Home Owners and 811

Picture of DPC of TExas

DPC of TExas

When anyone digs in Texas, whether planting a tree or digging the foundation of a skyscraper, there is a high probability of an underground utility line being within the dig site.  Hitting an underground utility line does more than interrupt utility service; it risks the safety of the person digging and the public. 

811 is a FREE service! There is no cost to you to contact 811 to find out where your underground utility lines are located.

Texas law requires homeowners to contact 811 two business days (excluding weekends and holidays) before digging, even if you are working in your own backyard. Whether you are building or repairing a fence, planting a tree, installing a pool or sprinkler system or about to embark on any chore or maintenance activity that requires digging, homeowners should always contact 811 first.

If you are hiring a contractor to do the work for you, it is the contractor’s responsibility to contact 811 two business days prior to digging. You may want to make sure your contractor has notified 811 before the work begins by requesting the ticket or notification number.

There are two ways to request to have your lines marked:

  • By phone at 811
  • Online

If you contact Texas811 by phone, listen carefully to the recorded message, many homeowner requests can be handled through the automated system before reaching a Damage Prevention Agent.

If you choose to submit a locate ticket online, through our Online Ticket Entry System which is available from the Homeowner button on the top navigation bar on the Texas811 home page or by going directly to our Texas811 Homeowner Portal this program will walk homeowners through the process step-by-step.  

Both methods are free of charge and available 24/7/365.

What to expect when you contact 811:
Once you have contacted 811 to submit a locate ticket you will receive your ticket number; this is proof you have requested a locate for your work site location. You will need to provide this number whenever you contact Texas811 about your project. You will also receive an email copy of your ticket containing a list of all notified utilities that have facilities in your area so take a moment to ensure the email information you provide is correct.  

Most utility locators are contracted by the utility owners to locate up to the property line and/or the meter. In some cases, locators may also need to mark underground facilities beyond the property line, for example, facilities located within a utility easement or within a fenced in area on your property. Please note, private utilities are lines not owned by utility companies and are typically found between the meter and your home or building. If you have a curbside meter, this can result in the property not being marked by utility companies. Underground utilities that may not be marked include but are not limited to water, sewer lines, private lighting, sprinklers, fire mains, secondary electric lines to detached garages, pools, and septic lines. It may be necessary to hire a private locate company for these types of lines. The good news is, you do not have to be home for the locators to mark lines, but please be sure all pets are put away, and ensure the locators have access to the property to mark the proximity of all underground facilities near the dig site.

Although there is no cost to submit a locate ticket, it is important to know, you must wait a full 48 hours (two business days/not including weekends or recognized legal holidays) before confirming all utilities have either marked the area near your dig site or sent you an email deeming the area is ‘clear’ and ‘not in conflict’ with underground facilities. Even if you believe all utilities have responded prior to this time, you must still wait the full 48 hours before digging. If after waiting two business days you find one or more utilities have not responded, contact Texas811 to submit a ‘No Response’ ticket. Remember to have your original locate ticket number ready when submitting this request.  

You may be wondering, ‘When may I begin digging?’ After waiting the required timeframe and confirming all utilities have responded, you may begin to dig but only after applying the tolerance zone. ‘What is the ‘Tolerance Zone’ you may ask?’ Well since the flags in the ground or the paint on the ground identify approximately where the underground facilities are located, applying the best practice tolerance zone can prevent unnecessary damages, service interruptions and injuries. Within this area you may ‘soft dig’; this is any movement of earth using hand tools or equipment that use air or water pressure as the direct means to break up soil or earth for removal by vacuum excavation.  No mechanized equipment may be used within this tolerance zone area. Always respect the marks and dig carefully.

The ‘Tolerance Zone’ as described in Texas Administrative Code 18.2 (21), is half the nominal diameter of the underground pipeline plus a minimum of 18 inches on either side of the on either side of the outside edge of the underground pipeline on a horizontal plane.

Recapping steps homeowners need to take to submit a locate ticket:

  1. Notify: Texas811
  2. Wait: the required 48 (two business days)
  3. Confirm: all utilities notified have marked the area or provided a ‘clear’ positive response
  4. Respect: the marks
  5. Dig Carefully: no mechanized equipment within the tolerance zone

Remember, if you do not contact 811 before digging, it is quite possible that you will dig into a buried underground facility and potentially create a life-threatening situation, you can be fined, or even cause an outage to an essential utility service. Even if you have used the service before and you think you know where the underground utilities are, you need to contact Texas811 before every digging project to protect yourself. So, before you build or repair that fence, plant that tree, install a pool or sprinkler system or are about to embark on any chore or maintenance activity that requires digging, take a moment and contact Texas811 Before You Dig…It’s easy, it’s free and IT’S THE LAW.  

For this information and more, please visit our Homeowner Page on the Texas811 website:

Call Before You Dig | Texas811

Tina Sanders

Damage Prevention Manager, Northeast Region
Damage Prevention Council of Texas