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  • Writer's pictureAustin Mellinger

Understanding Utility Locates - Public and Private

One of the most frustrating things for homeowners and contractors alike when getting started on their project is running into issues with their buried utilities. Knowing how to avoid these issues and prevent lost time and lost money is key to a successful job and sets you on a path to a pleasant experience. So before we break ground let's make sure we take into consideration what utilities might be underground at your site. Follow this guide to help make sure your job goes as smoothly and headache-free as possible! The first order of business is to call or have us call the public utility locating service. It is required in Washington and strongly recommended in Oregon that the area of excavation be marked with white paint so the technician knows exactly where they need to do their job (see example in picture above). PUBLIC LOCATES: (It’s free)! Public locates are accessed by calling 811 or online at What they locate:

  • Power - Only up to the power meter

  • Gas - Only up to the gas meter

  • Water - Only up to the water meter

  • Sewer - If connected to public sewer and there is a locate wire (Wire only on newer construction)

  • Phone/TV Cable - Usually up to the house

PRIVATE LOCATES: ($150+) Private utility locates are performed by private businesses in your area. All underground utilities not listed above are considered private and are not located by the 811 free service! Below are links to lists of private locators. These lists are put out by the public locating services as a resource for people. Oregon - Washinton - The following is a list of examples of what a private locator might find while at your site. Hopefully this helps get you thinking about what might be buried and long forgotten underground. Some of what they locate:

  • Water lines - In town, any lines after the meter. If you are on a well, line from well to house, any irrigation lines or lines leading to an outdoor faucet. Lines going to any barns or any other outbuildings.

  • Power - Any power lines after the power meter. Examples: outdoor lighting, well pump, electric gate opener, barns and other outbuildings.

  • Sewer - All components of sewer system. Line feeding tank, tank and drain field. Older in-town homes that don’t have a sewer locate wire.

  • Gas - The natural gas meter is usually mounted on the house, so that is usually adequate. But if there is a propane tank, that/those lines need to be located.

  • Phone and TV Cable - Usually communication lines are located up to the house.

  • Drains - Drain pipe for downspouts, patio and driveway drains and agriculture field drains.

We hope this guide helps you think through some of the details necessary to get your project underway without a hitch. We are here to help you get your project off to a smooth start so if you have any more questions or want help in any way, we are always just a phone call or email away! Custom Hole Drilling will call the public locator, but not the private locator. Custom Hole Drilling is not responsible for any damage to buried utilities that are not clearly marked prior to our arrival. The above is not a comprehensive list. Our experience shows that it is easy to forget things that are buried and out of site, so this is just an aid to help get our customers thinking about what they might have. It has no legal binding authority.

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