Power lines are sensitive cables that carry utilities to your homes. Hence, there are many safety risks while working near them.
That brings us to the question, Can you build a garage over buried power lines?
Yes, you can build a garage over buried power lines, if you are given a permit from the government. However, it is still not advisable to do so, due to multiple hazards it carries. Risk of a fire, explosion, etc are common in case of building a structure over power lines.
But, that is not all, read through the article below to know more about constructing over power lines and the safety concerns.
Can You Build A Garage Over Buried Power Lines?
Building a garage over buried power lines is not advisable, but can be done depending on a few factors. They are listed below.
How Deep Is The Power Line
The depth of the power line is a very important factor to consider before you start building a garage over it. Depending on the location, there is a minimum depth of the power lines at which they should be located.
If they are located anywhere above that depth, excavating will damage the power lines and cause accidents. You need to call your power supplier to find out the permissible depth for your location.
Then, you need to check and mark the location of your power lines. The tools that you will need for this are:
- Metal detector
- Non conducting probe
How To Detect The Power Line Depth
It’s important to note that detecting power line depth using a metal detector is not a reliable method and is not recommended as it can be dangerous.
The most accurate way to determine the depth of a power line is to contact the local utility company or a professional electrical contractor who can use specialized equipment to accurately locate and determine the depth of the power line.
Here is how they do it;
Step 1: The metal detector will beep upon detecting a buried power line.
Step 2: Then you can use the probe to find out how deep the power line is buried into the ground.
Step 3: If that doesn’t work, you need to dig out small amounts of ground carefully using a shovel until the power line is found.
Distance Of Power Line From The Roof Of The Garage
You should also ensure that the power line is at a permissible distance from the roof of the garage. Generally, an allowable distance of 8 ft is set by the National Electric Code(NEC).
There can be exceptions however. Thus it is advised to always call your utility service provider and consult them for your particular case. This should be done before you have start construction.
Permit From The Government
After obtaining the depth and distance of the power lines from the garage, there is another factor to consider. Whether you can or cannot build a garage over buried power lines will depend on the government’s permission.
The law “Call Before You Dig” states that you must call the Utilities Protection Center before doing any excavation.
You need to call 811, 2 days prior to digging, so that the power companies can mark the lines. Not abiding by this law may result in safety hazards or having you to pay a fine.
If your garage is more than 200 square feet in area, you need a government permit for building it. Since garages are generally larger than this, it is recommended to get a permit before construction.
Hazards Of Building Over Power Lines
There are quite a few dangers of building any sort of structure over buried power lines. This is because these lines carry current at very high voltage.
You need to consider the risk factors mentioned below;
- Creation of an electric arc that may lead to an explosion or fire.
- Power loss to surrounding neighborhood
- Electrocution from high voltage current upon coming into contact. This may cause serious injuries or even death.
Aside from these, usually there are other utility lines buried in the same place as the power lines. For instance, gas lines for the garage heater or water lines.
Solution To The Hazards
In order to prevent the hazards from happening, there are a few precautions you can take. You can do “sleeving”, or, follow safety practices while working with underground cables.
All the potential hazards of building a structure over buried power lines is caused by coming into contact with the lines. Therefore, if they could be protected from external contact, the problem could be brought under control.
To do this, you need to perform “sleeving”. Sleeving is a complicated technique that involves covering the power lines with protective material. This is done so that they come with no external contact.
This process has its own safety related issues and should only be done by professionals. This will cost you around $500.
Safety Excavation Practices
You can begin excavation by first making “trial holes” to check the depth and position of the power lines. To avoid damage to the lines, you should dig alongside the lines and not from above them.
While exposing the power lines, horizontal digging is recommended to control the force on hand tools better. Most importantly, all the hand tools must be insulated from before.
Method 2: (Alternative) Relocate the power lines
Since there are many obvious risks to building a garage over buried power lines, an alternative could be considered in this case. A useful alternative is relocating the existing power lines.
If you dig up the old power lines and place them somewhere else, you would not have to build your garage over it.
Although this could cause you a few thousand dollars, depending on the type of relocating, but it is efficient in the long run. This is because it could prevent the costs of repairing the damage caused by the hazards which is very expensive.
Are Buried Power Lines Insulated?
Power lines buried underground are heavily insulated by layers of insulating material. This is done to secure the high voltage current that passes through some of these utility lines.
Can You Pour Concrete Over Buried Utility Lines?
Pouring concrete over buried utility lines is possible but should be done carefully and in the presence of a professional. Experts recommend digging holes for the posts by hand to avoid damaging the lines or drilling a hole to run conduit under the slab.
What Is A Safe Distance From Power Lines?
In general, the minimum safe distance is 10 feet from overhead lines. The value of safe distance from a power line is set by the voltage carried by it. For power lines over 350 to 1,000 kV, the minimum distance is presumed to be 50 feet.
We hope that answers your question “Can you build a garage over buried power lines?”. Whether you decide for or against building a garage, it is always recommended to keep buried power lines in safe conditions.