When to Call

Call 811 Before You Dig!

Planning a home improvement job? Planting a tree? Installing a fence or deck? WAIT! Here's what you need to know first:

Whether you are planning to do it yourself or hire a professional, smart digging means calling 811 before each job.

Homeowners often make risky assumptions about whether or not they should get their utility lines marked, but every digging job requires a call - even small projects like planting trees and shrubs. The depth of utility lines varies and there may be multiple utility lines in a common area. Digging without calling can disrupt service to an entire neighborhood, harm you and those around you and potentially result in fines and repair costs. Calling 811 before every digging job gets your underground utility lines marked for free and helps prevent undesired consequences.

Trees

While trees clean our air, provide shade and beauty, and make our yards and homes more comfortable, planting them is complicated and must be thoughtfully planned out.

Where you plant your tree is very important. When planting your tree, you may be tempted to plant where the tree would look the best or provide the most shade, but that could be a mistake. Not only could you damage an underground utility line when you plant it, but as your tree matures its roots may grow into your utility lines and disrupt your service, requiring you to remove what you've planted. Or, a tree planted too close to your home could damage your foundation. Smart digging is no accident: always call 811 before you dig.

Know the growth habits of the tree you are planting, and how its roots will grow when mature. For instance, the root systems of willow trees are particularly aggressive and should be planted well away from any underground impediment. Think above you too...make sure your new tree will not grow tall enough to interfere with overhead lines either.

All states require those who plan on digging to call ahead to get their utility lines marked before digging, and while your desired spot might make a great location for a swing, it may be directly above an underground utility line. By calling 811 a few days before you dig, you'll make sure your tree will provide all the benefits you want while still protecting your property and family. One easy phone call to 811 gets your underground utility lines marked for free.

Hedges

Hedges can create visual separation between areas of your yard - a natural green wall. Many decisions will go into planning your hedge project including spacing, location and type, but the amount of required excavating makes one decision clear - calling 811 before you dig.

Homeowners often make risky assumptions about whether or not they should get their utility lines marked, but every digging job requires a call - even "small" projects like planting hedges and shrubs.

Planting hedges will require you to dig many deep holes, often located along property lines. Many experts recommend an excavated trench of 24 inches deep, with additional holes up to 12 inches deeper for the actual shrub rootball installation. However, many utility companies often bury their underground lines along existing property lines - potentially in the same area you are considering for your project!

No matter if you choose a flowering or evergreen hedge, you'll improve your garden when you're done. By always calling 811 before you dig, you will ensure that your dig does not result in an unwelcome surprise to you, your family or neighbors! One easy phone call to 811 gets your underground utility lines marked for free.

Ponds

Ponds and fountains can create a sense of nature and attract wildlife, but because of the digging depth they require, proper planning - especially a quick and efficient call to 811 - is critical to your enjoyment of these water features.

Calling before excavating for a pond is important for many reasons, but especially because of how deep you will have to dig. Most experts recommend a depth between 24 and 36 inches for a yard water feature to create the proper plant and animal habitat. Considering this depth, digging without knowing the exact location of underground utility lines may be even riskier than other types of digs. Smart digging is no accident: always call 811 before you dig.

Other factors can help guide the ultimate location of your yard water fixture while you are waiting for your underground utility lines to be marked. For instance, avoid placing your pond under a tree that will fill it with leaves and debris. Additionally, zoning codes may govern how close to your property line you can install a large water garden. In some regions, a water feature deeper than 18 inches may require a permit from your local building department. Lastly, make sure the direction of any drainage from the pond is away from your house.

Whether you are buying a ready-made small pool or fountain from a home or garden center or making your own, one call to 811 will quickly and easily begin the process of getting the approximate location of underground lines marked for free.

Fences

A fence has always been the best option to create privacy for your home and secure your yard. But, digging multiple holes for fence posts without knowing what's below can result in injury, expense and penalties.

