How to Avoid Utility Lines (And Big Problems!) When Installing a Fence

A post hole digger, which we use when installing a new fence in New Jersey. You want to avoid utility lines when installing a fence!

One of the most important things you can do to ensure a smooth fence installation at your property is to mark your underground utilities!

After finding a contractor you trust, sending in a deposit, and getting your permit approved, the day is finally here. The day of your fence installation!

You greet the installers and get ready to watch your yard transform, but when they dig the first post hole you notice the lights all turn off in your garage. They must have hit a power line. Now what?

This is often at tricky situation, so we wanted to write this post to help everyone understand what happens in these situations. More importantly, we wanted to share how you can avoid these types of situations in the first place by working together.

A Collaborative Effort

Red and yellow utility line flags showing where undergound pipes areTo avoid all underground problems – big and small – it is imperative that both the fence contractor and the homeowner do their due diligence to mark all the underground infrastructure at the installation site. To make things simple, we’ve broken down this blog post into two sections:

  1. What The Fence Installers Are Responsible for Marking
  2. What The Property Owners Are Responsible for Marking

How To Avoid Utility Lines for Fence Companies

There could be a lot of important and potentially dangerous infrastructure buried under the ground at your property. This is especially true for your front and side yards.

Colonial white house with front porch and white picket fence

We here at Artistic Fence are committed to digging safely. That’s why we use New Jersey One Call to request mark-outs of properties when we are going to dig. This is the first and most important step we take to ensure we avoid underground utilities when digging fence post holes at your property.

What is New Jersey One Call?

New Jersey One Call is the state’s 24/7 system for reporting proposed excavation sites and alerting facility providers. We call when we are digging so that we can avoid utility lines that are buried underground.

When we call in a locate request for New Jersey One Call, they contact the utility providers to do the mark outs. That means neither your fence contractor nor New Jersey One Call physically does the mark outs themselves. Instead, it is each facility operator that is to mark out their own buried lines.

Yellow gas line utility mark out with lines and the word "GAS"

You might notice when someone comes to mark your property based on the color of the flags or paint. This is nothing to worry about! Below is a short guide to what the mark colors mean here in New Jersey.

Mark Colors

  • Blue is for water and slurry lines
  • Orange signifies traffic control (communications), telephone and telecommunications, fiber optic cable, cable television, and police and fire communications
  • Red marks show electric power distribution and transmission/municipal electric and traffic control (power)
  • When you see green marks that shows sewer lines
  • Yellow, shows things like gas distribution and transmission, petroleum products, steam, and hazardous liquids or chemicals

Walk The Property

The second way we avoid hitting underground utilities is by going over the fence installation location on the day of install.

We always ask that you are at the property when we install because we want everything to be perfect and we do not want to damage any underground lines.

We have super installers, but they aren’t supermen. They can’t see through the ground.

Steve Boggio, founder & owner

This would be the time to point out any underground wires, pipes, or sprinkler systems that you own rather than a facility company (more on that below).

Some property owners get confused on concerned when our installers ask them questions about their fence installation. They aren’t asking because they are just looking at this now, but because they want to make sure you are both on the same page. All of our installers go over their jobs with our owner or the salespeople before they head out to your property.

Bonus Tip: Besides going over everything in the beginning, our installers will often times ask questions and give options if things come up. Get to know your installers for the best overall installation process!

How To Avoid Utility Lines for Property Owners

Now that you know what we do to protect your underground infrastructure, it’s time to learn what your responsibilities are. There are two important things you can do:

1. Leave Your Marks

The first thing you should do to protect your property’s underground wire, pipes, and related infrastructure is to leave the mark-outs be.

Three red flags and spray painted grass indicating underground utility lines

Please do not remove any flags or try to get rid of any painted marks until we complete your installation. This is very important because these markers show us where potentially dangerous things – like gas lines – are located. Trust us – you do not want us digging into a gas line with a post hole digger on your property!

2. Know Where Your Personal Underground Lines Are

We call the state of New Jersey so utility providers can come out and mark the gas lines, water lines, cables, and other important utilities that may be underground in your yard. However, this does not account for any sprinkler systems, underground electric wires, or pipes that you’ve installed yourself.

Underground personal sprinkler system at a residence

Please make sure you know where these underground wires and/or pipes are and if your neighbors have any of these wires accidentally installed on your property. We do not want to damage anything on the fence line, but if we don’t know it’s there, we can’t avoid it!

You can make sure we know where these lines are by locating them yourself and then showing our installers when you walk the property with them.

Review: How to Avoid Hitting Underground Utility Lines When Installing a Fence

You do not want your fence installers to hit an underground utility line while installing your fence. If they do, paying to replace that line is the least of your worries. You have to worry first about the health and safety of your family, the installers, and your neighborhood.

White scalloped picket fence installed in New Jersey by Artistic Fence company with yellow gas utility markout on the curb and road

Luckily, you can avoid this potentially dangerous occurrence by working together with your fence contractor. When you work with the Good Fence People at Artistic Fence, we are responsible for calling the state to mark your property out. That way you don’t have to worry about the gas, water, and utility provider-owned lines that might be underground at your New Jersey residence.

Then it’s your turn. It’s your responsibility to leave the marks as they are. Those flags might not look great in your front yard, but neither does a gas leak!

A second responsibility you have as the property owner is to let us know where any other underground wires, pipes, or sprinkler systems are. If our super installers know where these things are, they can avoid them and ensure a smooth fence installation.

Avoiding Underground Utilities when installing a fence

Any Questions?

Installing a new fence at your home is a big decision. If you have any other questions about the process or how to work together with your fencing contractor, please send us an email. One of our friendly fence associates will get back to you as soon as possible!