What to know and ask before AT&T contractors come digging in your yard

(Ferre' Dollar/CNN)

HOUSTON – AT&T started installing fiber optics lines underground last year. When crews make it to your neighborhood, you'll notice. You can't miss the machinery. 

Before they begin working, you should get a door hanger from AT&T letting you know they will be in your neighborhood. The dates of when the work would start and finish were left blank on a door hanger left on a home in southwest Houston, but there should be a card attached with a phone number for the construction helpdesk. You should call and ask exactly when crews will begin digging. 

State law requires excavators to call 811 before they dig; and then wait 48 hours for the utility companies to come mark the underground lines. 

Here is what all those flags and paint lines mean: 

  • Yellow marks natural gas lines 
  • Red is for electric lines
  • Orange signals phone and cable lines 
  • Blue paint points to water lines; and green for sewer lines

CenterPoint says after the lines are marked, excavators must use hand tools, not machinery, to dig within 18 inches of the marks. What is not marked when contractors call 811 is the part of your electric line and plumbing line that you own. The electric drop from your meter box to the main CenterPoint line is your responsibility. CenterPoint doesn't mark those. If crews hit them, you have to hire an electrician to make the repair. 

"It's really unfortunate that this keeps happening at the portion of the lines that are the homeowners' resposnsibility," said real estate attorney Nikolas Spencer.  "If it happened on the other end, then CenterPoint would be making sure that AT&T and its subcontractors are taking care of this problem." 

You call 811 yourself to request that the utility companies come and mark your private lines. It won't cost you anything. You may also want to know and mark exactly where the easement on your property ends. Some homeowners say contractors are digging several beyond the easement on the homeowner's private property where underground lines may not have been marked.