Before I start, I know I should always call Diggers Hotline (or comparable service depending on where you live) to have them mark all under ground gas & electrical lines.

At what depth underground should gas and electrical lines in the US should be located (to code)? I ask as I have seen this Diggers Hotline commercial where at the end of it, it seems as if the digger immediately hits a line when starting to dig - implying the line is extremely close to the surface. I am in the process of removing several bushes and that requires me to dig out the roots.

  • Each state/city/county could have different code requirements. – Ruut Oct 28 '15 at 15:14
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    If there are bushes growing over utility lines, you might find that the roots have inadvertently entangled the lines. Dig carefully, but also yank deep roots with care. – Tester101 Oct 28 '15 at 15:17

Typically they will be at minimum, 18" below grade. However this is the grade at the time they are placed. Soil will compact and erode with time which would result in them being shallower than expected. Frost heaving might also raise them.

The depth requirements only applies to line-voltage lines. Typically low-voltage lines would not be buried at this depth. Likewise, telco lines are often found significantly shallower, maybe only an inch or two below.

If you know lines are present, the best thing you can do is carefully hand-dig around them.

A lot of telco's will not even properly locate their lines and instead will just fix them quickly when you end up slicing them. Annoying indeed.

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    Beware the smooth black roots ;-) I'd just say they should have been 18" below grade when placed. I've seen more than one example where this was clearly not actually the case. In addition, if frost line is much deeper than 18" (or the actual burial depth), they may get gradually worked upward through the action of frost over years. – Ecnerwal Oct 28 '15 at 15:08
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    +1 on the telco, the cable and phone lines are usually only a few inches down at best. You may not kill yourself if you cut them, but it's a pain when you cut them. I'd also note that electric and gas lines "should" have sand and caution tape placed above them as an indicator. – BMitch Oct 28 '15 at 15:16
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    I recently had my hydro lines moved. Part of this was getting locates, to which my telco came back (twice!) and gave the all clear. Obviously they cut the lines within 2 minutes of digging. sigh – Steven Oct 28 '15 at 16:41

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