When you get inspiration for a home improvement project, it’s tempting to grab your toolkit and get started right away. But wait before you take a shovel to Mom’s tulip bed, or hire workers to tear up your driveway. If you don’t call 811 to find out where your power lines and gas lines are located, even something as simple as planting a tree could turn dangerous.
In honor of National Safe Digging Month, the Scambook Blog has prepared 4 important safety tips that you need to know before you begin any home improvement projects.
Planning a Dig or Other Home Improvement Project? Call 811!
Home construction and repair projects can be dangerous and require lots of careful preparation. The number one essential for any wannabe Bob the Builder? Call 811, the nationwide resource for safe digging.
The same way 911 is reserved for emergencies and 411 provides contact information, 811 functions as a public service for locating buried utility lines and other potential hazards.
Even for projects that seem harmless, like installing a new mailbox or planting a tree, it’s important to check with 811 to see if there are any hidden dangers like power lines or gas lines. Don’t just rely on your friend, neighbor or the guy at the hardware store for advice.
Once contacted, the 811 center sends professional locators to find and mark any underground utilities to avoid, so you know exactly what’s under the surface and how to best protect yourself from damage.
811 will also provide you with additional resources, such as information about any local laws or city ordinances that might apply to your DIY home project.
Skipping the Call Can Jeopardize Your Project AND Your Safety
Think it’s a hassle to call 811 and get your square feet surveyed before you dig?
Unfortunately, that’s what one Berkeley, CA homeowner was thinking. Without calling 811 to find the location of underground utilities, a worker hired by the homeowner struck a gas line with a pickaxe. The resulting fire ravaged the home and started another blaze in a nearby van.
And this isn’t an isolated incident. In a recent survey, the Common Ground Alliance learned that out of 624 homeowners across the country, 48 percent of them plan on digging in 2013 but do not plan to call 811.
CGA also noted that every eight minutes, improper digging damages underground utility lines. Said president Bob Kipp:
With millions of shovels entering the ground near billions of feet of unmarked underground utilities this year, we will continue to see damages occur every few minutes, leading to inconvenient outages, and in worst-case scenarios bodily harm, not just for the do-it-yourselfers, but for entire communities.
Important Services That Call 811 Provides
By now, you’re probably convinced that calling 811 is the smart way to prevent digging problems.
Here’s a rundown of the color-coding procedures that the professional locator will provide you with, in advance of your dig, to let you know what lies beneath the surface of your property:
- Red: Electric
- Orange: Communications, telephone/CATV
- Blue: Potable water
- Green: Sewer/Drainage
- Yellow: Gas/Petroleum pipe line
- Purple: Reclaimed water
- White: Site of intended excavation (pre-marking)
Here are some other helpful tips for arranging your 811 locator visit and planning additional work:
- Call ahead of time to provide a cushion between the location-marking and the labor to be completed. For example, if you’re starting to dig on Saturday, arrange an 811 visit on Monday or Tuesday.
- Take the markings seriously. If you’re too close to a water or phone line, it’s strongly recommended that you re-plan your project.
- Make sure you’ve completed your 811 call and locator visit before you hire a contractor. Let him or her know that 811 was consulted before work begins.
- Use trusted contractors or workers. Check out the Scambook Blog’s tips about how to avoid getting scammed by finding labor on Craigslist.
Avoid the Risks and Build a Great Project!
Now that you know the correct process to clear your dig — get out there and DIY your heart out, homeowners! Just remember, call 811 before getting your hands dirty. It could save your property or even your life.
Are you planning a home improvement project this spring? Tell us about it in the comments.