What’s the deal with dig tests? What are they? Why do you have to do one and when are they needed? You have a lot of questions about contacting 811 before digging on your property and are looking for a few basic answers.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have to dig a lot for slab-on-grade foundation repairs and our under-slab tunneling services as the contractor doing the digging. We can share some basic info on what dig tests are for, as well as why and when to contact 811 to request this service.
We will review the basics of what dig tests are, why they are required, and when this is something you need to do. *Bad Pun Alert* (sorry) Let’s dig into the details right away . . .
What Is a Dig Test?
This is Dig Tests 101 or how about some 411 on 811 if you will? Some people call this process a dig test, although that’s kind of a confusing term because there’s no quiz or test to pass here. A dig test is not an exam to see how well you can dig in the dirt either – even though that’s kinda what it sounds like, huh?
In simple terms, a dig test is a safety precaution to make sure that people don’t damage underground utilities when they are digging on their property. It is required for both digging by homeowners as well as work performed by contractors.
It is something put in place for your and everyone else’s protection to avoid damage to underground utilities like electricity, gas, water, and communication lines.
You make a request through the 811 system to have your utility lines marked. You can do the request by phone and call 811 during business hours. You can also contact 811 online here in Texas and probably everywhere else too.
Flags and markings will then be placed in your yard that show where all the utility lines run underground so that they can be avoided while digging. There use different color-coded flags to signify the various types of utilities.
Each state might have a slightly different system and process for contacting 811. This is required anywhere in the USA and there is a national website for 811 that can refer you to your state’s particular system. But each state will also have its own website that consumers should use to request the dig test in whatever state they live in.
When Do I Have to Contact 811 to Dig?
You are supposed to contact 811 to request this free service anytime work is being done around your home that requires digging. When a depth of 16 inches or more below the surface of the ground is needed, this is especially important because many lines are supposed to be buried that far underground.
But I have seen lines that are less than 16” below grade as well so it’s best to contact 811 anytime digging around your home is taking place.
Types of Projects that Require Digging and Contacting 811
Some of the common types of home projects that might require digging and an 811 request are for:
- New Decking,
- Putting in a mailbox,
- Installing a sprinkler system,
- Creating underground drainage systems, and even
- Putting up an in-ground basketball hoop.
So if you are looking to have a project like the ones above done on your property, anyone performing excavation (fancy word for digging in the dirt) needs to contact 811 to request the dig test. I already mentioned that this is a free service, but in case you missed it *811 services are free* because it is a safety precaution for the community and they really want you to do it.
Who Is Responsible for Contacting 811 for a Dig Test?
When you are a homeowner doing the work yourself, you are responsible for contacting 811 on your own. If a hired contractor is doing the work, they are technically the ones responsible for contacting 811. We suggest that you directly ask your contractor if they will be taking care of this task to be sure it’s getting done when needed.
Why Do I Have to Contact 811 to Dig Anyway?
According to the Texas Statutes for Utilities Code, Title 5, Chapter 251 (very boring, 0 stars, do not recommend) aka the “Underground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act” there are requirements of an excavator (that’s the person doing the digging).
“SUBCHAPTER D. Sec. 251.151. DUTY OF AN EXCAVATOR. (a) Except as provided by Sections 251.155 and 251.156, a person who intends to excavate shall notify a notification center not earlier than the 14th day before the date the excavation is to begin or later than the 48th hour before the time the excavation is to begin, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays.
(b) Notwithstanding Subsection (a), if an excavator makes a Saturday notification, the excavator may begin the excavation the following Tuesday at 11:59 a.m. unless the intervening Monday is a holiday. If the intervening Monday is a holiday, the excavator may begin the excavation the following Wednesday at 11:59 a.m.”
In short, you are supposed to contact 811 to request a dig test because it is the law. This law cites the specific timeframes that you need to make the contact (no more than 14 days and no less than 48 hours before digging).
It even stipulates what happens if you call them on a Saturday or holiday weekend. Sheesh . . . those are some details. I’m sure all the other states have some kind of similar statutes on the books since this is a national requirement.
What Information Do You Need for an 811 Dig Test Request?
You do need to have some fairly basic information in order to request the dig test through 811.
Here’s what they ask you through the 811 Texas online request portal:
- Name and Contact Info + Alternate Contact
- Address + Map Location Identification
- Type of Project
- How Long Will the Work Take
- Description of Work Locations Around the Home
It also asks for details on if you will have the work locations marked (they suggest white paint on the ground to indicate the dig locations) and how deep you are digging. The depth is important because the law stipulates that digging below 16 inches is what they are concerned with.
Don’t worry, there are options offered if you don’t know exactly how deep the digging will be and the white markings seem to not be required but are suggested.
So if you don’t know the answers to these questions, you might want to find them out before you actually make that 811 or jump online to make the request.
How Do You Contact 811 to Request Dig Testing?
Now that you know all the basic whats, whens, and whys about contacting 811 before you dig, you’re probably like, “Well genius, how do I do it then?”
First, thank you so much for noticing how smart I am, that is very kind of you . . .
Second, the 811 request system has the option to call by phone. *You literally just dial 811.* Also, the *very convenient* online 811 request for Texas homeowners is available here and probably all the other states as well. So, you can go to the National 811 site for a referral or Google your state’s 811 on your own.
P.S. No, I did not try to locate the 811 websites for every state in the union to verify this – I don’t have that kind of free time. *Nobody has that kind of free time.* I am just making a really good guess that that is the case.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have all the time in the world to provide homeowners with useful information though. After 35+ years in business helping Bryan, College Station, and the surrounding Brazos Valley communities with their foundation repair needs, we don’t know how else to operate other than by being helpful.
Happy digging and here’s that Texas 811 Online Homeowner Request Portal if you need it! We’ve also got another article that tells you all about what to expect when using the online Texas 811 portal for your request.