Hiring Vacuum Excavation Experts Prevents Accidents

utility potholing

When planning your next home improvement or repair project, make sure to proceed with caution. This is especially true if your project involves digging. The first step to any project of this magnitude is having a proper utility locate service performed. While it may add a few days to your project’s timeline, having utility potholing completed in your yard can save you from dangerous outcomes.

What Went Wrong in Southern California  

Recently, Southern California was devastated by an accidental gas explosion: fifteen people were injured, and a Southern California Gas Company worker lost his life. Sadly, the ruptured gas line could have been avoided had the local contractor used a utility locating service. 

The contractor not only violated state law but put others at risk. Most likely, the contractor didn’t think locating utilities was essential for the work he was doing. It’s far too common for contractors, handymen, and homeowners to either be overconfident in their abilities or to underestimate the task at hand. However, one must always consider the dangers of their projects and determine whether or not the are truly qualified.

Accidents involving utilities do not always result in death. Some accidents result in damaged property, physical injuries, or high costs. In some cases, calling the local utility company might suffice. 

In other situations, it’s best to hire a private utility locating company. These private companies often have more autonomy on your property and can identify all of your utility lines in one visit. Also see potholing for utilities.

vacuum excavation contractors

Experts Always Do a Utility Pothole Inspection

Potholing is a process that confirms underground utilities and obstructions. As the first part of investigating what’s underground, utility potholing starts with a small, exploratory hole along the planned route of new construction or repairs. While some contractors rely on digital locating devices to find pipes, utility lines, and other obstructions, there are times when actually seeing what’s underground is essential.

Digging without first locating underground utilities runs the risk of hitting the gas, power lines, communications, water, and sewer lines. While nicking one of these utilities might seem harmless, it can result in significant issues: 

  • Service disruption
  • Costly repairs
  • Acute injuries
  • Death

Did you know? Accidentally cutting an underground fiber optics line could stop internet services from working throughout your neighborhood, and you could be held liable for the loss of that service.

utility potholing

What Methods Do Excavation Experts Use?

In the past, manually removing dirt was the only method used to locate and protect utility lines. There are still times when hand tools are preferred. Modern techniques include vacuum excavation. The best method depends on your project and what gets the job done.

Hand Tools

While labor-intensive, using a shovel, pickax, or another hand tool to pothole is perfect for small spaces where precision is necessary. Hand tools are also the cheapest pieces of equipment used to dig. On the flip side, hand tools require a great deal of time and effort, especially when dealing with harder ground surfaces. Shovels are unlikely to damage underground pipes but can slice through cable or communication wires.


When precision isn’t necessary, backhoes are incredible options. The work is much less labor-intensive and can be completed rather quickly. When a new development is excavating for new foundations, backhoes are the easiest and best option. The biggest downside of using a backhoe exists when utilities are present. 

Even the most skilled backhoe operator runs the risk of hitting and damaging subterranean lines. This is why most backhoe operators use a spotter to help keep a closer eye on where they are digging. Backhoes also don’t fit into many spaces, especially once houses or other structures are in place.

Vacuum Excavation

Simply knowing where a utility line isn’t always enough. Many projects need to work around existing utility lines. Digging up an entire utility line can take a long time, cost a lot of money, and require quite a bit of workforce. Also, you must consider how digging can destroy your yard. 

Vacuum excavation is a method used to locate underground utilities without the same mess as manually digging. The process involves using water or air to break up soil before suctioning up the broken ground into a storage tank. Vacuum excavation contractors can eliminate nearly all risk of damaging underground utilities at a lower cost and higher level of precision. In some cases, the soil can even be reused cutting down on landscaping costs.

There are two main methods of vacuum excavation:

  • Air Excavation:

Air excavation uses compressed air to loosen and break up the soil. Since the primary element of this process is air, the earth is still used to fill in holes later on.

  • Hydro Excavation:

Instead of air, hydro excavation uses high-pressure water to loosen and break apart dirt. This technique is also extremely precise, although faster than air-based methods. Since the primary element is water, the soil is no longer fit to be used again.

Both air and hydro excavation allow you to pothole quickly, easily, and safely. At the same time, however, the vacuum excavation process is not something anyone can do. Besides the hefty investment in equipment, operating a vacuum excavation system requires a great deal of skill and experience. 

Unfortunately, your utility company or other public “call before you dig” service most likely won’t use vacuum excavation methods. Hiring a private potholing company may seem like an extra expense, but it can certainly save you money in the long run.

Which Method is Best?

The nature of the job at hand will ultimately determine which method is best. The key is that underground utilities are safely located and protected to keep major accidents from becoming commonplace. 

