Landscape Ready: Utility Marking, Underground Septic & Sewer Back-Up

Remember the “Beverly Hillbillies?” With apologies to Jed, Grannie and the clan, consider the following variation:
“Come and listen to a story about a lady named McGee
A simple suburban homester just wanting a new tree
But when our green thumber plunged that shovel in the ground
Up from the depths come a-bubblin’ brown….
…Sewage, that is. Smelly sludge, septic tank tea.”
And if you’ll forgive the mixed metaphors, a smelly yard may be just the tip of the iceberg when you dig before being sure exactly where your local underground utilities are located. Negligent homeowners may face a myriad of exposures to loss beyond the possible damages to their own property or house plumbing:
  • Severe injury if that shovel hits an electrified line. (Hit a natural gas line and they may never find you again.)
  • Fines from local regulators.
  • Liability for repair expenses to utility companies.
  • Liability to neighbors for cutting power, water, phone, cable or sewage lines.
  • Even if there is no immediate visible damage, your shovel may damage the protective coating of a gas line, for example, starting a gradual leakage or deterioration that is a ticking time bomb.
Yet according to a recent national survey conducted by the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), only 33% of homeowner do-it-yourselfers called to have their lines marked before starting digging projects. (CGA is a coalition of 1,400 excavators, locators, and road builders; telecommunications, electric, oil and gas providers; railroads; one-call centers, public works, equipment manufacturers and suppliers, state regulators, insurance firms, engineering/design firms, and emergency services.)

Too Shallow? Careful!
And speaking of time bombs, even if you’re thinking like many of those non-callers that your planting is too shallow or located sufficiently to the side to impact deeply buried utilities, consider future growth: Could those spreading tree roots eventually make their way into nearby sewer lines, causing anything from nuisance blockages to major and expensive damage and backups?
The answer, thanks to the FCC and the CGA, is as simple as three numbers: 811. There have long been numerous local “Call Before You Dig” numbers furnished by municipalities and utility companies. The FCC mandated a single, national phone number be created in addition to the existing local options to increase convenience, compliance and eliminate confusion, while continuing free and local service.

Nice Colors

The 811 calls are directed to a local center, which then notifies all the affected utilities. They then mark all underground lines—at no cost to you—with easily recognized colored lines or flags:

  • Red, electric.
  • Orange, communications, telephone/CATV.
  • Blue, potable water.
  • Green, sewer/drainage.
  • Yellow, gas or oil.
  • Purple, reclaimed water or irrigation.
  • Maroon, temporary survey.
  • White, pre-marked site of intended excavation.
Be sure to call at least 48-72 hours in advance of digging, and be prepared with specific information on your plans. When it comes to digging in your yard, 811 represents the best of risk management—minimizing or eliminating the claim entirely!
Coverage Idea
Even your best-laid plans might not prevent a basement or ground floor bathroom to be suddenly awash in sewage backup. That’s why you should ask your agent about special endorsements to your home insurance to respond to such backups. Be sure to tell your agent the amount of valuable property you have in the basement. While old-time basements often held only old stuff in storage, today’s are often the center of family life—“man-caves” to recreation rooms!
If your best precautions should fail, add your Trusted Choice® agent to your Call Before You Dig list! Just like those utilities, he or she will gladly mark out the limits of your current coverage as it applies to your plans. (Now, if we insurance experts could just figure out a way to do it—red for property, blue for liability?—with those clever colored lines or flags!)
Posted courtesy of

10 Home Maintenance Tips for Spring

It seems as though everything has taken on a vibrant green hue, almost overnight! Spring is here – the time for barbeques and enjoying the fresh air… and also the time for some routine home maintenance. We’ve compiled a list of items to help you in giving your home a checkup along with its Spring cleaning.

    1. Tackle your furnace – Now is a great time to clean or replace your furnace filter.
    2. Check your water heater. Examine the base of your water heater for leaks, rust or other corrosion.
    3. Look over your clothes dryer. Clean the exhaust duct and the space underneath your dryer. Remove any lint, dust or scraps of material that might have collected there through the year.
    4. Inspect your roof for damage. Between winter weather and the blazing sun of summer, shingles often take quite a beating. If it appears that your roof is due for repair (or even replacement), now is a good time to start budgeting for that.
    5. Don’t forget the gutters. Make sure they are clear of leaves and debris. Are they securely attached? Check for leaks as well, and also see that the downspouts direct water away from your foundation, rather than leaving it to collect there.
    6. Examine your foundation. Check for cracks, and either seal them up or call for professional help. Look for areas around your foundation where water could pool (and then leak in) and fill them with compacted soil.
    7. Check the chimney. Have your chimney and flue cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep to ensure it will be ready for use next season.
    8. Trim the trees. Remove all dead trees in your yard, and keep the healthy ones (and bushes, too) trimmed away from utility wires.
    9. Level the walkways. Repair cracked, broken or uneven pathways to provide level walking surfaces.
    10. Pull out your fridge and clean the coils. It’s amazing what getting rid of that dust will do for your electric bill! Oh, ok. One more, just cuz we like you:

Oh, ok. One more – just cuz we like you. 😀

    1. Check your AC System. Whether you have central AC or individual window units, the time to ensure they are in working order is now. Don’t wait for an insanely hot day to discover they’re not functioning properly.

Is there something you do each Spring that didn’t make our list? Leave it here so others can benefit from your routine!