Myths About Utility Location

If you have ‘looked up’ recently, you have probably noticed more about what you don’t see than what you do see … specifically, the absence of power and other utility lines overhead.

The fact is that out of necessity and the advancement of technology, more utility lines are placed underground, making the subsurface landscape a maze of buried lines, sewers and many more. And while that may help extend the life of the utility lines and make for uninterrupted views, it also has made site planning for development and design  projects even more important.

Being aware of the location of buried utilities before starting a project can help to keep the job sailing smoothly. Depending on the scope of your project, it is often essential to know locations of utilities during the early planning stages. This will allow for the most cost effective approach to developing your site plan and overall project feasibility.  It helps in the planning of proper placement for structures, foundations, post support, trees and other project items.

While utility location is extremely important to your next project, it is also a bit misunderstood. So here are a few common misconceptions, and the information that you really need to ensure a smooth and successful construction project.

Myth #1: Calling 811 is Sufficient

Calling 811, the national utility locator phone number, before project planning on any piece of commercial or residential land identifies the location of public water, sewage, power and natural gas lines. However, public utility location does not locate utilities past the right-of-way and onto the owner’s private property. 

Myth #2: You Can Rely on the Pre-existing Utility Map

Historical records and underground blueprints do provide help, but they may not be enough to guarantee effective project planning. Utility lines may have moved due to natural or man-made causes, or new lines or cables might have been added.

Myth #3: I Can Estimate the Depth of Utility Lines

No, really you can’t. Even if you believe a utility is present, you need to have it marked and then carefully expose it to confirm location and depth. Utility members are only required to mark the horizontal location of their lines. And over time, lines can shift or settle, which changes depth so it is important to never assume anything when it comes to underground utilities!

Myth #4: There’s No Way To Locate Sewer Lines

While GPR is not an all-seeing tool, it can be used to find locations of these non-metallic utilities by inserting a metallic trace wire into the hollow pipe or conduit so you can trace it with a cable/pipe locator system.


Ensure a smooth, continuous and cost-effective operation of your project from the very start by locating and mapping the location of underground utilities, and making it a part of your project plan.

With 50+ years of experience in all 88 counties of Ohio, you probably know that McSteen can help with your land surveying needs. But we now offer Utility Locating Services, as well as Construction Draw Inspections, and so much more. We are here to help!


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