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Old 04-21-2009, 01:28 PM   #1
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trenching near buried electric cable


I have a trenching project in the planning stages. This french drain will carry water to daylight away from an area near the driveway where it now collects. After having the underground utilities marked, it appears that I have a buried electrical cable that crosses my intended drain path. I plan on only a 12-18" deep trench at the point the utilities intersect, but do not know how deep they are buried.

My questions, therefore, are these: can buried depth be determined? Is there a way to dig safely near or around buried cable? Should I scrub these plans altogether?

Thanks in advance for your opinions and help. It would be very tough to finish my summer projects if I get electrocuted.

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Old 04-21-2009, 02:23 PM   #2
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trenching near buried electric cable


Yes, you can safely dig around main power lines, gas lines, phone & cable lines, etc.. by hand. We do it all the time. As for verifying depth, we have had luck with the locator a few times, but you have to be there when they show up, & we generally have to sweet talk them to do it. They won't always be willing/able to tell you the depth, & they aren't always very accurate. Often times you won't even find the lines at 18" depth, but deffinately verify 2 feet each way of the markings by hand before using any power equipment.

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Old 04-21-2009, 03:09 PM   #3
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trenching near buried electric cable


Dig it by hand within 2' of the suspected intersection. It's safer and a little sweat won't hurt you nearly as much as 120/240. Got any ketchup and Brat mustard??
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Old 04-21-2009, 06:46 PM   #4
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trenching near buried electric cable


Thanks much. Sounds like this little shin-dig is still a "go"

Just to verify, when we say "by hand" we mean "with hands only, no shovels"? I have expansive clay soil and plenty of paver base and gravel rocks in this location (it is near the driveway).

I'll try to post from time to time - if you don't hear from me, you'll know what happened.
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Old 04-21-2009, 06:50 PM   #5
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trenching near buried electric cable


Electrical cable as in main service feed?
I had to bury mine at 24" measured to the top of the conduit

GFCI protected circuits can be at 12" if protected before they enter a trench

And my last house had a "surpise" live 20a run - no GFCI, & NO indication there was a line. It had been cut off & left in the ground. It at best was buried 6" deep
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Old 04-21-2009, 08:53 PM   #6
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trenching near buried electric cable


Quote:
Originally Posted by rizzo View Post
Thanks much. Sounds like this little shin-dig is still a "go"

Just to verify, when we say "by hand" we mean "with hands only, no shovels"? I have expansive clay soil and plenty of paver base and gravel rocks in this location (it is near the driveway).

I'll try to post from time to time - if you don't hear from me, you'll know what happened.

No, you can use shovels, just be careful with picks. If your working close to the wires, dig parallel to them, better odds you wont cut thru the insulation.
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Old 04-21-2009, 09:09 PM   #7
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trenching near buried electric cable


"Skim" the dirt off when you get down further
IE don't jam a shovel straight down & stomp on it
If done correctly there should be sand on top of the conduit
And somewhere above that yellow warning tape

I put tape 4" down, then again slightly above the sand depending upon total depth
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Old 04-22-2009, 01:50 PM   #8
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trenching near buried electric cable


You guys are awesome. Excellent info

I will proceed as described, carefully and steady-as-she-goes.

And, yes these are main service feeds from backyard step-down transformer to main shut-off and meter base. I would feel better if I knew they were in protective conduit, but they might be direct-bury cable.
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Old 04-22-2009, 03:32 PM   #9
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trenching near buried electric cable


I would guess that 99% of electrical feeds run by the power company that I've seen are direct burial with native soil. We never see any warning sign above utilities around here, other than water & sewer, which usually have clear stone a few inches over them. Regardless, you should have no problems.
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Old 04-22-2009, 08:24 PM   #10
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trenching near buried electric cable


Do not use anything with steel handles (shovels, digging bars etc). Becareful of water. Particularly on handles.

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