Trenchless Drilling: Understanding Your Options for Locating Underground Utilities

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Carrie's Construction Tips

Welcome to my blog. I'm Carrie and I would like to share some of the top tips I have learnt about construction and repair work in the home. My passion is for buying old property and carrying out work on them to bring them into the 21st century. I started out doing this a couple of years ago. I used some money I had inherited to buy a wreck of a place and if I am honest, I didn't have a clue what I was doing. I was really lucky to find some great contractors who helped me out a lot and taught me lots of very cool things.

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Trenchless Drilling: Understanding Your Options for Locating Underground Utilities

30 September 2017
 Categories: Construction & Contractors, Blog


If you are planning on installing underground pipes in your property, you should think about using trenchless drilling or directional boring. This technique is more favourable than open excavation because it does not require trenching. In simple terms, there will be less damage to your landscape, the hazards will be fewer, and the project will be completed within a shorter period. On the other hand, this method poses a significant concern: the location of underground utilities. When installing pipes without excavation, it is important to know the position of pre-existing pipes, electrical conduits and cables. This information will limit the risk of damaging these networks. Consider this brief discussion on your primary options for locating the underground utilities on your property.

Utility Company Markings

You should contact your utility providers before beginning a directional drilling project. In general, underground utilities such as drainage pipes, water supply, electrical conduits and internet cables are installed systematically. Therefore, an experienced contractor with the schematics of the property underground networks will be able to mark out the location of the systems. However, it is important to note that some old systems in the ground can shift over time. Therefore, while the information provided by the utility company will be accurate, it might not help you. Often, you will need specialised equipment for the locating process. 

Electromagnetic Locating

The most popular method for locating utilities in private property is the electromagnetic locating technique. As implied, this method uses electromagnetic radio frequency to detect the position of the existing underground network. Typically, a contractor will use locating equipment capable of generating an electromagnetic radio frequency. When the signals penetrate the ground, they will allow the detection of the position of any underground material with a conductive material. This method is valuable in detecting water pipes, sewer lines, irrigation pipes and other utilities. However, networks without conductive material or electromagnetic markings.

Ground Penetrating Radar

Ground penetrating radar uses high-frequency radar pulses for the location of subsurface structures. In general, the GDR equipment will be placed on the land surface and allowed to broadcast the pulse. The utility networks will reflect the pulses which will be analysed by the machine. As a result, the position of critical underground features will be identified. This location technique is valuable for finding systems which cannot be discovered electromagnetically. 

If you are not sure about the right method for determining the location of underground utilities, you should discuss the outlined options with your trenchless drilling contractor before making a decision.