CALL BEFORE YOU DIG
North Carolina law requires you to call 811 at least three full business days before digging and wait for utility lines to be marked on your property. Every digging job deserves a call, even small projects like planting trees or shrubs. The depth of utility lines varies and there may be multiple utility lines in a common area. Utility lines need to be properly marked because even when digging only a few inches, the risk of striking an underground utility line still exists.
Choosing not to call 811 before beginning a digging project could have serious results, such as injuries, disrupted service to entire neighborhoods, fines, and repair costs. You can avoid these unnecessary consequences by making one free phone call to 811 three days prior to digging.
Download the Homeowner's Guide to Safe Digging (PDF, 6MB)
Safe Digging Process
Call 811 to speak with a North Carolina 811 customer service representative. To determine which utilities to contact, the representative will ask you a few questions, such as the location of the dig, a description of the digging project, and the length of time you plan to dig.
At the end of the call, you will be given a number that can be used to check the status of your locate request. You can also use the number to update your request if the digging will take longer than expected. Please note that any lines not installed by a utility must be located by a private locating service in addition to 811.
NC law requires you to wait three full business days before you begin digging. While you wait, it’s a good idea to mark where you plan to dig with white paint or flags so the utility locators know the exact location of your excavation.
Once the locate request has been completed, the underground utilities will be marked by paint, stakes or flags using the American Public Works Association (APWA) uniform color codes:
- Red: Electric Power Lines, Cables, Conduit and Lighting Cables
- Yellow: Gas, Oil, Steam, Petroleum or Gaseous Materials
- Orange: Communication, Cable TV, Alarm or Signal Lines, Cables or Conduit
- Blue: Potable Water
- Green: Sewer or Drain Lines
- Purple: Reclaimed Water, Irrigation and Slurry Lines
NC requires a clearance of 30 inches on each side of the marked utility line. This buffer area is called the Tolerance Zone.
If digging must occur in the tolerance zone, use extreme caution and dig with a hand shovel.