How Not to Break Pipes While Digging Trenches: 7 Essential Tips

Did you know that every year in the USA, 25 people die from trench mishaps? That may not seem like much. But all it takes is for you to hit a gas pipe or an electrical wire and the consequences are unthinkable.

Whether it is for plumbing repairs, electrical work, or landscaping, be safe. Digging trenches can be very dangerous when not conducted in the right way.

Suppose you want to avoid breaking pipes while digging trenches. Here are nine essential tips on doing so in a safe manner.

1. Know Your Tools Before You Start Digging

Before digging a trench or building something new, make sure you know what tools you will use. For example, pinpoint drilling (otherwise known as directional drilling) requires specialist drill motors and nozzles depending on what you aim to achieve.

And, don’t forget to plan. Suppose you plan to install a sprinkler system. It would help if you first determined which direction the water needs to flow through the ground.

Once you’ve worked this out, you’re ready to commence your trench work. But first, take time to consider these other facts you may have missed.

2. Check for Pipes Underneath Using a Pipe Locator

Pipe locators such as the sonde transmitter allow you to find underground pipes quickly and easily without damage. They come with different types of attachments depending on their purpose.

Some are special designs for locating buried pipes, while others are useful for finding cables. These devices are very useful, especially if you don’t remember exactly where the original line resides.

Purchasing or renting a pipe locator might seem like a costly expense. But think about it.

That initial outlay may save you thousands of dollars in repair bills. Imagine the cost of repairing any destroyed pipes that run underneath your backyard!

3. Pathing Your Pipes

When working out where pipes are, try and find the start and end-points. Then mark these spots and all possible obstacles such as trees, rocks, fences, or walls. After that, lay down plastic sheeting over the area and cover it up, so you know where not to start your dig.

Make sure also to include areas where there may be flooding issues. This includes a decent perimeter around the pipe location. In doing so, you’re allowing for any margin of error.

What’s more, by doing this, you can make sure that no one gets hurt, whether that’s by tripping over anything or impact during installation or excavation.

4. Know How Deep Utilities Reside

Utilities often run at a set distance underneath the ground. Yet, utilities can shift due to natural disasters such as earthquakes. Check the depth of existing utility lines before beginning any excavation.

Before beginning any excavation, check with local authorities about permitted depths. There is no legal limit in most cases as long as you do not damage underground utilities such as gas lines.

5. Make Sure The Area Is Clear of Debris

While trench digging, keep everything clean and organized. Make sure to wear protective gear during digging work.

These include gloves, goggles, ear protection, safety shoes, and clothing. And, once you’ve got your protective gear on, make sure there’s no debris around the area you’re digging.

Debris left behind after excavating can cause serious problems. Small rocks and debris can become lodged between the walls of the trench and the pipes, causing leaks. In some cases, all it takes is for a rogue rock or stone to flick across the trench and cause a crack in the pipe.

Further, when digging trenches, avoid cutting through tree roots. Roots provide stability to the soil beneath them.

If they get damaged, the entire root system could collapse. In turn, it could result in an unstable environment and cause pipes to shift over time.

6. Check Records With Local Authorities

In most cases, local authorities must permit engaging in any construction. Obtaining such a permit ensures that everything goes as smoothly as possible. Permits for all major construction activities are often required, including excavating.

They can also tell you what’s underneath the ground. Suppose you’re planning on digging in the yard. You’ll want to double-check with city officials.

They can tell you if any utility lines are running under the property. They will likely have records detailing their exact locations.

Authorities can also determine if you need permission from your neighbors as well. You don’t even need everyone’s approval, but it helps to check first. In particular, if you plan on disturbing private land.

7. Take Regular Breaks When Digging

It’s common for pipes to break in trenches when fatigue or tiredness results in human error. To prevent this from happening, take regular breaks during the day and after every hour of work.

By staying refreshed, you’ll be more aware of any potential hazards that may surface. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids throughout the process, too, to stay hydrated in the heat.

Another alternative is to hire a professional. If you have access to heavy equipment, consider hiring someone else to help you dig trenches.

Otherwise, not only do you need to buy all the equipment yourself. But you could also be spending time doing something else instead.

Digging Trenches Stress-Free

If you follow our tips above, you will have an easy time digging trenches without breaking any pipes. By following the correct processes, you can excavate your trench worry-free!

Keep reading for more top tips on staying safe while digging!

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