When it comes to a new building or excavation project, utility mapping is not the place to try and reduce project costs. It’s a vital part of success, so here are 7 tips to guide you towards finding the right detection method for your project.
Don’t underestimate the importance
Not taking the time to thoroughly check for underground utilities can have serious consequences. In severe cases, this can result in physical injury to workers but it can also result in fines from contractors, project delays, loss of service (particularly if telecommunication lines are damaged), liability issues, and expensive repairs.
Consider the terrain
When deciding what underground method to use, the terrain can be an important factor. Certain methods, such as ground-penetrating radar (GPR), have to stay close to the ground and be able to move smoothly over it, whereas a magnetometer can work well in heavily wooded areas or uneven surfaces.
Each detection method has different levels of invasiveness from completely above ground, to making small test holes and vacuuming dirt away until the line is visible. Depending on how much you want the ground pulled up, this may affect your choice of detection method and it is worth looking into.
Detection methods can excel with specific types of materials and struggle with others. For example, a magnetometer specializes in locating ferrous metals and will not be helpful for locating aluminum, brass, or copper. Meanwhile, an electromagnetic locator might struggle with finding plastic, terra cotta, or asbestos materials, but is particularly efficient at picking up gas, electric, and water lines.
Consider the information each method provides
The potholing method helps workers understand the depth, line type, and position while ground-penetrating radar provides a two-dimensional image of the subsurface. Each method delivers different types of information and in different ways, so it’s important to understand what kind of data you’ll be gaining from using a specific method.
While it been covered that GPR has issues with uneven terrains and magnetometers can only locate ferrous materials, it’s important to consider other limitations as well, particularly ones that lead to interference of collecting accurate data.
Main Methods to Explore
Throughout the tips, quite a few methods have been mentioned, but if you’re in need of underground utility detection, there are seven major types that are worth looking into. Ground Penetrating Radar, Magnetometers, and Potholing will all sound familiar if you’ve read the tips carefully, but you may also want to explore electromagnetic locators, frequency locators, cable locators, and acoustic pipe location as other methods of detection.
Bonus Tip: Colour Coding Scheme
It’s worth having a basic understanding of what happens after utilities have been detected. Each utility line’s path will be denoted with a series of flags and each type of utility has a different flag color: yellow for gas, red for electricity, green for sewage, and orange for communications just to name a few.
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