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How to Locate & Mark Out Utility Lines on a Property

How to Locate And Mark Utility Lines on a Piece of Property

Hey, good morning. We are out here on a property that we’re getting ready to build a new custom home on. We’re going to start the project here in a few months. I wanted to take you and walk you around the property. I want to show you exactly what we do to make sure that we get all of our utilities marked out and how this can help you in the planning process when you’re first getting ready to build your home. 

We’re standing across the street here and looking at this lot we’re getting ready to build on. First thing I want to do is explain to you why you want to do this. So, one thing that’s really important when you’re buying land and you’re building a custom home, you have to understand what it’s going to take to develop a lot, to get it ready to build on. One of those things is figuring out the utilities, the connection points from all the municipalities that you need, and you have to get this figured out on the front end. If you’re buying land, you want to do this during the due diligence process, while you’re in escrow. And if you’re getting ready to build, you want to make sure you get this done before you start bidding out the project, so you can make sure that you have accurate numbers from all the trades that are needed to actually do the underground utility work.

Call 811 Dig Alert

I want to show you what we do, but before that, I also want to tell you who you call to get this done. So, it’s very inexpensive to do. It’s actually free, so there’s no reason not to do this. What you are going to do is you’re going to call 811, that’s Dig Alert. Dig Alert is essentially a hub that connects with all the utility companies. In this instance here, the utility companies are SDG&E, Cox Cable and AT&T. The Ramona Water District will handle the sewer and the water connection. There is no gas line here, so SDG&E’s not involved in the gas line. You want to call Dig Alert. They will connect with all these utility companies, and make sure that they come out to the site and mark out their utilities.

Anytime there’s excavation work that’s being done, they’re required to come out and mark out their utilities, all the way from where it originates on their system over to where it stops on your property. From the origination point to where their system stops on your property is considered the primary system (They are responsible for this). Once they’re notified, they have to come out within 48 hours and do the mark out for you to get their systems located. So, you want to call them, and it’s a really easy way to get it done on the very front end when you’re making that purchase on the land.

Primary and Secondary Utility Mark Outs

So, once you call Dig Alert, they’re going to mark out the primary system. Once they get to the primary, you are not going to see any more markings. So, for instance, for this one, this is a pull box for the SDG&E and that’s where they stop, power stops here. So, they’re not going to mark it any further.

Let’s say we had a house on this property. They would not go past their primary system which stops at the electric meter on the house. Any other underground electrical on the property that comes out of the electrical meter box that is not the main feed from the power company will not be marked out. You’re going to be responsible to mark all secondary utilities on the site.

Marking Out The Water Meter

Same thing for the water meter. From the water meter to the house is considered secondary and you would have to actually mark that out yourself. You’re going to contact a company like CPL, Cable Pipe & Leak, to do this kind of work. They would markout all the secondary lines for the water, sewer, power, cable and gas lines.

It costs anywhere from $200 to $300 an hour to have them do the mark out and it can take 2 to 4 hours to get this done. This allows you to know where all the utilities are on your property. It is really helpful to get this figured out if there’s already an existing structure on the property, utilities crossing the property or if you’re doing a remodel and you need to know where your existing lines are at. You can get that done with a company like CPL. You’ll be responsible to cover those costs or all secondary system lines. These are not provided by the utility companies.

Electrical Utilities Are Marked Out Using Red Paint & Flagging

I’m going to walk you through this property and show you specifically how this mark out is done and what it looks like. So, walking back across the street, you will see a pad-mounted green electrical transformer right there. That’s your power box. These are older markings, but you can see there’s some red paint. They’ve marked out where this utility line comes across the street and where it comes through the street. Then it turns and it goes across. The power line is always marked out in red. So, the electrical line is red. You can see here that there’s an “E “for electric. Then you have, “SDG&E.”. And you have another “E” here, the red painted dot, and then you have your hand hole.

