5 Essential Steps to Remember in Pre-Excavation Potholing

potholing vacuum excavation method

Potholing, also known as daylighting, is the procedure for safely exposing underground utility lines to get a visual confirmation of their infrastructure.

This process takes on many forms, but the most common is the potholing vacuum excavation method. Small holes around the depth of 6 to 12 feet are dug into the ground to assess the approximate location of utility lines.

These pipes include sewerage lines, electricity lines, water pipes, and gas lines. Utility service lines fall into two categories; public and private utilities. Both are exceptionally important in the day-to-day activities of the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses. Damage to these lines could cause service interruptions, hefty fines, and in worst-case scenarios, accidents.

Gas lines can explode when damaged during an excavation project, while water lines can create sinkholes. This will not only disrupt the project but also pose safety hazards to those on site. Before embarking on an underground excavation project, hiring a private utility location company like Util-Locate is imperative to ensure your successful excavation project.

Let’s dive in at the five necessary steps in pre-excavation potholing.

1. Finding a Qualified Underground Utility Locator

The first and most important step is to hire a professional and qualified underground utility location service like Util-Locate. Partnering with the right team is imperative to ensure the task is handled efficiently and accurately.

A knowledgeable team of utility locators will be able to tell the exact location of utility lines and the soil conditions and excavation depth that may affect your project.  Util-Locate is an industry leader with state-of-the-art location and detection technology.

2. Scanning and Detecting Underground Utilities

Once the utility detector has arrived at the site, they will scan the entire area. A scanner is used to locate utilities up to a depth of 13 feet. This scanner has a 97% accuracy and verifies the actual position of all utility pipes and lines. Once the entire area has been checked, zones with utility lines running underneath will be marked.

3. Understanding the Marked Zones

The next step to follow is to analyze all the marks made. Understanding their placement and how it affects the excavation is critical to avoid accidentally damaging utility lines. This will also dictate the depth of excavation.

4. Establishing Adequate Safety Precautions

When the dig has been adjusted to suit the layout of the land, the risks and dangers of hitting the utility pipe should be assessed. Understanding the purpose of the utility line and what could happen in case of an accident is a necessary step. Mistakes happen constantly, but ensuring the correct safety measures are implemented can help you prepare for every outcome. 

5. Setting Up Location Marks

An additional step that could be taken at the excavation site is to set up clean indicators for the team to avoid. When working on an excavation project, it can be easy to get carried away and forget where certain things may be. As an added layer of safety, mark the locations where excavation should be avoided.

What are the Possible Dangers of Digging Without Utility Location Mapping?

Getting an inaccurate mapping of underground utility lines can result in physical and financial damages. Since these lines all serve a specific function, damaging one or many could put the worker’s life in danger, as well as cause service interruptions.

Gas lines are one of the most dangerous lines to damage as they are exceptionally sensitive. A simple spark can cause the line to explode and damage the surrounding area and property. 

Water lines can cause water damage to the surrounding areas and properties, form sinkholes, and disrupt the integrity of the adjacent structures in the excavation site. Avoiding these common utility lines is imperative in ensuring the safety and well-being of all people involved.

Hire a Professional Team of Underground Utility Locators

Hiring an underground utility location service is an important step before an excavation project because it allows the team to navigate through the site without any risk of damaging lines. As an industry expert, Util-Locate specializes in accurately locating and identifying utility lines while providing the necessary information to excavate safely.

To learn more about our potholing excavation and utility mapping services, contact Util-Locate today!

4 Reasons Why You Should Call in a Professional Private Underground Utility Locating Service

Utility locating

The success of any construction or renovation project lies in proper planning. Utility locating is a crucial part of project planning. With the help of public utility companies, project planners and property owners can avoid damaging underground utilities during projects involving excavation or demolition.

What is the Role of an Underground Utility Locating Service?

Using state-of-the-art technology, a private utility locator can locate underground public utility lines. This is a crucial process as it ensures that the ground is safe to excavate before the project ensues.

Multiple issues can arise from damaging public utility lines, such as water, electricity, and gas. Aside from delaying the project, damaging utility lines can result in hefty fines and even fatal accidents. So before you embark on any project, consulting a public utility locator like Util-Locate can help you avoid these worst-case scenarios.

Let’s look at the four reasons you should call an underground utility locating service.

1. It Reduces Risk and Saves You Money

Some project managers see hiring an underground utility locator as an unnecessary expense. However, skipping this crucial step can cost you more in the long run. If any underground utility lines are damaged during the excavation project, this could cause additional unforeseen costs.

When a pipe or line is destroyed, it is often more challenging to repair. In the case of water and gas pipes and electrical lines, these could cause explosions that can harm the workers in the vicinity. Similarly, water lines and septic systems can burst and cause sinkholes to form. These damages can sometimes be catastrophic for the surrounding area and cost a fortune to fix.

By calling in a professional underground utility locator, you run a lower risk of damaging underground lines. 

2. It Ensures Workers’ Safety

On a more important note, the safety of anyone working on the site is paramount. During ongoing projects, managers and contractors should ensure the safety and health of the workers. Legal ramifications could occur from any injury that may happen on-site, and in order to avoid this, the correct procedures should be followed.

Most accidents can occur if the excavators or workers are unaware of the location of utility pipes and lines. If a water line is struck, not only can it burst, but depending on the depth of the site, it can cause a cave-in and submerge the workers in a layer of sand and dirt.

With a gas line, the danger is extremely serious. Since gas lines are very sensitive, drilling through the pipe or damaging it could cause a spark that could cause an explosion. If the explosion does not occur, there is still the added risk of a gas leak which is detrimental to the worker’s health as well as the surrounding area.

