I was digging in my garden and I found a wire coming through my garden underground. It looks old and dead, and I would like to take it off the ground, but the problem is that both ends lead somewhere outside my garden, so I don't really know where it ends or starts.

I called the TV providers and no one seems to know anything about it. Ex owner of my property is dead. As I found out by asking neighbors, some time ago (~50 years ago) this property (now mine) was bigger and included a shack and a well on it. This cable was used to provide electricity to both. Now there's a new house in that place and I don't know what's happened to the cable part which is under this house's property. They said, the cable comes from our house, so I'll try to get to the basement and check if I see it there.

It looks dead to me because I used a cable locator to check if it sees anything - and it doesn't. I'm not sure if it's a valid test in this case, though

It's plain black, no writing at all. I's about 1 cm thick (0.4 in), I live in Europe, Czech Republic.

It seems that I actually cut it a bit accidentally while digging. I found the cuts and I see the copper wires inside, as can be seen on the last photo. It looks 100% like the electric cable.

I believe it's not very safe to just cut it at both ends? I called the local electric provider, but they told me they didn't have anything in there. Any ideas on how to handle it?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Michael Karas
    Aug 26, 2020 at 14:28

4 Answers 4


The images show a cable similar to a spool I have of "cable-in-conduit" which is used for cable television service. Typical cable television cable drops, from the service point (tap) to the house can be 6 mm diameter, but the c-in-c will be slightly larger. It's hard to tell from the image, but even if it's direct-bury drop cable, it's not dangerous.

Are you able to view a service point for local cable tv service in either direction?

Cable television drops are buried less than 30 cm deep in many cases and are easily cut by accident. Cable in conduit ostensibly protects the cable, but a sharp shovel and a determined gardener can certainly cause damage.

Consider to contact your local cable television provider with the same query you've posed to the power company.

Allowing for your edit, determining that it is a power cable of some sort, you can check for active current with an ordinary compass, the magnetic type, not the circle drawing type. According to one web site, for alternating current, the needle will vibrate at the frequency of the electricity, likely 50 Hz in your country. If it is direct current, the needle will point in one direction as you move it about the wire.

A more expensive method is to use a clamp-on ammeter, if one is available. That is sometimes inconclusive as it often requires to separate the conductors to ensure an accurate reading.

  • 2
    +1 We had cable TV cables running about 2" below the surface in two places in our yard in our previous house. This looks like the same thing.
    – Nathan S.
    Aug 23, 2020 at 20:41
  • 4
    +1 If OP doesn't have Cable TV or Cable internet, then no problem! If its someone else's service, then it shouldn't be running through OP's land,
    – Criggie
    Aug 23, 2020 at 23:29
  • 1
    The really thick CATV stuff often has foam in it. It feels lighter than one might expect, and if you bend it it will keep shape a whole lot better than the RG-6 cable used inside typical homes.
    – smitelli
    Aug 24, 2020 at 1:06
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    @Criggie that is an unknown without searching the deed for easements. If there is an easement (or right of way) for it, then it has every right to be there.
    – Ecnerwal
    Aug 24, 2020 at 11:47
  • 4
    @Criggie that is not true at all, an easement can be anywhere. Sometimes, property lines are changed after easements are drawn up, or other factors change. They often run along the edges of a property. I've seen them run through backyard on the line between adjoining properties very frequently. Aug 24, 2020 at 17:24

It looks like a direct-burial RG6 coax cable. Call your local utility locating service and have them mark your property to see if the line is in use.

Cut it without calling and you risk knocking out cable television and internet service to your neighborhood, your own home included, and you may face fines digging without having your property marked.


In addition to the great answers already given, another possibility is that it is a "locator wire" buried above a plastic pipe.

This is often done when burying plastic pipes for an irrigation system - a wire is buried right above the pipe so that a metal detector will show that there is something in the ground below. There are usually a few inches of dirt between the locator wire and the pipe so that accidental discovery of the locator wire during digging saves the pipe from being broken.

Last summer I worked with a crew digging on a property where some of the sprinkler pipes had such wires and other pipes did not. The crew ended up breaking one pipe that didn't have a wire above it, but managed to avoid a pipe that did have a wire.

  • 1
    Possible, but looks much heavier than other locator wire I've seen in the past
    – brichins
    Aug 25, 2020 at 16:36
  • 2
    @brichins You're probably right, but it's good to have options for future visitors to the question.
    – Moshe Katz
    Aug 25, 2020 at 16:45

Is it possible you have an automatic irrigation system? It also looks like standard irrigation/sprinkler wire that goes from the controller to a valve.

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