Utility Lines

Common Methods of Locating Utility Lines

When working on a site, it is necessary to assess any existing structures, both above ground and underground, before construction begins. Information regarding utility lines construction is not always readily available, particularly in rural areas. However, there are some scientifically proven, incredibly useful methods for locating utility lines.

In the past, workers with Y-shaped rods, known as dowsers, would watch for minor movements to try and find underground water sources. Modern utility lines construction services make use of far more reliable tools. Here are some the most common methods of locating utility lines and a brief explanation of how they work.

Hydro or Vacuum Excavation

This efficient, non-destructive method is useful when you have a rough idea of a utility line’s location, or you have already located it. It allows you to map out the utility line accurately, ready for any construction work or modifications.

Hydro or vacuum excavation involves using high-pressure air or water to break up soil, before extracting it into a tank. Also known as potholing or hydro-digging, this method exposes part of the line for inspection.

Electromagnetic Utility Locating

One of the more common methods is electromagnetic utility locating. Workers generate an electromagnetic radio frequency, enabling them to detect any conductive material beneath the ground’s surface via a receiver.

Electromagnetic utility locating has a high degree of accuracy for all metal lines, including electric, gas, telephone, cable, water, irrigation, and sewage. However, it cannot locate plastic or concrete lines.

Fortunately, many non-metal underground utilities come with a tracer wire running alongside for tracking purposes.

Ground Penetrating Radar

Ground-penetrating radar is the most advanced method of locating subsurface utility lines, and it requires special training and equipment. Like electromagnetic locating, it makes use of high-frequency pulses that penetrate deep into the soil.

It is accurate and suitable for detecting buried sewer covers, cables, pipes, tanks, and other objects which don’t show up using other methods.

Unfortunately, certain soil types have higher conductivity than others, some of which prevent the radar from penetrating them. Ground-penetrating radar may also struggle to find smaller objects buried deeper underground.

Although each method has its advantages and disadvantages, contractors find locating utility lines much easier today, as modern technology has provided a range of effective solutions.

Together with municipal information and blueprints, trusted, reliable contractors should be able to locate any utility lines quickly and easily when working on a project.

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