3. It Provides Accurate Mapping

Using state-of-the-art technology, an underground utility locator is able to accurately pinpoint and locate any utility lines or pipes that may be underground and buried. The sensors pick up pipes up to a depth of 13 feet with an accuracy of 97%.

These are all important factors during utility mapping because the higher the accuracy, the better and easier it is to work on the site without risk of damage or injury. If an underground utility locator suspects that something may have been missed during the inspection, which is quite rare, they often go back to the site to ensure the integrity of the findings.

This provides you and the diggers with the confidence needed to undertake an intense project without the added pressure of damaging utility lines.

4. It Prevents Service Interruptions

When you damage or destroy a utility line, depending on what line it is, you could cause a serious inconvenience to the schools, medical facilities, apartment complexes, or surrounding neighborhoods due in the area.

These lines and pipes could include sewer lines, sprinkler systems, home water pipes, and propane lines. Accidentally damaging these lines will not only cause inconvenience to the surrounding areas but also cause delays to the project as a whole. 

Work With a Reliable Underground Utility Locator

To avoid costly damages, hire a private locator you can count on. As proven through testimonies from our previous clients, Util-Locate is an industry leader in underground public and private utility locations.

With years of experience and utilizing state-of-the-art technology, our experts provide accurate utility mapping for any project. With our expertise and precise results, you can rest assured knowing that your utility mapping project is in good hands.

For the best utility detection services in California, get in touch with Util-Locate today!

How to Decide Between Hydro and Air Excavation

Hiring Vacuum Excavation Experts Prevents Accidents

When it comes to locating underground utility lines, there is no doubt that vacuum excavation is the best method available. Not only is it efficient, it is also safer and cost-effective – making it an all-around great choice for any construction project. 

There are two forms of vacuum excavation: hydro and air excavation. These forms rely on water and air pressure respectively to clear earth and reveal subsurface utilities.

At first glance, these forms of utility potholing may seem like they produce the same results. Upon closer examination though, it is clear that hydro vacuum excavation will provide you with the best experience. This is because hydro excavation is faster, can be used on more difficult terrains, and can handle larger construction sites.

Still unsure of which type of vacuum excavation to choose? Keep reading to learn the pros and cons of both forms and why hydro excavation is likely the right choice for you.

The Difference Between Hydro and Air Excavation

The most obvious difference between these methods is that one relies on high-water pressure to push through the earth and the other uses air pressure. With this distinction comes a few other differences that are important to keep in mind while you decide which option to use. For example, air excavation allows you to reuse the ‘spoil material’ that was taken to refill the hole. 

There is one small caveat: air excavation also takes longer and may be ineffective against harder or denser soils. 

Both forms of utility potholing use large trailer-mounted storage units to hold the displaced soil. This makes moving the soil away from the hole or even away from the entire construction site a simple and easy process.

Regardless of whether you choose air or hydro excavation, it’s important to know how many holes you will be digging so that you know how big these storage units should be because their capacities can range anywhere between 150-2,000 gallons.

This can make a HUGE difference when you consider that the spoils will need to be dumped every time the container fills up. A larger container will make the process more efficient and easier for everyone.

Another massive quality of both hydro and air excavation is how relatively safe they are when carried out by an experienced team. Compared to backhoes or even manual excavation, vacuum excavation is proven to be very safe for your crew and avoids the risk of striking utility lines. 

utility potholing

Most Efficient Utility Potholing Choice

Without a doubt, hydro excavation is the fastest vacuum excavation option available. That’s because water erodes the ground faster and can target the dig site more accurately to form a smaller, more precise hole. Water in itself is also a flexible and adaptable form to use because it can soften the earth and make the overall excavation easier.

It’s easy to understand then, exactly why hydro excavation is the first choice when dealing with more difficult terrain consisting of particularly hard or rocky earth.

You should also consider the climate when making a decision. In the winter, the earth does tend to get colder and some soils like clay can harden. The water used for excavation can be heated with a boiler, making it much more effective than air could ever be.

The Size of Your Construction Site

The larger the construction site is, the more utility lines you will have to dig for.  This can massively prolong the process. When time is of the essence, hydro excavation should be used.

It should also be noted that the debris tanks used with hydro excavation are typically much larger than those with air. This means that you won’t be required to dump the tank’s spoils every so often (involving a trip to an off-site dumping facility). Choosing hydro excavation allows you to dig more holes in less time.          

On the other hand, vacuum excavation using air pressure will allow you to fill in the holes with the soil that was originally removed. This might work well for small construction sites because you won’t have to dump the soil away from the site – but take note: the process will still be a slower one overall, which can cause costs to rise.

Water Source

Another thing to bear in mind is where the nearest water source is located. The larger hydro excavation tanks can hold up to 1300 gallons of water which roughly translates into about 3-5 hours of dig time. When you run out of water, it will need to be refilled somewhere. This isn’t a problem at all if you have an on-site or nearby water supply, but it could be more of an inconvenience if the water supply is farther afield. 

While you won’t face this problem with an air tank, air often isn’t enough alone to excavate all utility lines. When you reach a particular difficult dig site, most vacuum excavation teams will switch to water  anyway to get the job done. Using hydro excavation in the first place will prevent the hassle of switching to a different form and technique in the middle of a project.

The Bottom Line

While there are certainly benefits to both hydro and air excavation, most evidence points to hydro excavation being the most efficient and hassle-free method. 

Hydro excavation is known to be much faster and more effective when digging through difficult or frozen terrain. However, if you are located far away from a reliable water source, air excavation could be a better option.

It is always important to consider a specific construction site before making a decision. Taking into account the size, terrain, and location of the construction site will help you understand your excavation needs and which form of excavation is best.