Disclaimer: Before any work is done I'm going to have all utility companies come out to properly mark the utility locations.

I'm looking to get a fence installed by a fence company. However, in order to do that, I need to cut down 3 trees that are in the way. My concern is utilities being located anywhere along the fence line. I don't want to cut down the trees and then find out there's utility lines around the area I want the fence and won't be able to put up a fence. Basically, if I can't put up the fence, I'd rather leave the trees.

From what I understand, the utility companies want you to wait until a few days before the project begins for you to call them out to mark the utilities. It's probably going to be a month or 2 between now and when I can have the trees cut down and when I can have the fence company begin.

Other than having the utility companies come out, mark up the utilities, cut down the trees, have them mark the utilities again, and then put up the fence, is there any way I can get a general idea of where the utilities may be? One of the bigger concerns is my neighbors have some sort of utility box in their back yard, and I'm not sure if that's a bad sign.

Any recommendations on how to handle this given the order of operations I need to follow would be helpful.


Green lines mark the fence boundry. Red is the utility box I'm referring to.

  • 3
    Incidentally, the box type shown is "typically" telephone or cable TV (but could also be fiber optic - unlikely to be "non-communications" services.
    – Ecnerwal
    Apr 8, 2021 at 18:55
  • 2
    Check with the utilities in your location but most of the time there is an expiration date on any locates. Most commonly they are valid for 14 days. Remember that if you dig AFTER that time and hit an unmarked utility, you may be liable for the damages.
    – jwh20
    Apr 8, 2021 at 19:14
  • @jwh20 - That’s very good to know, I had no idea they “expired” in a way. One option I was considering was somehow marking where they were so they stayed fresh. But that makes sense, they can’t guarantee their markings indefinitely.
    – William
    Apr 9, 2021 at 0:04
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    What many people do it call for locates, then that helps them plan their project. Then they call and "renew" the locates before starting to dig. It generally takes only a couple of days for the locate folks to get out and do the work. In most places they only have a limited amount of time to do the locates.
    – jwh20
    Apr 9, 2021 at 0:40

5 Answers 5


Utilities, as a rule, are delighted to come out any time and mark locations. They would much rather avoid a problem instead of having to deal with an outage.

If they need to come out again, e.g. because the paint weathers away, they'll do that.


This is a normal thing to do. In my state, for example, the utilities must have been located within a certain number of days of digging. They are also happy to mark utilities for just project planning, or just to refresh existing markings.

In fact, all of these are typically options you can select when you call in the locate ticket (or put it in on a website). For a survey or refresh only type tickets, the utilities may be allowed more time to respond/mark. So maybe if you plan on digging, they have to respond within 2 days, but for a survey/refresh, they may have up to a week. There is also usually an emergency option if the digging needs to start right away (for example if there is a water or gas main break).

So, this:

Other than having the utility companies come out, mark up the utilities, cut down the trees, have them mark the utilities again, and then put up the fence

is exactly what you should do. When you first call in, make sure to tell them you are only looking to find out locations for planning purposes. They will then give you directions for your specific state's process for this.

  • 3
    Note that for project planing/survey tickets, you likely will not get a field locate, just information from the utilities involved (maps or a phone contact). Source: just did a survey ticket myself to find out the details on a pipeline located on a lot I was pondering Apr 9, 2021 at 0:09
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    True, if they have maps or other information. Especially in the case of service lines, there is a good chance the only way they can tell you where they are is by field locating them. Apr 9, 2021 at 0:31
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    Yeah -- the maps I was given for water/gas/sewer don't show service laterals, just trunks Apr 9, 2021 at 0:35

Once you know where the utilities are located then you know where the utilities are located.

After they mark the ground with paint you can put a stake or a flag there so that if the marking paint gets washed away you still know the locations.

If in the time between the locate service and the time you are ready to dig, other utilities are added, you will probable know about it as it would require digging up your yard.

You can call for new locate.

  • The OP wants to have a company install the fence...said company may not be willing to take the OP's word that the OP knows where the utilities are. Apr 11, 2021 at 15:51

It would be quite unusual that utility location would entirely prevent you placing the fence where you want it. More likely is that proximity of utilities could require several fence holes to be dug by hand rather than machine. It's possible, but unlikely, that you could have to slightly adjust a fence post location after hand-digging reveals it exactly conflicts with the buried utility.

It's a relatively safe bet that you can go forward and remove the trees with confidence that the fence will work out fine. But there's really no need to gamble on it. Call you utility locate service and explain what you're doing. There's very a high probability they'll be happy to process the request in the usual way. If not, they should offer you contact information for the utilities so that you can coordinate planning with the relevant utilities directly.


I see you are from New York. You must call 811 48 hours and up to 10 days before you dig an inch on your property. Unless you know where every wire or service is buried on your property and how deep, if you don't "call before you dig" and damage any utility or service, you will be required to pay for repairs (seen or happen and the repair wasn't cheap)

811 is the USA nationwide call before you dig number and will direct your call to your local utility marking company. It is a free service and they will send someone to your dig site in 1-3 days.

Saves you the hassle of calling every electric company, gas company, utility company in your area. You might have gas service from company a, but company b buried gas line through your property 20 years ago.

  • 2
    Absolutely 100% understood. Before I posted this question I actually registered an account on their site to submit a ticket. However, based on the advice on their website it sounded like it would be best for the fence company to handle contacting them since, according to the 811 website, they might want to coordinate with / contact that company. But yeah, no way I’m going to risk liability by starting to do anything before contacting them / having the fence company contact them.
    – William
    Apr 8, 2021 at 23:59
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    So i would argue that since you are going to be doing the tree removal, you should probably put in a ticket with a work description of "Tree Removal" now (which often requires digging to remove roots/stumps), and then later have the fence company put in their own ticket for their part of the job. That way everybody is covered. Apr 9, 2021 at 0:34
  • 2
    +1 for PhilippNagel's comment: removal of the trees is the start of work.
    – CCTO
    Apr 9, 2021 at 4:26

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