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Call Before You Dig
Call Before You Dig

Call 811 Before You Dig

Planning a home improvement project, planting a tree or installing a fence or deck?

With any digging on your property, here’s what you need to know first: Excavation work, including digging or plowing around a home or business, is the most common cause of natural gas emergencies. Before digging around your property, state law requires you call 811, a nationwide, toll-free number, to have your utility lines professionally marked. After calling, you must wait the required amount of time before digging. Your local utilities, like Virginia Natural Gas, will locate and mark, free of charge, and each with a different color paint or flag, where their underground utility lines are within the area where you want to dig.

Once that happens, you can dig with confidence, because you’ll know how to avoid any damage to these underground utility lines, which might interrupt or hinder your services and potentially damage your property.

Call 811 Before You Dig

How 811 Works

  1. It takes less than two minutes. Call 811 at least three working days before you plan to dig. Provide your address, project type and approximate dig date. A dispatcher will determine whether or not you need to have your property checked for lines, and if so, schedule a marking window. Utility company representatives will be notified that your project site needs to be marked for safe digging.

  2. Within three working days, utility locator companies will arrive to spray or flag your yard, allowing you to avoid problem areas where lines are present. Markers will use a wand that detects line locations without any alteration to your property. You're not even required to be present while your project site is marked. If you end up getting busy and are unable to complete your digging before your marks fade, simply call 811 again and request a re-mark.

After the utilities are marked

Once the lines are marked, use the appropriate digging methods and hand dig within 24 inches of the marked utility lines. This will help prevent any damage to underground utility lines. Make sure the marks remain visible during the entire project. If the marks are damaged or removed, customers are encouraged to call 811 to have lines re-marked. For more information, see the Frequently Asked Questions section below.

Additional Links

Check out these links for additional information about safe digging:

Easy as 1-2-3

Knowing where to dig is as easy as:

  1. Call 811 to schedule your appointment.
  2. Professional locators will survey the site, then identify and mark underground lines for free.
  3. Break ground!

Show Your Support

Ready to be an advocate for calling 811 and encourage your peers to do the same? Download our 811 Toolkit to share on your social media accounts! 

Businessowners, future customers and the general public want to know that you’re a responsible member of the community where you operate. Show them you respect the law and follow proper protocol by calling 811 before digging.

Click here to download the toolkit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who should call 811?
A: Everyone, including homeowners and excavators, planning to dig or alter the surface of the ground needs to call 811. So whether you’re a DIY pro planning a weekend project or a professional excavator, one phone call to 811 will get your underground utility lines marked and keep you and your neighbors safe.

Q: How far in advance do I need to call?
A: After you call, wait 48 hours, beginning 7:00 a.m. the next working day (working days exclude Saturdays, Sundays, and legal state and national holidays) following notice, to allow the utilities to mark the lines.

Q: My yard is marked, now what?
A:  Protect and preserve the markings from the time the excavation begins until markings are no longer required for proper and safe excavation near the utility lines. Excavate carefully! Virginia law requires hand digging within 24 inches of a marked utility line.

Q:  How long are the marks good for?
A:  Utility line locations markings placed in response to a non-emergency marking request are valid for 15 working days beginning at 7:00 a.m. the next working day after you call.

Q: What do I do if my project takes longer than expected to complete?
A:  
If your project will take longer than 15 working days to complete, call 811 at least three working days before the expiration date and request a remarking.

Q: Can you just tell me what utilities are in my area even if I am not digging?
A:
No- Please call 811 only if you intend to dig. 

Q: There are markings and flags in my yard. What do they mean?
A:
  If you have markings you didn’t request, work may be taking place on or around your property. Click here to learn more.

Q:  Do the colors of the paint and flags indicate anything in particular?
A:  
Yes. Each color represents a different type of utility line that runs underground. For example, one color indicates a natural gas pipeline while another color represents the location of telecommunications or sewer lines.