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Finding buried wire

  1. Jul 30, 2015 #1
    Good evening all you wizards,

    How would I locate each end of a buried electrical line? It was disconnected some 15 years ago, used to energize a submersible pump for a house water supply. It is probably 300 feet in length....I would guess it would be a 10-3 or 8-3 awg wire? I know the general area where the ends "might" be. Neither end is connected to anything....just buried in the ground. I hope I've explained my situation properly.

    I've read a few threads here...this is a very intelligent group!

    Thanks a bunch. I look forward to your answers.

    Hendersonville, NC
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 30, 2015 #2


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    See if your local 'big box' store has a tracer instrument rental. If it's dead and several feet underground you will need some expensive equipment to find it without digging.
  4. Jul 30, 2015 #3
    Thanks for the suggestion, nsa. As that length of wire will be expensive, Im being a cheapskate in an attempt to reuse the wire that's already there.

    Again, I appreciate your response.
  5. Jul 30, 2015 #4
    It must have connected something to something else at one time..
    That would be the place to to start digging.
  6. Jul 30, 2015 #5


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    You will need to find one end in order to use any type of locator. In the past I have used an RF signal generator tuned to some place quiet in the commercial AM band. I hooked the end of the buried wire to the output of the signal generator and used a small handheld AM receiver to find the route of the cable. Adjust the output of the generator low enough so it is easier to pinpoint the location.
  7. Jul 31, 2015 #6
    You might try a metal detector. They are only good to about ½ a meter depth, so you would likely need to find the ends near the surface rather than the length of the wire.

    Ground penetrating radar would likely work, but that seems excessive somehow.
  8. Jul 31, 2015 #7
  9. Jul 31, 2015 #8
    Yes, Rootone, it was previously used to power a submersible pump for a mobile home water supply. The home was taken off the property but the wires were not marked. I have a general idea of where to start digging, though.
  10. Jul 31, 2015 #9
  11. Jul 31, 2015 #10
    Good morning 'Nova,

    I'm pretty certain I can find at least one end of the wire. I will research your solution and see what I can figure out. I am a mechanically inclined person, but will have to study up on the terms and equipment you mentioned. Thank you much for taking the time to reply.


  12. Jul 31, 2015 #11
  13. Jul 31, 2015 #12
    Good morning Jeff,

    Great idea. I'm almost certain the ends of the wire are shallow enough to use a metal detector.

    I appreciate the helpful info!

    Great group here!

    Again, my thanks.

  14. Jul 31, 2015 #13


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    There are underground utility locators that work on induction, if you know pretty close to where the wire may be.
    I think the company that makes the one we have is stanlay. It is a two part tool, with a signal generator and a "wand" to follow
    the wire. They work pretty well. I would see if you could find one end, and maybe ask an electrician with one of these to trace it out for
    you for a nominal fee, or rent one.
  15. Aug 1, 2015 #14


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    Vegetation is often reduced in the year that a cable goes into the ground. There may then be better growth during the next few years due to the soil disturbance. Those effects show up on aerial photography or satellite pictures. Sometimes the soil disturbance will show up many years later because of an unusual drought. Google Earth and wind back the time. Go to the archives and see what you can find. There may also be aerial photography runs across the area that show the location of the original structures at the ends of the wire.

    Depending on the depth of the trench and the soil profile, you may only need to remove the surface soil to see a change in soil that resulted from the original disturbance. Dig a shallow archaeological test trench across the cable's probable path. Identify and then follow the disturbance indicators.
  16. Aug 1, 2015 #15
    A good idea. It might not work, but it's cheap.

    Be careful with digging though. It's easy to nick a cable with a shovel.
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