The Number You Want To Call Before Digging Any Holes In Your Lawn

There are various occasions that call for a new hole in your lawn, like planting shrubs, installing a fence, installing a mailbox, or building a pool. To prepare, you need to have the right tools and make sure they're in top shape, but another preparatory step to take is calling 811 to inform them about your plans. This is a crucial safety precaution that people typically miss or think doesn't apply to them, but it's required by law for all digging projects in the U.S.

Previously, homeowners had to call all operators individually but the Federal Communications Commission streamlined the process in 2015. All you need to do now is dial 811 or visit, and professionals will come by to mark the utility lines for gas, oil, water, sewers, electricity, and communications with color-coded paint or flags. This service is free and easy to access.

Why you should call 811

You never know how shallow or deep a utility line is from the surface, so you must always check with utility companies before you or a contractor starts digging any holes. Such a mistake can cause injury or be fatal. It can also affect the operation of the utility services. Another potential problem that is more long-term is that any trees you plant might cause damage as their roots spread.

Some people avoid calling first because they want to immediately kick off their lawn project. However, it typically takes a few days until someone comes to make the marks, so it won't hurt to wait and ensure your safety first. Following this process has been proven to avoid "an incident, injury, harm to the environment, and even death" by 99%, per the US Department of Transportation. In addition to the serious safety risk, homeowners also face fines when they don't make the call.

The process

Before workers from utility companies come over to mark the lines, it helps to mark the area you plan to dig with white paint. It is generally advised to give a few business days' notice before you plan to dig, but states have different requirements. The website has a user-friendly map that provides specific information on this and other aspects of the project for every state.

When you make the call or go to the website, you will need to detail your project, give your address (including the cross street), and the location where you want to dig on the property. Note that you need to wait for all the different utility companies to come by before you can move forward. According to 811, an average of 7 to 8 utility operators are typically involved. The person you speak to or your request ticket will let you know how to confirm that all marks have been made. When digging, be mindful of the markings. If you happen to lose them or they fade away, you need to get new marks.