Monthly Archives: September 2016

Stay Safe – Plan Before You Dig

When its time start that backyard construction, you should always take the time to do a little research and planning before you dig. From finding a good cable locator to verifying zoning laws, there are steps you should be taking before the shovel hits the dirt.

Zoning and Permits

This is one pre-dig step you really need to take as soon as you have plans in hand. It really only applies to larger projects, like adding a new shed or other building, building a sizable deck or adding a pond. Pulling up sod to make a flower garden isn’t going to need anyone’s permission.

Before you start, get a few drawings and measurements together and visit your local municipal or council office. If everything is fine, you get some peace of mind and can progress with your project. If it turns out that zoning prohibits your construction or that you need certain permits, now you can adjust your plans before things get complicated later. It may be as simple as reducing your shed size by a foot, or moving that retaining wall a few inches farther from the property line.

If you can’t change your plans, you will have to deal with the required permits which will likely involve a fee and the submission of some drawings. They can guide you through the process.

Check Underground

Once the paperwork is under control, you’ll need to start checking on your project site for underground obstacles. This means finding out where pipes and cables may be running under your property. Never assume that’s it’s a safe spot, or that you will just be careful and deal with it when you hit something. Cracking a gas line or cutting an electrical cable is a real hazard that can result in a lot of damage or injury.

Talk to your local utility companies (phone, power, water) and tell them that you are planning a construction project and have to find out where underground lines are. Most utilities have a specific “call before you dig” service that is intended to help you out at no cost. In many states, like New York, it is actually legally required that you call their free service before you dig.

For a little added security, you can also find a company that uses underground radar to check for objects beneath the surface. Utility cables are only one potential risk, and older homes that have had multiple owners over the years can have a lot of things going on in the yard that have nothing to do with official services. A utility company isn’t going to know that a previous owner had run a few pipes out into the yard for a homemade irrigation system or that they had buried some wire to add lights to an old shed.

Actually taking a look can be the best approach rather than just relying on someone else’s official records. This type of service can also help you find natural obstacles, like large pieces of stone, that could hamper your work.