Most homeowners won’t be able to decide on their own which method is best. Using a reputable utility locating company is the best way to ensure your project or repair is done without the risk of a significant accident.

Comprehensive Southern California Utility Marking Surveys

Utility Making Surveys

Util-Locate provides Subsurface Utility-line Mapping services to our clients including field-mapping and providing Computer Aided Drawing in PDF format for future use.

After we field-locate and identify the utility lines, we then field-map the locations by physically measuring off-sets from buildings and or landmarks and noting the utilities by drawing-in the locations on a site-plan.

We can take it one-step further by providing you with a Computer Aided Drawing or AutoCAD to be implemented on an existing site-drawing for record or future use. We will also save the drawing in PDF format for easier viewing which will give you the liberty in transferring the e-file drawing via e-mail to whomever and whenever you would like. In order to provide you with a finished product, we would need from you a CAD file of the project site for this work to be done. See more underground utility locator.

Further Information:

Util-Locate is not a licensed Civil Engineer or Surveyor in-order for our mapping-work to be certified. We map the utility-locations as accurately as possible by using measuring & mapping tools. Our mapping work is to show all surveyed utilitities & give our client a basic overview of the project they are engaging in and to help assess what to expect when designing or performing the preliminary site-work.

If you would like more information about our services and pricing in Southern California, call us Toll Free at 1-866-421-5325 and we will be glad to answer any questions you may have.

Dig with Confidence : Call Our Underground Utility Locators

Underground Utility Locators

Extreme caution must be used when locating buried utilities and excavating! There are many factors to be considered such as: soil conditions, a condition of pipe or cable. (Continuous, broken or cut line or badly corroded, etc.). We are trained to use very sophisticated electronic equipment and we have the ability to interpret the signals which this equipment emits. This is the key to a successful locate, which allows you to dig with confidence. We work with you and for you! Read more about underground cable locating.

There are several different methods we use to locate utilities. The best way is to emit an electromagnetic signal from a pipe. This is done by attaching a transmitter to the pipe and following it with a receiver. If we can’t achieve a direct connection to the pipe, we can attach a clamp that encircles the pipe or a coil placed above the pipe. This method works for metal conduits or cables that are welded, soldered or braided together. There are many pipes that are made from materials that cannot be detected with conventional methods such as plastic, clay, concrete, and insulated cast iron. But we still have methods to locate these pipes too! That’s where our experience and expertise is such a great asset to you.

Call us toll free for service 1-866-421-5325

Util-Locate® uses the latest technology and equipment available to insure the very best chances of an accurate reading. However we must stress this point: Our services are a very valuable tool to the contractor, excavator or homeowner but not every cable or pipe can be detected.


Orange County Sewer Pipe Locator : Locating Sewer Lines Made Easier

Orange Country Sewer Pipe Locator

`Are you a homeowner trying to add a new bedroom and bath? If yes, one of the tasks you would face would be locating sewer pipes. Sewer lines, may it be public or private, are often hard to find since they’re almost invisible. Sewer pipes are buried underground and you may have to dig your entire yard to find them. Having a hard time locating your sewer line? Take the guesswork out of locating where your sewers and drains are by calling our team of utility locators. Conveniently located in Buena Park in northwestern Orange County, our team of utility locators is ready to accurately detect sewer pipes and other underground utilities™ location.

State-Of-the-Art Sewer Pipes Locating Equipments

Whether you are looking for drainage lines, supply lines or various service lines buried beneath the surface of the ground, Util-Locate has the equipment and staff to handle the assignment. Some forms of pipe locating equipment do not work as well on sewer lines. Sewer pipe locators use specialized equipment that can be used for pipe locating of non-metallic sewer lines at depths up to 13 feet from the surface.

Are you a Contractor? Call us before you excavate!

Are you a project manager or an excavation crew? Util-Locate’s All-Around Utility Locators Also Offer Utility Mapping and Sewer Pipe Locating Services for Southern California Contractors. Call Util-Locate technicians to locate and mark underground utilities such as sewer pipes. Doing so prior to an excavation will help reduce the risk of accidentally running into private utilities, such as sewer pipes.

With a reliability rate of 97 percent, sewer pipe locators such as Util-Locate are able to provide a complete and dependable mapping service that allows contractors to plan projects efficiently and at lower cost. Without the benefits of a pipe locating service, these contractors would have higher costs due to extensive hand digging around suspected sewer line locations. There are a number of underground utilities that often go unmarked and striking them can mean trouble at your end. Read more about vaccum excavation.

So know what’s below before you excavate. Call our sewer pipe locators at 866-421-5325 today!


Related page: air vac excavationprivate utility locator service