions of the cables.

  • Use a ground penetrating radar, or GPR, device to find the actual cables. Once you know the general location, a GPR device maps out the exact location. Place small wooden stakes every few feet along the path of the cable to identify the no-dig zone.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some utility companies and local government agencies offer buried cable location services for homeowners. Contact your local government offices for information.
  • Do not rely on a metal detector to find underground cables and wires. Some may be buried too deep for detection, while others may not contain any metal.

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