Using Colored Flagging to Mark the Utility Lines

Now, if this was out on the property, if it went farther in the dirt off of the asphalt or concrete, you would see flagging. The flagging goes into the ground and the color of the flag corresponds to the type of utility. So you would see red flags for electrical lines matching the red paint color. On the flagging you will also see the name of the company or utility company that marked it out. It could be SDG&E, ATT, Cox Cable or CPL or another company.

How CPL Can Help with Utility Mark Outs

The other thing a company like CPL can do too, is if you have tracer wires on your poly gas line or your water lines and they’re conductive, they can mark the depths of where the pipes are at so you know how far you have to dig before you hit those lines. If SDG&E did not mark the depth they can do it for you. We just had them do that on another project just recently.

Phone & Cable Lines Are Marked With Orange Paint & Flagging

This is our phone line. Now, the phone line, more than likely, is running very close to this electrical trench. It’s actually not marked across here, but it could even be in the same trench off to the side. It’s marked in orange. Phone or cable lines are orange, and they will run into a box. You’ll see them in a taller skinnier box. There’s nothing going out to the property at this point from our cable and phone box, so you won’t see any flagging going out on the property.

Sewer Lines are Marked Out With Green Paint & Flagging

This line here is a sewer line. You see, “SL”, sewers are always marked in green. This is stubbed out here on the edge of the lot, so this will be where it will tie onto the main trunk line that comes out of the house. You can see that this lateral sewer line runs out to the street and ties into the main line that runs through. You can look and see this is down the middle of the street. There’s your manhole for the sewer line. So, it has a lateral line that runs off and goes over to the property line.

Water Lines are Marked Out With Blue Paint & Flagging

The next line here is the water line and the water line is marked out with blue paint and flagging. So, this is actually showing a lateral and the main is out here somewhere in the street. They painted it in blue and it runs over to where you can actually see the water meter. Now, this is considered all the primary system, from the water meter back to the actual water main. They’ll mark out everything to the meter. A lot of times the meter isn’t here on a new property, so it’ll just be where the lateral water line is stubbed out. They’ll mark to that point. You would be responsible for marking the water line from the water meter to your house if there was an existing line on the property. So, you would do that by calling CPL and having them do that kind of work for you to help locate the lines. It’s really important to put a tracer wire on the line for these water pipes, because they’re non-conductive. With that tracer line, they can actually get a depth on that line later, as well as get it marked out way faster, so it saves you some headaches in the future. The tracer wire is good to do with the gas line as well.

What Color Are Gas Utility Mark Outs?

You’ll notice there is no gas line on this property. There’s no underground gas from SDG&E. Those are typically marked out in yellow, so it’s not here. But you would see yellow paint and yellow flagging showing where that gas line would be.

How to Mark Out an Excavation Area

Now, the other thing that you have to make sure that you do when you call Dig Alert is you want to make sure that you mark out the area that you’re having excavated. In this particular lot, you’ll see this white marking paint. They like to see white paint or some white chalk that actually marks the end of the area that you’re going to be marking out. For this particular property it is going to be from this corner of the property all the way to the other corner of the property on this particular lot. That way they know that if they have a utility line affected in that area, that will need to be marked out. This particular lot, we said, “Hey, mark everything on the entire property to make sure that we were good on the entire lot,” in case there were some utilities coming in down an easement on the rear of the property or the sides, we made sure we checked on all that.

When Should You Locate & Mark Utility Lines?

Make sure you do all this before you close escrow on land. So if you’re in escrow, you want to do this during the due diligence period, and you want to make sure this gets done before you build your home and you bid out the project so you’re accurate on what your site costs are going to be as far as getting your utilities in.

Do You Want to Buy Land or Build a Custom Home?

If you’d like more information on the cost to build a custom home, or you’d like to see some of our popular custom home floor plans, or even would like information on how to buy land, we have an awesome How to Buy Land guide that has a ton of information in it. Want to learn more about residential real estate? Watch educational videos on “The Real Property Show”. It’s your channel for residential real estate. Thank you again for your time today and have an excellent rest of your day.



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  1. Max Jones

    Thanks for the info about finding utility lines on a property. I am having trouble with finding utility lines. I’ll make sure to hire a contractor who can help me out with finding utility lines.

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