Realistic depth to electrical lines

I’m thinking of laying some sod over a part of my front yard where the grass is in horrible shape.

Before laying sod, I’d like to till a few inches down to provide a nice soft bed and put some lime in my extremely acidic soil.

However, the main electrical service line from the street runs right under this area. Our “Miss utility” basically just says here’s the line and never dig with anything but hand tools.

Giving no indication of how deep anything should really be. My general assumption is that a tiller going 6 to 8 inches down is not going to hit it, but I don’t know that for sure, and they won’t give me a straight answer, because I feel like they want to just tell me “don’t do it”.

Digging that area by hand will take the entire rest of the fall. It’s about 100 feet long. Any thoughts?

My gut says that at a bare minimum, my electrical service line is probably buried at least a foot. But I don’t really know.

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I wouldn’t risk it, especially without carefully digging some exploratory holes. We call it “potholing” in the utility business. The only way to know for sure is to lay eyeballs on it. You could probably also get a surveyor or someone to come out with ground penetrating RADAR, but that could cost $$. I’d also want to make sure I had at least a foot of buffer below the maximum depth the tiller is capable of. It’s up to you, but remember you’ll make an expensive mess if you guess wrong.


I don’t want a strip of yellow grass over that area.

The other idea I had, it was to till on either side of it, and then try to rake some of the fluffy, amended soil over top of that undisturbed strip from the tilled areas on either side. If I “feather” it properly, the hump should not be noticeable, and I will be able to get a few inches of “good” soil over top of it.

Call before you dig. It’s the law after all. Highly unlikely that the line would be that close to the surface, but if it is, it’s their liability the way most of those laws are written. In my state they have to locate to a circumference of 24” so in effect, they are almost strictly liable for anything shallower unless they specially mark it. But only if you call first.

Really meant for machine excavation, but it’s still helpful for hand excavation and free.

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Call 811. They will come out and mark the line and tell you the depth. They dont want you to hit one of their lines on their right of way. If you tell them your idea, they should tell you what depth the lines and pipes that are buried.


My service line is 3 feet, run from house/main panel to sub panel in barn is buried 18 inches.
That’s code here. I would have a very hard time believing your service is only buried 12 inches or less.
Call 411 to CYA

Usually electric is down about 1 or 2 feet. Im not above using a metal detector it is copper in that line after all but call dig safe its their job and let them flag it. I know what someone is going to say some metal detectors dont go over a foot or 2 deep and that is kind of the point correct? As many have said electric is nothing to play around with. There is no need to take unecessary risks.

call 411

It’s actually 811. Keep in mind, your utility probably doesn’t know how deep your line is buried. They can tell you their standards, and if you’re part of a subdivision they might have some plans on file. But there’s no guarantee that it was installed to spec or to plan, and they can’t account for erosion or soil additions.

I work for a utility and my job is keeping a digital map of where everything is. We’re in better shape than most, but in some areas, it’s a miracle we know where anything is. Before GPS and GIS, the quality and accuracy of paper plans was wildly variable, and they could easily be lost. And everyone had their own copy with their own notes, that they were reluctant to share (job security, supposedly). Even with GPS, it can be a little touch and go at times.


They marked it, they just refuse to tell me how deep it is. They say “it’s pretty deep but we can’t really say”. The official instructions for my state say you should only hand dig over the area.

Tiller won’t go more than 8”, and that is if I really bear down and make multiple passes.

I would not use a mechanical tiller any where near the lines.
You never know if they made a mistake when burying them.
If you cut them, not only will you have no power for a while but you could also be electrocuted.

What would you do in my situation?

I would either hand dig it, or hire it done.
Service entrance lines are nothing to fool around with.


Realistically your shovel goes down about 8 inches… You should be just fine, but Paul is right don’t play around with service lines.

I suppose you could wait until next time there’s a storm and the power is out…and dig then…but getting it marked, since it’s free, makes the best sense. (Still, if it’s lines put in by someone that owned the home and not the utility company, they still won’t mark those and you’ll be guessing on where those kind of lines are.)

As it said, it is marked. They just won’t tell me the depth, and I still don’t know what to do there. I guess I can hand dig.

Seems like a wise plan. Or, if that seems like too much work to dig and loosen deeply, then just do the shallow skim off the top along the ilne and replace with improved soil and call it done.

But my microwave just started billowing smoke when I was heating a frozen burrito and I was afraid it would burn the house down, so I’m particularly cautious about electricity right now.


Tilling in prep for sod, you only need to disturb 2”-3” of soil. No need to go deeper. I’ve never had an issue with electrical when prepping yards (20 yrs landscaping).


Good to know.

The only way to know for sure how deep it is is to dig a few holes along the length of it until you find the conduit.

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