Utility mapping: the easy way to find underground utility lines

Published: 02nd December 2011
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When digging takes place on a building site, it's likely the worker(s) will come across various utility lines. To prevent any prospective costly damage to these lines, it is necessary to hire the services of a utility mapping business, which will show the construction business a layout of where utility lines can be found.

What's utility mapping?

Underground utility lines can be located by utility mapping businesses, that give construction companies detailed maps of various utility linesí whereabouts. Utility lines that can be found underground cover anything from mains water lines and sewer pipes, to power cables, television cables and phone lines.

How does utility mapping work?

Utility mapping businesses offer the customer an up-to-date utility lines layout in the form of two dimensional and three dimensional maps. This doesnít take a lot of time, and is done via GPS (global positioning system) tools. The utility mapping data is referenced to an arbitrary grid and level datum as standard. The drawing can also be supplied to a specified grid & level datum and/or overlaid on an existing topographical survey. A range of colours can also be used to outline every different utility line - e.g. a different colour for water lines and a different colour for sewerage lines.

Utility mapping technology

There are many different technologies used by mapping companies to find a range of utility lines. Utility mapping technologies include electromagnetic detection, acoustic detection, ground penetrating radars and live-line detectors. Different techniques have to be used to recognize different types of matter such as metal, plastic, concrete, ceramic or fibre optic components.

Additional utility mapping details

The client also can ask for further details from their utility mapping company. These extra details include fixed surface utility features including inspection chambers or telegraph poles, as well as key topographic features like fence lines or kerb lines. Street names, building names as well as house numbers could also be included in the clientís map to help in the site location.

Why employ the services of a utility mapping business?

1. Gain confidence and trust from utility owners

If the business has evidence that they have utilised the services of a utility mapping company, then the specific owners of the utility lines will have a lot more trust and confidence in the particular construction project (they wonít fear damage to utility lines.)

2. Utilities can be easily found

By using the services of a utility mapping company, a siteís construction and maintenance teams can readily find various utility lines.

3. Accurate utility map guaranteed

It is necessary to contact a utility mapping company prior to any new construction project. Even if a firm has a utility map already, that particular map might be outdated where recent upkeep, repair or adjustments might have happened. It may also display utility lines which never actually materialised.

4. Avoid liability

Utility mapping data is frequently added onto building designs or construction plans. If this particular data isnít included in the design or plan, your business could possibly be held accountable for damaged utility lines, resulting in a costly outcome.

5. Health and safety regulations

Businesses can also use utility mapping to comply with health and safety regulations. A utility mapping service is a safe and cost-effective solution for clients who need to undertake excavation works on sites where a record is required for future reference or as part of the pre-construction feasibility and design works.

Bearing all these factors in mind, it is also important to use a company with experience and expertise in the field of utility mapping.Detailed maps of underground utilities should be presented in an easy-to-use format and should provide a colour coded drawing of known utilities and key topographic features.

All in all, utility mapping has come a long way with its various modern and advanced technologies. It is a legal requirement to contact the authorities before undergoing any construction process. However, by employing the services of an underground utility mapping service will save your company both money and time.


The author works closely with the SUMO Group, a multi-disciplinary survey company focused on maintaining the highest possible standards in all aspects of utility mapping . SUMO runs a network of thirty fully equipped survey teams strategically located throughout the UK.

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