How to Locate Underground Wires

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Things You'll Need

  • Cable locator

  • Spray paint

  • Flags

  • Shovel

Locating underground cables is important to avoid injury when digging.

When building or maintaining a property, you may be required to locate existing underground cables and wires. This can be a difficult task, especially if you do not have any drawings or plans that show the location of any services. However, with the right equipment, you will be able to identify if there are any wires already running within the ground. If you are diverting the wire or cable, ensure you have the correct permits to do so, and take care when exposing existing cables, as you could be electrocuted.


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Step 1

Look around the area to find meter boxes above ground that may indicate underground cables or wires. Also look for service boxes around the property, which will show where the services enter the building.

Step 2

Obtain copies of existing service layouts from your local authority or planning officer. These will clearly show if there is any existing underground wiring.

Step 3

If you do not obtain a drawing, use the underground cable locator to identify any services. The locator works by emitting radio waves into the ground, and then recording whether the waves bounce off any underground structures or pipes.

Step 4

Use a shovel to expose the wiring, if necessary. Take great care, as the cable may give you an electric shock if you touch it.


If you locate an underground service, it may be more cost-efficient and safer to revise your drawings to work around the existing cable.


Do not attempt to repair any broken or damaged cabling yourself. If in doubt, call a professional.