Fence installation always requires a call to 811. Installing a fence requires digging multiple holes in areas likely to contain underground utility lines such as along streets, right-of-ways or property lines. But, marked lines show those who dig the approximate location of underground lines and help prevent undesired consequences. Smart digging is no accident: always call 811 before you dig.

Meanwhile, you can consider other factors in planning your new fence while you are waiting for your underground utility lines to be marked. For instance, if you decide to use wood for your project, exposed elements can be coated with paint, stain or preservative to protect from weathering. Posts or any part touching the ground should be pressure-treated with a preservative or a decay-resistant species such as cedar. Or, if you decide to use metal, apply an appropriate primer and rust-resistant topcoat.

Homeowners often make risky assumptions about whether or not they should get their utility lines marked, but every digging job requires a call, especially installing a fence. One easy phone call to 811 gets your underground utility lines marked for free.

Remember, know what's below. Always call before you dig.

Mailboxes

A mailbox is your home's ambassador to the outside world and can speak volumes about your style and attention to detail. When installing a new mailbox in your front yard or curbside on a post, failing to call before digging can say even more.

Everyone knows the location of your mailbox makes it easy to get mail delivered, but did you know the location of your mailbox makes it even more important to call before digging? Many utility lines are buried along streets in right-of-ways, and most mailboxes require holes 36 to 42 inches deep. At the same time, if you are removing an old post set with cement, you will have to dig even deeper until it can be removed.

Your mailbox presents a relatively inexpensive opportunity to project style - but it also presents an opportunity to show you know that smart digging means calling 811 before each job. Knowing where underground lines are buried before you begin your project helps protect you from injury, expense and penalties.

Decks

An outdoor deck is the crown jewel of many outdoor DIY projects, and will require extensive planning and work. But, because of the digging depth the support posts require and the typical proximity to homes or other structures, the one step you can't afford to skip is a quick and easy call to 811.

Calling before you begin to excavate is important for many reasons, but especially because of how deep you will have to dig. Most experts recommend a depth between 24 and 36 inches for deck posts to create the support and stability you'll need for a lifetime of enjoyment. At the same time, you may be digging close to the connection points to your home for underground utility lines. These factors mean digging without knowing the exact location of underground utility lines may be even riskier than other types of digs. Smart digging is no accident: always call 811 before you dig.

Meanwhile, other factors will guide the ultimate location of your deck. For instance, a deck built upon a slope may require concrete support in post holes for added stability. Additionally, most areas will require your deck plan to meet zoning code and local bylaws before a building permit can be issued. Lastly, all exposed surface areas will need to be treated with paint, stain or preservative to protect from weathering. Posts or any part touching the ground should be pressure-treated with a preservative or a decay-resistant species such as cedar.

Whether you are contracting with a local professional for your deck or embarking on the task on your own, a quick call to 811 by the person who will be doing the digging will quickly and easily begin the process of getting the approximate location of underground lines marked for free.

Concrete

Are you considering a serious building project? If you answered yes, chances are you'll have to work with concrete - one of the most versatile building materials in the Do-It-Yourself arsenal. No matter what job you're considering, from patio to post hole to steps or sidewalk, the one thing you need to remember before you pour your first slab is a quick and efficient call to 811.

Homeowners often make risky assumptions about whether or not they should get their utility lines marked, but every digging job requires a call - especially major projects like pouring concrete.

More than any other DIY project, pouring concrete is a semi-permanent job and requires serious planning - most specifically where exactly your job will be located. In order to be successful you may have to jackhammer old concrete or dig a foundation up to 24 inches deep, most likely next to your home or along a right-of-way. You may be digging close to the connection points to your home for underground utility lines or along the roadside where many utility lines are buried.

Smart digging is no accident: always call 811 before you dig. Marked lines show diggers the approximate location of underground lines and help prevent undesired consequences.

Remember, know what's below; always call 811 before you dig!