How Deep Can I Dig Before Calling 811?

If you’re working on a home project, and you don’t intend to dig deep enough to hit a utility line of any kind, you might not think calling 811 is necessary. But how deep is that? And at what point should you call 811?

This is a common question! But in one sense, it’s the wrong question to ask. While 811 laws can vary depending on your state (and this article does not constitute legal advice), in general, there is no specific depth at which you must call 811. But this isn’t because you should be guessing! Instead, it’s because you should always call 811 when you’re going to dig, and you should always call ahead of time. California law requires that you call two working days, not including the date of notification, before you dig.

"But it's an emergency!"

Thankfully, if you have a true emergency, you do not have to wait two days to dig. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that even if you are digging because of an emergency (such as a flood, fire, or earthquake), you can still be liable for any accidental damage caused by digging.

"But I'm Just Burying a Bird" (or other small animal)

Well first, our condolences.

Second, believe it or not, you should still call. Burying an animal requires digging at least two to three feet, and sometimes utility lines are buried as little as two feet beneath the surface. The same advice applies to projects that might only require digging a foot deep, such as installing a mailbox.

"Okay, but what about gardening?"

No, you do not have to call 811 before planting shrubs or bell peppers or other plants. But we appreciate your dedication!

"This is making me nervous. How can I make sure I don’t do this wrong?"

If you don’t feel confident continuing the project yourself, then one of the best things you can do is hire professionals. At ART Locating, we have decades of experience in locating utility lines, unmarked graves, rebar, and other obstacles at both residential and commercial worksites. If you have a project that you’d like help with, then send us an email or give us a call!