Are you getting ready to dig in your yard? Whether you’re planning to make some repairs or just want to plant flowers, it’s important to know if gas lines are running under your property. You could accidentally dig into a gas line and cause an explosion if you don’t know! Here’s how to find out if gas lines are buried under your yard and avoid any unexpected accidents.
How to Find Gas Lines in Your Yard
Use the x-method
To determine whether you have an underground gas line:
- Use an X-method.
- Start by finding two easily identifiable landmarks on your property and then walk between them using straight lines as you walk from one landmark to another. If you discover anything, like a fence or sidewalk that crosses one of your straight lines or perpendicular or diagonal from one of your straight lines, it could be a sign of buried infrastructure.
- When investigating these areas, consider measuring your distance from those objects and note if there are markers for possible utility placement within three feet of each endpoint.
Follow the pipes underground with a long stick.
When you see a pipeline, walk out into your yard, find a long stick, and follow it. Poke around with your stick under bushes and flower beds; check along fences, walls, and sidewalks; even look under picnic tables and decks.
Keep in mind that not all gas lines are covered by concrete. If you encounter an underground gas pipe not encased in concrete or metal, it is probably connected to an uncapped well, which can be very dangerous because of methane leaks.
You do not want to contact those pipes because they may release natural gas or methane, which are both flammable gases that can explode if they contact open flames such as lighters or matches.
Identify the gas main that runs through your neighborhood.
Identify the main area of gas supply that runs throughout the neighborhood. Your home is likely built on several existing infrastructure systems, including water pipes, power lines, storm drains, sewage lines, and gas lines.
The gas line that runs to your house could be buried several feet underground. Try to mark the exact location on your property for the gas line. Buried gas lines often contain flammable gases that can cause explosions if exposed to a spark or heat source.
Test the soil for moisture content
A common method to identify the exact location of the gas line is to test the soil for moisture content. If the ground is too wet, you may not be able to dig there.
However, if you can’t dig there, you can still test the soil for moisture content since gas only moves if there is air and water in the soil. It’s a great way to tell if the pipe is exposed or buried. To do this, you need a trowel or some type of implement that can penetrate the earth.
After using the tool, you can feel the difference between a damp or soft spot and a dry, hard spot. This is a helpful tool to use when looking for gas lines.
Gas that comes from the earth and is traveling through rock and dirt should be wet, and if it isn’t, that means it’s moving away from where the gas line is and could be heading toward the house. If there is no moisture content, it’s not coming from the earth. It’s likely coming from an underground leak or something else causing the gas to come out.
Make a mark where the gas pipe penetrates your yard.
Marking a gas line in your yard can prevent a potential leak that could cause serious damage to your property and yourself. Marking a gas line that’s buried in the ground is easy. The first step is to dig a hole around the line.
Then, carefully poke the line with a probe to locate where it runs through the ground. The most popular and easiest way is to apply a “marking” paint that sticks to the pipe. This method is inexpensive and very effective. However, it has one major disadvantage. Marking paints are usually applied to your property surface—your driveway, sidewalks, and lawn.
This means that any moisture that may drip down the wall from rain or snow or any dust kicked up by traffic will leave an obvious mark on the paint. This means that it’s important to ensure that your yard is as dry as possible and that no snow is falling during the application.
Next, wrap the line with a tape that’s waterproof and color-coded to show its status. To help you find the line again, paint marks on the grass surrounding it and on the street so you know exactly where to go if something should happen.
Check your neighbors’ property for gas pipes as well
See where your neighbors’ gas pipelines are in their yard. Most likely, yours will be in a similar place as well.
If you can’t do it yourself, call in a professional
Finding natural gas lines on your own is hard. If you can’t do it yourself, hire a licensed professional. A private inspector should cost less than $300 and provide you with a report of exactly where any potential leaks are located.
You can also consult local utility companies, which may be willing to use their machines for free if they get permission to come onto your property later if necessary.
No matter how you go about it, be sure you’re informed before starting or finishing any digging project. Protecting against potentially explosive gas leaks takes precedence over all other safety considerations.
Repercussions of Failing to Detect Underground Gas Lines
You may believe that doing a little digging or completing one small activity without contacting 811 is insignificant, but forgetting to do so can have serious consequences.
If you shovel and strike one of the thousands of underground utility lines, you risk losing power, causing property damage, and injuring yourself and your family.
The costs of failing to identify subsurface gas pipes and damaging them vary by state, but they might be far higher than the cost of your original project.
In California, for example, you might face a fine of up to $50,000 and the cost of repairing the underground conduit. If you break the law in Kentucky, you could face a $4,000 fine.
If you fail to contact 811 prior diggings and cause damage, you could be penalized up to $4,000 in Kentucky and $10,000 in Washington state.
These penalties don’t seem worth it if you’re only going to put a $100 letterbox in the ground, especially when discovering gas connections in your yard is quite simple.
It’s always best to come down on the side of safety and call 811 to make sure you’re by state legislation and how you can excavate without fear of repercussions. You can notify the impacted utility if you still strike a supply line ignoring the markers without facing penalties.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it possible to excavate around a gas pipeline?
Metal or plastic gas lines are common. They’re probably tough enough to resist most shovel digging if they’re made of plastic. Hand digging is usually required within a certain length (18″ in some states) of such a defined line.
What is the best way to dig over marked utilities?
When hand digging near buried utility wires, take the following precautions to avoid damage:
- Use a shovel with a round or blunt edge.
- Begin excavating towards the utility line that has been designated.
- Proceed with caution. To remove soil, never scrape against a utility line.
- The real line should be found, not merely a tracer cable or caution tape.
Use these strategies to locate gas lines in your yard and avoid an explosion! You’ll be able to enjoy all of your family events without fear of an explosion.
You must know what precautions need to be taken when it comes time for family picnics, holidays, and get-togethers at home or elsewhere. Our quick guide above will give you everything you need! Enjoy your time with friends and family without worrying about the danger lurking beneath your feet!
Sheena Whitlock, a property expert, and blogger with over 15 years of experience in the field. The knowledge and skills Sheena has acquired during her career have given her invaluable insight into the property management business.
She has done her Property Development BSc (Hons) from the University of Portsmouth and completed her Master’s Degrees in Property Management from the University of Chicago.
As a professional, she has spent time working for various companies as a property management officer and currently works at Asset Info Hub where she shares her knowledge and experience on various property matters with people around the world, questioning their queries via blogging and virtual consulting services.