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Why Potholing or Daylighting This Way
Is The Most Profitable



Potholing - The Other KindNo, not that kind of potholing (caving)

Potholing and daylighting are terms used to describe the excavating of utilities using vacuum excavation. This method of no-dig excavation is used to find underground utilities in either vertical or horizontal locations and to safely expose without risk of damage compared to traditional backhoe excavation.

Related Article: What is Vacuum Excavation?


Potholing is not to be confused with pole and piling hole excavation which is the excavation of holes for any kind of pole including structural supports. A vacuum excavator is perfect for this kind of job because of the precision possible when excavating.


Potholing OperationPotholing operation


Potholing or daylighting is done during any stage of construction to collect data prior to the planning phase. Locates help determine the size and type of infrastructure and give visual confirmation.

Vacuum excavators are considered the most productive, safest and efficient means of daylighting. Daily news reports of occurrences of excavation accidents using standard trenching and excavation techniques are common.

  • "Construction crews cause a water main break spraying water onto the main roadway and causing congestion."
  • "Sewer contractors also knock out power for surrounding customers causing temporary traffic shutdowns."
  • "Underground boring machines doing trenchless sewer repair strike electrical cables causing untold lost productivity and profits."
  • "Construction crews also broke gas pipes causing a leak, creating a cloud of dirt and gas and forced the evacuation of nearby homes while crews checked gas levels in the cloud. Shortly after, during cleanup operations, that same type of puncture happened again and the area had to be evacuated again."


The First Step in Potholing is to do a Utility Investigation.


  • Visual confirmation of buried utilities
  • Splice and service pits
  • Drilling test holes
  • Utility and pipeline crossings

During a utility investigation they identify horizontal and vertical locates using an electro magnetic locator, ground penetrating radar, CCTV sewer inspection camera or various other devices. Once locates have been compiled, the soft digging starts.

Hardscape surfaces are removed, then daylighting begins with either air pressure or high pressure water loosening soil and a vacuum excavation hose lifting the soil. Utilities are exposed and recorded and then the hole is refilled, rehabilitating the surface.


Air versus Water Excavation

Though compressed air makes for a safer procedure, water is far more effective and productive with loosening soil and exposing utilities. Water can cut through harder and frozen soils more easily than compressed air. Using either air or water medium during daylighting requires the same safety precautions during the soft digging process. For larger projects, water is the preferred means of excavation, especially around crucial utilities such as communication and fiber lines.

Related Safety Article: OSHA Training Online

Potholing or daylighting with vacuum excavators is taking the trenching and excavation industries by storm offering enormous safety and cost savings. Call your vacuum excavation provider for further information.


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