What is potholing in construction?

We may hear the word potholing in several construction projects. At times, a construction crew may need to combine this with other methods while building a certain structure or starting other home improvement plans. But what does potholing really mean? And what purpose does it serve?

Springs Excavation Pros will explain everything you need to know about potholing and why it may be necessary for your project in this guide.

What does the term “potholing” mean in the construction industry?

By definition, potholing is a construction method that is done to expose utility lines that are usually located underground. According to Trenchlesspedia, potholing “confirms the location of utility lines on site and any other existing structures that may be within the defined construction area.” (1)

Potholing vs. Daylighting

Potholing may also be called “daylighting” or “utility potholing.” All these terms nearly mean the same thing and functions to locate utilities for repair, new installation, or to replace the existing systems. However, in technical terms, potholing often refers to a project done on a smaller area compared to daylighting that may deal with bigger-scale excavations.

Main purpose

The main purpose of potholing is to expose the utilities that are placed below surface level. When done properly, this technique will allow workers to assess and determine the type of utility and also its position and depth.

As an example, if a gas line is known to be installed under a certain property, many contractors may put their lives at risk if they just dig blindly. After all, the utility markers may be incorrectly marked which may result in an unfortunate accident. To prevent this, they may choose from different digging techniques such as hydro excavation which lessens the risks and hazards in the project.

Aside from locating utilities, potholing can also be used to install signage, poles, and fences, cut frost or ice, and clean tanks.


Potholing is an investigative technique mainly used for locating utilities and there are several other uses for it that explain its popularity. What are the different advantages you will get from potholing?

a.     It protects your property

Potholing is beneficial as it allows you to keep safety hazards in check. After all, one simple mistake can easily cost you your property and also the lives of others. To avoid the risk of electrocution and gas explosions, knowing exactly where your utilities are will definitely help.

b.    It allows you to start your project

In many instances, your project may not be started if your utilities are not taken care of. To avoid delays, potholing will get the work done for you to begin building or renovating your property.

c.     It allows you to save your resources

Damaging underground utility lines can be very costly to fix. If you want your project to be a smooth-sailing one, potholing will help you avoid extra expenses and fees. Also, if you are not careful, repairing broken utilities will just be a small problem. In some unfortunate cases, life-threatening accidents may also result from careless digging, which results in expensive hospital fees and treatment.

Methods of potholing

How is potholing done? In many cases, this technique is done by placing a small hole on the ground using different methods such as hand digging, using heavy-duty equipment such as a backhoe, or by vacuum excavation.

What are the different methods for potholing?

1)    Hand digging

Digging by hand or using tools manually is the simplest way of potholing. Although it is the cheapest method, the process can be very exhausting and will take too much time. However, if it is only for small-scale projects, hand digging will certainly get the job done.

2)    Backhoe

Using a backhoe to dig is very popular as it can get the job done fast. Unfortunately, this technique would not work best if the project is fragile as it can easily damage utilities and properties in a blink of an eye.

3)    Vacuum Excavation

Vacuum excavations are best if you want to make sure that your utilities and property are in good hands. This is because the method is accurate and efficient compared to other potholing techniques. Since it is highly reliable, there is a lesser chance of damaging utilities which makes it a low-risk method.

There are two types of vacuum excavations. First is air excavation, which makes use of air to loosen and break the soil. The second type is hydro excavation, which makes use of water to expose the underground utilities.  Hydro excavations work through the use of pressurized water that turns soil into a slurry. Depending on the project, the slurry may be dried under the sun for reusing or vacuumed into a tank for disposal.

Get help from the professionals

“Without the opinion of an expert there's no such thing as certainty.” ― Joanna Ruocco, Dan

Are you planning on installing a new phone connection, power line, or cable on your property? In this case, potholing the area will ensure that there is less surface damage that will be done to put the utility line in place.

When not done by an expert, a potholing project can easily cause damage to your property.

For more information about whether potholing will be a good technique for your project, call our team for a fast consultation process. We also offer trenching services for retaining walls, foundation footings, and more.


  1. What Does Potholing Mean? | Trenchlesspedia