Usually when there are overhead wires they are in front of the house along the road. That’s usually a workable feature in that most passers-by look at the house and generally don’t pick up on the wires.
This backyard project, however, had an atypical situation. The utility poles and wires ran along the back property line. Yep, you got it – that means the “wire drops” to feed the house hung right over the backyard. In fact, right over where the new raised terrace/patio was planned.
When the homeowner first moved in five years ago and we evaluated the landscape, it was clear we’d have to reroute the wires underground. It was therefore no surprise for the homeowner to see the cost in the budget, but they would have rather saved that money or spent it on an enjoyable feature.
Strict Codes and Regulations
As you would expect, putting the utilities underground was one of the first phases of this project. The toughest codes and regulations applied to the power lines. The licensed electrician on the job contacted the power company to begin the process. Paperwork was filled out and a representative from the power company visited the site to guide us on the details & requirements. He even marked the utility pole where he wanted our underground conduit to come up. I’m told by a power company worker that this is particularly important on poles located along the road because they want the conduit away from where a car would likely strike it. Good thinking, right?
The trench was dug 3′ or greater in depth. In the bottom we placed a layer of sand and then three PVC conduits. The largest diameter is for power, and the other two for phone and cable.
Whether you’re closing a trench that contains sprinkler pipe, water lines, gas lines or electric, take the time to be careful how you backfill. In the case of these major utilities the conduits were resting on top of sand and then eventually covered with sand. This does 2 important things:
- The sand provides a clean, rock-free surround to protect the pipes.
- The sand serves as a “marker material” that should warn anybody that might ever be digging nearby that there are utilities in the area.
An additional requirement was to bury a special metallic tape just above the sand layer . This tape would also serve as a “visual marker” if someone were digging, but also, because it is metallic it can be traced electronically.
Like everything else in construction, be thorough and don’t cut corners. You don’t want any problems showing up in the future.
Here’s the next post on this project.