This is a common concern we get from customers, and they are always asking what happens if a sprinkler or pipe is hit especially. Years ago we created a thorough utilities policy which reviews our stance on hazardous and non-hazardous lines. We share this policy online 24/7 on our website and require customers to review, approve, and sign before delivery. Please click here to read it >> Treeland’s Utilities Policy.
First off, you have hazardous utility lines such as gas & electric. Those are the lines of most concern, especially gas. By Texas State law, we are required to submit a ticket to TX811 for all tree removals, plantings, stakings, and restakings. Then from there, TX811 will contact all of the companies with lines in your front or backyard (as noted on each order). Each utility operator will come out and spray dashes on the grass or place flags where the public utility lines run. A really important point to remember is that Gas Line utility operators will only mark the underground facilities that they own and operate. They do not mark any lines that run from the meter to the residence, as those are owned by the homeowner. Third parties such as plumbers are the ones who installed the private gas lines which run from the meter to the house and the gas companies do not have that information, or own those private lines, and therefore do not mark them.
WHAT LINES ARE NOT MARKED BY TX811?
Tx811 does not mark gas lines extending from the meter to the house, main water lines, sprinkler pipe, sprinkler wire, septic systems, swimming pool water lines, swimming pool gas lines, swimming pool electric lines, electric lanterns, gas lanterns, propane tanks/lines and landscape lighting.
WHO DO I CALL TO HAVE MY PRIVATE LINES AND OTHER MISC. LINES MARKED?
One private utility locator service that customers can contact is Encompass Inspections (Jeff Patterson @ 713-703-4005).
I HAVE UTILTIY MARKINGS IN THE LOCATION WHERE I WANT MY TREE PLANTED?
Our customer’s placement of the trees will be reviewed at the time of delivery by our delivery crew. To avoid damaging any utilities we will not plant a tree, remove existing trees nor excavate within 18 inches of a marked utility line. Some customers ask us to just deliver the trees and they will arrange to have them planted by a third party who does not have a strict utilities policy like us. If the crew arrives and lines are in the way of planting and a customer does not want to move over or have the trees delivered to be planted by the third party then treeland will bring the trees back to the farm at no cost to the customer.
WHAT HAPPENS IF TREELAND HITS A NON-HAZADOROUS LINE SUCH AS SPRINKLER PIPE?
The most common utilities that Treeland encounters are main water lines, sprinkler pipes and drip irrigation pipe. It is the customer’s responsibility to decide if they want to have each of these private utilities marked by a professional to prevent damage. We do not require that our customers have their private lines marked, and very few customers acutally have them done. I think I have seen maybe 5 customers call a private locator this year. It’s important to note that a casual mentioning of the location of the private utilities by the homeowner will not be sufficient, and they can not just point out things like the sprinkler heads. That does not tell us how the pipes lie underneath the ground. Treeland takes no financial responsibility for repairs or reimbursing the customers for their costs when private utilities are not marked or not marked correctly (utilities that are within one foot of either side of the markings are located correctly). If the private utilities are marked correctly and they are damaged then Treeland will take financial responsibility for repairs or reimbursing the customers for their costs. Unfortunately, we do not have a crystal ball and cannot guess where they are. The guys are very experienced planters and they work very quick and with sharp shovels. Our crew also hammers in stakes to keep the tree straight until established, and sometimes the stakes can hit lines as well.
We plant around 7,000 trees a year so we do occasionally hit a non-hazardous line. We do not hit any lines marked by TX811 since we require that customers move over 18″ from those. What we are always surprised by is when a customer gets very upset at us for hitting a private line that was not marked. We have a straight forward utilities policy and plant the tree exactly where we are told to. If customers have their private lines professionally marked by a locator and we accidentally hit them then we pay for any repair costs. If their lines are hit but not marked the good news is that most sprinkler repairs are of very minimal cost, and usually much cheaper than hiring a private locator. It is a roll of the dice for our customers when they do not hire a private locator, but unfortunately we cannot eat the cost for their lack of preparation for our crews. After a customer this week got very upset with us and told us that we have no regard for our customers and we hide behind our utility policy I wanted to share this blog and hopefully provide even more information to our customers in order to help them better understand our policy and why we have to have such a strict policy in place. If we covered all repair costs no matter what then no customers would never hire a private locator since they would know that we would just eat the cost, and they could save money by not having lines marked. It’s really very simple, you mark the private lines & we hit them – we pay for repairs. You don’t mark the private lines & we hit them – you pay for the repairs.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS ONCE A NON-HAZARDOUS LINE IS HIT WHILE THE CREW IS PLANTING?
In the event that Treeland’s crew sees a utility that is cut or broken then our crew will ask the customer if the tree can be planted in another area. Otherwise if the customer does not want to move over then the crew will bring the tree back to the farm until the repairs are resolved. We do not charge a fee for having to re-deliver the tree to the customer. In either one of these scenarios Treeland’s crew will expose the area of the damaged utility. We realize this may leave an unfinished job but you should verify that your contractor is going to clean the yard and cover the hole until we are able to return.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS ONCE A LINE IS HIT AND THE CUSTOMER DOESN’T NOTICE THE DAMGE UNTIL LATER?
There are instances when Treeland’s crew does not know that the utilities are damaged and the customer finds out after the job is complete.. If there is a stake that has damaged a utility then Treeland will come back out at no charge to the customer and restake the tree. If the damaged utility is below the rootball and the contractor can’t fix the utility then we would dig up and replant the tree at no cost to the customer.
We have a very fair and transparent policy. We always answer any questions our customers have before delivery, and provide the policy online and in their paperwork in advance of the delivery to review and sign. We do not want any customers to be surprised if a line is hit, and I do hope that by sharing this a few more customers will have a better understanding of the policy. Nobody wants a line hit, but it occasionally happens and we work with customers to address it as soon as possible. If you have any questions about our policy, please let us know, and we are happy to answer them!