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All over the country, people are surprised by seeing colorful flags stuck in their yard, or sometimes even finding their grass spray-painted. Is this some new holiday nobody told you about? No. It probably means that a neighbor is about to do some digging, or that a utility operator is planning repair and maintenance, or the city’s going to excavate and needs to mark buried lines and piping in the next month.

What are these flags in my backyard? If you found land survey marking flags in your yard and are not sure what to do or what they mean keep reading to learn more!

811 Dig

You’ve probably heard of 811 Dig. This is part of our great national system of keeping track of underground lines and locating utilities. Line owners and utilities must register their underground assets, and anybody planning to excavate must check out their property for matches. The “excavator” category includes swimming pool contractors, landscapers, do-it-yourselfers and yours truly, fence builders, like Buzz Custom Fence.

Backyard Yard Marking Flags

You might be tempted to blow off calling 811 if you’re only planting a tree or a fence post. It’s not like you’re building an underground bunker. But Texas law requires you to call 811 if you’re digging 16 inches or deeper. So be a good citizen and give them at least 48 hours’ notice.

Utility Flag Color Code

So what does this rainbow of marking flags in your yard mean?

  • Red flags – Red is the most common flag. It signifies electric utilities, such as cables and power lines. These mark the power lines that connect to a neighbor’s power grid. Marking these junctions helps avoid a neighborhood-wide power outage.
  • White flags – White flags mean excavation. Often you’ll see these set out for a city excavation project. The extent of the white flagged area will give you a sense of how big a project you’re in for.
  • Pink flags – These are used as temporary survey markings. As surveyors measure, they mark their work with pink flags. Measure twice, cut once, and use plenty of pink flags. Pink is also used to mark mysteries. If a utility can’t be identified, a worker will pink flag it.
  • Yellow flags – Just like yellow caution tape, you want to stand back from yellow flags. These mark gaseous materials, petroleum, steam and other stuff that’s nasty when it gets loose, possibly causing soil contamination or explosions.
  • Orange flags – Remember land lines? These get orange flags, as do other communication systems, such as signal or alarm lines, or TV cables. Don’t enrage your neighbor by cutting through that cable just before the big game.
  • Blue flags – Blue means water, irrigation or slurry. Usually this is drinking water. Damage this line and you could flood your home or find yourself without drinking water for a few days.
  • Purple flags – Purple also marks water, but the kind you don’t want to drink: recycled water from waste water. But it’s good for landscape irrigation.
  • Green flags – Green flags mean drain lines and sewers. Cutting this line could release poisonous gasses and flood the neighborhood.

Ready for a new fence?

Utility Flag Marking Cheatsheet

Having trouble memorizing what each color flag is used for? Use our flag color cheatsheet.

Flag ColorUse
RedElectrical utilities like power lines
WhiteExcavation
PinkTemporary survey markings
YellowGas lines like petroleum, steam
OrangeCommunication lines
BlueWater lines
PurpleUndrinkable water lines
GreenSewer lines

Summing up

There really is no good line to cut. So call before you dig. And if you’re looking this up because you just cut a line and you’re trying to figure out how bad it is, it’s time to fess up. Call 811 and they’ll help you file a damage report. Or get more information online at the Texas 811 website.
Want some help on that fence project? Call the pros at Buzz today. We can explain dig flags while blindfolded and asleep.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do the different colored utility flags mean?
Different colored flags are used by different industries to mark different kinds if buried lines before digging.

What do the colored flags in the yard mean?
Colored flags in your yard mean someone is surveying hidden lines and maybe planning a digging project nearby in the next few months.

Why are there utility flags in my yard?
Utility companies will leave colored flags in your yard to mark buried lines.

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