Dial Before You Dig - At Your Service
House Rules is a popular reality program now showing on the Seven Network nationally.
Six teams travel Australia renovating each others' houses. The winning team has their mortgage paid in full.
This month contestants have managed to damage four underground pipes and cables in the yards of different properties.
A sewer pipe from a septic tank, a stormwater drainage pipe, a telephone cable and a gas service were all cut.
While this is reality TV, the risks and costs are the same as for anyone else; lost time, the cost of repair, danger and loss of supply.
The pipes and cables that bring gas, water and electricity from the street to your house are called services. Telecommunications cables are called lead-ins.
Services can be tricky to work around as they are often shallow. They can also be unpredictable. There are often privately-installed services on private properties. And utilities often do not know exactly where services run once onsite.
So what could the House Rules contestants have done to lessen the risk of hitting services?
Dial Before You Dig
The House Rules contestants did have Dial Before You Dig plans.
This was smart because while information on services can be sketchy, information provided through Dial Before You Dig is still useful.
For example, plans will usually show where the service is coming from and where it enters the property.
Dial Before You Dig will also show any mains and cables on the property. Many major networks on private property do not have an easement.
And remember in NSW it's the law to notify Dial Before You Dig - including private property.
Look for Clues
Reality TV contestants work to strict deadlines. This pressure can make it hard to take the time to look around for evidence of where services are located.
But taking the time to look for clues is time well spent.
Clues onsite can include a downpipe running down a wall into the ground, a water or gas meter, or the top of a septic tank.
As Dial Before You Dig plans usually show where the service comes from in the street, you can often look for the pit or valve that shows where the service originates.
All these clues can allow you to piece together where the service pipe or cable will be.
Ask for Help
Often the homeowner or facilities manager will know something about where the pipes and cables are.
On major sites there are often diagrams available of the services installed.
Member utilities will provide help over the phone to understand what the plans are showing. Contact numbers are provided with every plan.
Help is also available from professional cable and pipe locators. Locators charge by the hour to locate pipes and cables.
Telstra provides a list of accredited locators with every Dial Before You Dig plan. The Utility Location Contractors Association also has a list of locators at www.nulca.com.au.
Hiring a locator will cost you money, but it may save you much more in time and cost.
Above: Hitting services and lead-ins means cost and danger. Dial Before You Dig can help to lessen this risk.