Sydney Utility Locating Professionals Answer | What is Utility Locating?


If you’re planning to perform any kind of excavation activity, utility locating would be high on your list of priorities to be completed. 

Be it excavating a trench or a civil construction project, digging up the earth can be risky, particularly if proper safety procedures are not implemented in advance to identify potential risk areas.

This failure to carry out sufficient and accurate utility locating can result in serious injury, property damage, and worse resulting in death. 

This article will take a closer look at the importance of utility locating and how it can help you make better-informed choices out on site.

What is Utility Locating?

Utility locating is a method of mapping and marking underground utilities by using high-tech equipment such as ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electromagnetic EM locating methods. 

Geoscope Utility Locating Services using Ground Penetrating Radar on-site


Geoscope’s Certified Professional Utility Locators using ground penetrating radar on-site

Once detected, the underground services will be marked out using chalk, spray paint, flags, or tape- depending on the pavement type or scope of work. 

Underground utilities include electricity cables, sewer pipes, gas pipes, water lines, conduits, council drainage, stormwater, oil pipelines, telephone and communication cables etc.

Why use a Utility Locating Company?

Geoscope Utility Detection Services being present on-site


Geoscope Locating providing utility service in Sydney, NSW

Digging up the ground is never a straightforward task and can be made even more difficult due to the extensive network of subsurface utility services below.

That’s where utility locating is recommended. 

Having a team to support you by accurately locating underground utilities can be the make or break of a construction project’s success.

When you have certified locators like Geoscope on-site, you aren’t just getting a guy out on site to scan

Marking underground utilities before beginning a trenching, excavation, concrete cutting, and drilling project, helps you ensure that your work area has all the buried utilities and any underground services lines located so you don’t accidentally dig them up.

How do we locate utilities?

Geoscope Utility Locating Marking Services


Geoscope Utility Locating Marking Services in Parramatta Square, Sydney NSW

The Electromagnetic (EM) Induction method is one way to locate underground utility lines. This technique can transmit signals into pipes and cables in the form of electromagnetic fields which we receive with our utility locator. 

The electromagnetic utility locating method can find metal and conductive utilities such as gas lines, phone lines, and electrical cables. As long as we are able to pulse our signal down the line of the metallic utility we’ll be able to find these services.

However, there are some limitations to electromagnetic locating where it is unable to locate plastic pipes, pipes or cables that have been damaged or repaired with a joint of the non-metallic section, in highly congested areas of underground utilities like a CBD footpath or substation with interfering electrical fields, or utilities which are buried very deep underground which returns a weak signal back to the surface where we are standing.

The electromagnetic induction methods are used by certified locating companies to help civil crews and excavation diggers who are looking for the exact location of an underground utility line so that they can dig safely around it before they are drilling or trenching for cables. Here are the methods of locating underground utilities using electromagnetic locating techniques.

  1. Direct Connection

There are many ways to find metallic utility lines, but this is the most used approach for utility locators when locating subsurface utilities.

The transmitter is connected to the target line’s access point, for example, a valve or other junction where utility lines are accessible. The transmitter’s direct connection lead should be connected to the target line and the other set of leads are connected directly to the ground or earth stake.

The frequency and power output of the transmitter are adjusted to fit the properties of the target line being traced, the surrounding soil, and other nearby utilities. 

Selecting the right frequency is important to stop electromagnetic coupling or signal “bleed off” to other metal utilities or objects.

The utility locator then will trace and wave the locator back and forth until they find the strongest signal reading. This process is called “sweeping”. After the line is traced the locator will mark the location and depth of the utilities.

  1. Ring Clamp Induction

This method uses induction to transmit a signal over a metallic cable or conduit where a direct connection is not possible. 

The clamp lead is plugged in and connected to the transmitter and then clamped around the target metallic pipe or cable. This method transmits signals to the target line without metal-to-metal contact. 

While ring clamp inductive locating is a great tool for locating underground utility lines, we always try and go for a direct connection first where possible.

  1. Induction 

Induction, or the drop box or induction sweep method is another great method to use when there are limitations to accessing a utility by direct connect or ring clamp.

Sometimes as utility locators, we just don’t get access to the utility to be able to actively send a signal down it.

Induction works by pulsing a signal from the bottom of the transmitter itself and when dropped on top of a utility, this signal will spill into the ground and induce the pipe or cable.

While this induction spillage method is a good way to get out of trouble when you cannot access the utility, It may not be effective in congested areas where there are many utilities present in one area. 

  1. Sonde and Flexi Rod

A sonde, flexible rod, or Flexitrace is a highly effective method of tracing non-metallic underground pipes, conduits, drains, and sewer lines. 

The sonde is a battery-powered transmitter that when powered will emit a traceable electromagnetic field.

The flexitrace rodder has a metal wire inside the fibreglass rodder that when directly connected to can be traced like any pipe or cable.

To locate the non-metallic drainage pipes, the sonde and flexible rod are inserted and pushed inside the pipe, conduit, or utility line that we are targeting to locate. 

Using a transmitter and connection leads it will transmit signals down the rodder. The utility locator will then trace the signal above the ground, sweeping back and forth, side to side until we detect the strongest readings.

  1. GPR Ground Penetrating Radar

Geoscope's Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) Services in Sydney


Geoscope’s Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) Service Locating in Sydney

Another widespread utility locating instrument is the GPR or Ground penetrating radar. Using this non-destructive locating method, it is possible to locate non-conductive and metallic services in ideal soil conditions and environments.

GPR works by transmitting electromagnetic radio pulses with a set frequency such as 450MHz into the ground where those pulses are returned back to the receiver once they have bounced and reflected off buried targets in the ground such as pipes, cables and utilities. 

GPR has the capability of locating underground metallic as well as non-metallic utilities such as plastic pipes.

Who to choose for underground utility locating?

Geoscope Utility Marking Services in Parramatta Sydney


Geoscope Utility Marking Services in Sydney NSW

The use of underground utility locators nowadays is a common practice and an essential first step in the construction industry. 

When you’re planning a project, it’s important to hire an underground utility locator you can trust to prevent potential costly delays and accidental damage to underground services from not having all of the subsurface utility information documented. 

This ensures that your project goes off without a hitch.

So when choosing a utility locating company it is necessary that they have been doing this for a while. Having years of experience and expertise with a track record is a great start. 

Check out some reviews online of a couple of utility locating companies that you think will be able to help you. Reviews will help guide you to reaching out to these utility locating companies where you can see for yourself whether or not this company would be a good fit for your project.

Speak to colleagues and people in your industry. Who do they use, like or trust? It’s one thing for the internet to tell you something or the first advertisement on google, but your mates out on site will know the true story.

Engaging a certified utility locating company will allow for a more efficient and safe construction process. Choose a utility locating company that is equipped with the most advanced technology and methods and a team that wants you to win.

Now that you’ve got all the information you need, it’s time to make your choice.

What We Offer

Geoscope Utility Detection Services van on-site


Van of Geoscope Utility Detection Services on-site

Geoscope Utility Detection Services offers first and foremost, a promise to help keep everyone safe in and around our work site.

We promise to have quality, consistency and focus on accuracy when it comes to delivering subsurface utility information services to you and your team.

We can back this up with a precise selection of utility locating methods and use the latest technology and equipment, which means less guesswork when it comes to digging!

The right utility locating company will help your project become safer, and more efficient, and improve the bottom line.

Don’t leave your project to chance. Ensure safety, accuracy, and reliability with our highly skilled technicians who are experienced in subsurface utility engineering processes. Contact us today!


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