Hand digging can damage buried utility lines

You may think installing a sign won't cause damage to buried utilities because you're not digging that deep. In fact, you're only using a shovel or, maybe an auger. But certainly not a backhoe!

But here's the truth:

Buried utilities can be found at a wide variety of depths. Often, signs, especially real estate signs, are placed in and near utility easements where your electric, gas, internet, telephone and water lines run. Augers and shovels can cut through them easily. Lately, companies have reported more damages to their buried utilities from sign installations.

Here's what you can do

Get underground utilities located and marked before you install a sign.

Use Single Address Ticket to notify utility companies where you'll be placing a sign. But first, have some information ready:

  • Contact information including contact name, telephone numbers and email address
  • County and city
  • Street address where you will be digging (placing sign)
  • Name of nearest intersecting street
  • Date and time digging is scheduled to begin (day you'll install sign)
  • Number of days you'll be digging
  • Detailed description of where on property the digging will take place. This is what the locator will use as a guide to mark the area. (see graphic and description at right)
  • Type of work being done (e.g. sign installation)
  • Type of equipment to be used (hand digging, post-hole digger, auger, etc.)
  • Special instructions

Our Homeowner page has more information about your responsibilities throughout the 811 process. You can also download the 811 Process PDF.

 Examples of signs placed in utility easement. You can see permanent markers for buried utilities in the middle photo.

Examples of signs placed in utility easement. You can see permanent markers for buried utilities in the middle photo.


Since you are trying to sell your house, you probably don't want the entire yard marked with paint and flags. So, mark where you want the sign to be placed with white water-soluble spray paint. Then write your locate description. Below are two examples of how to describe the above graphic.

As you're looking at the house, locate an area 3' x 3' (marked by a white circle) 15' left of the driveway in the front utility easement along Sullivan Road. 


 Or, you could use an "X" and use a description such as this:    As you're looking at the house, locate an area 1' by 1' around the white "X" that is 15' left of the driveway in the front utility easement along Sullivan Road. 

Or, you could use an "X" and use a description such as this: 

As you're looking at the house, locate an area 1' by 1' around the white "X" that is 15' left of the driveway in the front utility easement along Sullivan Road.