Utility Potholing

View of pothole

Safe Utility Exposure offers both Air-Vacuum Potholing and Hydro-Assisted Vacuum Potholing based on the project’s needs. As underground utility corridors become increasingly more congested and complicated in design because of the high competition for space, the need for accurate and cost-effective methods for determining the exact vertical and horizontal locations of underground structures becomes an integral part in the design-build process. Potholing offers the client a non-destructive, quick, safe and cost-effective means for excavating areas inaccessible to conventional digging equipment.

The majority of the time, potholing is accomplished using air-vacuum excavation. This method uses high pressure air flow to fluidize the soil, while a powerful vacuum removes the loosened soil to a holding tank where it will later be used as backfill or removed for disposal. In this process, potholes can be as small as 8-10 inches in diameter or up to 2-foot square depending on the job. Air-vacuum excavation offers the benefits of keeping the vacuum spoils dry allowing for reuse as backfilling material and eliminating both the time and expense associated with mud disposal. Our air-vacuum excavation system provides the safest, fastest and cleanest method for underground utility locating, deep soil sampling, and pipeline maintenance using keyhole technology, all without disturbance to the roadbase.


In some circumstances, it may be desirable to opt for hydro-vacuum excavation. Similar to air-vacuum evacuation, hydro-vacuum uses a high-pressure stream of water to break-up soil while the vacuum removes the spoils for disposal. Hydro-excavation is suited when soil type prevents the use of the air-vacuum method, when large areas are to be excavated, or when utilities are deeper than what can be accomplished through air-vacuum methods alone.

closeview1_tnPrior to the commencement of any potholing job, SUE can provide our own implementation of traffic control when required lane closures are based on WATCH or MUTCD plans. SUE will also provide all necessary USA dig-alert tickets, and provide plan markups with keyed indexes of potholing locations to the client

SUE knows that there is more to merely locating underground structures when potholing services are being rendered. As such, we provide accurate and timely data recording, hi-res digital photo files of the location and plan mark-ups as a means to aid in the design process.

Street-level mark-ups of the locationOur clients can rest knowing that they are getting the safest and most accurate data when using Safe Utility Exposure, Inc.

Potholing Applications:

  • Locating underground utilities for design-build projects without the cost and damage rendered using convention excavation methods.
  • Tie-ins to existing utilities including electric, water, sewer, storm drains, gas, fiber optic, and cable.
  • Finding gas or leaks
  • Determining substructures – footing depths, rebar, post tension cables, concrete ductbanks, and maintenance hole structures