Buried Electrical Line/Phone

conifersNovember 19, 2007

I know these lines are incased in some grade of plastic pipe. My builder says "no tree" can damage these lines.

I don't know the answer. This is of course brand new construction so maybe he is right.

Would someone confirm this for me please?


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Correct, if it has been given a decent burial. If it is very shallow, a tree blowing down might pull it out of the ground with its roots.

Otherwise the problem is if it ever needs replacing for upgrading (e.g. if you want to change to fibre optic cable for ultra-high speed internet connection)


    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 7:27AM
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Thank you Resin. Now I can plant!


    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 7:36AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

electric lines.. are you sure you want to test the coverage of live lines??? .. and find out if electricity can shoot through your shovel into your body and fry you like a cheap wing ding .... RESPECT electricity.. or it will kill you ...

no body cares about the phone line.. it cant kill you ..

with all your new property .. i don't really understand why you need to be planting over or near to your buried services????

if you were on the verge of running out of space.. i could understand needing to contemplate such plantings... but man.. you have a blank canvas out there... why is this space imperative in the grand scheme of things???

i just had 5 strobus massacred [too close to the house] ....2 foot diameter.. one of them directly over a phone line... and one foot from the electric ... no stump grinding there ...

i called miss dig.. all the services showed up within a few days .... and i discussed the matter with all ... the biggest problem.. on older construction [i realize that you and your guys KNOW what was done just a short while ago] .. is that no one can be sure how deep the line is.. as compared to where it is SUPPOSED to be ... i think electric is supposed to be about 3 feet down ... but the gizmo showed it to be anywhere from 18 to 36 inches ... and no one knows what was buried 20 years ago ... they know what was supposed to be buried.. but the guy who did it is in Tahiti living off the savings for not having done the job to specs in the first place ...

as noted... dax and his contractor most likely know where it all is ... but for the rest of us.... BE VERY CAREFUL ... there are two things in life you dont mess with for sure... mother nature.. and electric ... IMHO


    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 8:54AM
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dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)

I am sure local code requirement is for the 3-wire 120/208 line to be in stalled in PVC plastic pipe. Most local code ordinances don't permit direct burial of S/E ,service entrance cable, anymore. Primary feeder cable for house transformers is direct burial on the easement. That you want to stay away from. In your case Dax most rural areas have over head feeder lines to the pole with feeder cable in PVC plastic pipe to the house meter fed by the transformer on the pole.

Dax you are ok to plant anywhere on your property.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 9:54AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

since this post is open to everyone's eyes ...

my point was that others must be careful .... just because dax can get away with it.. doesn't mean anyone else whose home is more than a year old.. can get away with it ...

no one really knows where those lines are buried .. even the guy with the magic machine that is supposed to tell them where it is ....

and no one really knows what a prior owner did .... again.. not dax's problem ... nor whether he had any intention of complying with code ...

gardening is no fun.. if you are dead .. go figure on that ... be careful


    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 10:27AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Take pictures and keep in a folder. When I moved here 30 years ago I took pictures of the drainfield before it was covered up, and also the water line. The power was 'plowed' in 3 ft. deep for a quarter mile right up to the house. It didn't show much, but I took pictures of it anyway. so should you.
Resin is right, trees won't damage the power or phone line unless an older tree falls over and uproots it. No worries there in your case.

I hit a power line with a shovel once while talking to my insurance agent when I was landscaping for his neighbor. It had been the power to a pumphouse for an old well. My insurance agent subdivided the property and forgot to disconnect the power to the pumphouse. It just sparked and I didn't get a shock. The electricity shorted out in the ground rather than going up to me and back down to the ground.
As far as I can see, you're safe to go Dax.
Drainfields are a whole different thing.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 10:51AM
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dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)

You are right Ken,

I just gave the basic guide lines that are in practice today. There are always the few out there that don't comply.
It is your own responsibility to make sure you are working safe by doing what is required of you before you stick the shovel in the ground.

The power and light company's are responsible to mark lines correctly and their locating equipment is very good, but only as good as the guy marking them. He could have had a bad night but that would be a rare case. I have never incurred mis marked lines, ever. They are trained in their job to make sure what they are telling you is valid to the point that no accidental death will occur.

I have 39 years in the electrical trade. I am still alive because I worked safely. I always double checked what the other guy told me regarding live circuits before working around them.

If you don't have a clue check and then double check if you are not satisfied with the information in hand.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 11:05AM
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coniferfreak(z6 PA)

We always use the PA One-call system.. they come out with their detectors, and then spraypaint the underground lines so we know where to stay away from. I once asked the electric guy who came out how far away we should plant. He said just don't plant over it, because he has actually seen people do that. LOL

Here is a link for you, Dax since you are in IL:

I think in some states this may be mandadory, but in ours it is not (yet).

Here is a link that might be useful: IL One-Call System

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 2:22PM
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I actually saw the pipe and it was very heavy duty. Grey in color and the electrical company "forced" us to pay them to install it while my contractor backfilled the area. It was about 3 foot down upon brief inspection of areas that didn't get filled in on that particular day as the day the work was done, the soil was wet-sticky-clay that you could mold into a bowling ball and weigh just as much. Otherwise in my county, there are no 'construction' building codes. Which is good when a buck is being saved by the minute if you catch my drift.

I at least got to see the pipe. Vaguely remember the depth, but I know it was to code. My contractor wasn't that happy that those guys dug the hole, dropped in the 'line' and left him to shovel the clay back in. I'm almost glad in a bad way that I wasn't there (!).

The only reason I would ever plant there is to have both sides of my driveway lined with conifers. The easement (correct word?) where the work was done is on a narrow eight foot wide stip which seperates my neighbor from me (our property line) so in all liklihood I'd only be planting fastigiate trees to help fend off (the northern wind) and man is it windy here, big time. But thank you Ken for making sure everyone understands this. I agree it is extremely important to point that out not only once, but twice.

See ya guys,


    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 7:26PM
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Six months ago, the power company buried their cable to our building site, about 4 feet down. It's about 500 feet long and I do have a satelite photo that shows, roughly, the path taken by the ditch witch. There remains a six to twelve inch depression over the length of the trench from the dirt settling.

I don't know if it is a good idea or not, but I plan on laying some pieces of iron rebar, here and there, in the depression twelve inches down before filling, in hopes that I can use a metal detector in the future to find the cable.

There are a four small live oaks and two southern red oaks within 25 feet of the cable.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2008 at 9:10AM
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