So I'm starting the design of my Home Sprinkler system, and the first thing I do naturally is call the utility company and have them mark everything. The problem is, they've essentially "boxed off" a big section of yard to where if I'm going to get at least 50% of my house covered by sprinklers I'd have to go over at least one utility line. I figure maybe there's a few options:

  1. Dig really carefully (I'll resort to my kid's Sand Shovel if needed)? One of the lines is a telephone line so I figure if I break the line the electric shock wouldn't be too great.
  2. Ask someone about relocating a line?
  3. Maybe go topside for a stretch over the line in question?
  4. One side of the "box" is the property line, I could ask my neighbor about a tresspass to circle around the utilities, don't know about the legal issues there.

Other ideas?

  • 2
    how deep is the sprinkler? I would assume the utilities should be buried much deeper than the sprinklers...but that's an assumption...so maybe check with the utilities as to how deep they are.
    – DA.
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 23:09
  • 2
    phone lines are easily severed with a spade and likely to be anywhere! Common sense has no place where they are, be careful there is no electric shock but angry neighbours with no phone lines are trouble!
    – kevinskio
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 23:37
  • 2
    Phone lines should be run through a conduit. Call the utility, explain your situation, and ask for guidance. If you have buried gas lines, don't just "dig really carefully".
    – bstpierre
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 12:35
  • Well if I can cross my phone line I'll be fine and can do the entire yard pretty well. Maybe I'll just get my kids Plastic Sand Toy Shovel/My own fingers and dig around the line a few inches down and see if I spot anything. If I go more than 6 inches deep and don't spot anything I'll just manually run pipe across the area and be in the clear. Also nothing in the area I need to dig says Gas fortunately and the electric line is similarly avoidable. The box consists of 2 phone lines, the cable company line and the property line (so I could circumvent talking to a neighbor).
    – tekiegreg
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 16:11
  • Redesign your sprinkler system? Run water line above ground, near the foundation into the area that's boxed off?
    – baka
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 1:54

3 Answers 3


I have three proposed solutions for your problem, with a better idea of your particular situation I could recommend one but here they are in order of most practical based on my opinion. (I believe in avoiding going near utility lines at all costs, the average water lines lay 18" deep and telephone and electricity have been known to come closer to the surface in situations where rocks or roots became a problem)

  1. Build Raised mulch beds; raised mulch beds look nice even without cutting out an edge. Depending on what/if you would like to plant in these mulch beds and the condition of your current soil would determine how raised. Remember that you are going to want to touch up these beds with additional mulch in the future so keep them low and maintainable now. Gradually run your irrigation to raise just above the ground where it crosses these lines (avoid additional joints and elbows, the less pieces the better). Get your system working first. Then do the mulch beds. I recommend a form of landscape fabric from your local department store or nursery to guard against weeds. I have even heard of people using newspaper, but that will not last as long as a fabric. Also a product called "preen"; which can be picked up at the same place, is a seed like product that you can spread in the beds (I do it to mine every spring) it prevents anything from seeding. (don't expect it to be 100% efficient)
  2. The second option would be a form of hardscaping; small retaining wall or perhaps a waterscape? I am from New Hampshire where frost heaves in the winter freeze the moisture in the soil, moving the ground. The standard base I use is 5-8" of a 3/4" processed gravel commonly referred to as road base topper with 2-3" of sand or stone dust. I prefer working with stone dust. I gave you those numbers strictly for the purpose of planning the costs of your project. If anyone would like a full description of the proper methods in hardscaping please ask, but I would not want to try to fit that in here. If you choose the hardscaping option make note of where your irrigation line runs under it. Just in case.
  3. A third option which is a stretch would be to have a pipe fitter run you a water line sticking out the opposite side of your house. I know nothing about this but while he is there throw in a new hot water tank and go green and then maybe drop a hot tub down there to treat yourself for going green. You deserve it. If you would like recommendations on products or details on any methods please ask. be safe.

It looks like you are in Colorado where the temperatures might get quite low. Please, do NOT have you or your kids use plastic shovels to "dig around" your phone lines - this kind of experimentation can lead to injury, damage to the lines and, thus, unintended consequences. Check depths. Call the phone company. Find out how deep the lines are laid. Generally they are enclosed (find out) in piping and deeper than what is required for a sprinkler system. Utitlies are marked off for a reason - to protect you and to prevent damage. Check relative depths - I think you will find most municipal services delivered by wire are not only enclosed but buried quite deeply to prevent heaving during the freeze/thaw cycle of winter. They did their due diligence. As a "do-it-yourselfer", please do yours.


The FAQ at bluestakes.org* under the question “Can I dig near the markings” gives this info:

“After the markings have been made, excavators should maintain a minimum clearance of 24 inches between a marked and unexposed underground facility and the cutting edge or point of any power-operated or earth moving equipment. If excavation is required within 24 inches horizontally of any marking, the excavation should be performed with extreme care utilizing hand tools or vacuum excavation techniques.

*bluestakes.org site accessed on Apr 6, 2022

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