Electrical Excavating

Electricians don’t really like digging ditches.  Not only is it difficult to do, it’s not really a “skilled” labor job.  And customers don’t appreciate paying an electrician high wages just to dig a ditch.  However, from time to time it is necessary.

Running conduit under a road, across a parking lot, or under a drive way always involves extra caution.  Today, much of the conduit buried in the ground is made of PVC.  But it wasn’t that long ago that the buried conduit was rigid metal pipe.

I had acquired a number of ends that could be pressed into the ends of threaded rigid pipe.  One end was a pointed piece of metal.  Another end was a “cap” that could be pressed onto the pipe that would enable you to strike the pipe without damaging the end.  They were very handy when I needed to run conduit under a roadway.

I would dig a ditch about 10 feet long, press on the pointed end and the capped end on a length of conduit, and drive the conduit under the roadway.  When the capped end was nearly covered I would remove it, screw on another length of conduit, attach the capped end to the next length of conduit and continue driving.  When you got through to the other side you simply removed the ends and continued connecting conduit until the raceway was complete.  The press-on ends kept the inside of the conduit clean from dust and pebbles too.

One time when I was doing this a fellow was on the job site working with his back hoe.  I suggested that if he could turn his back-hoe sideways and use the hydraulic arm to push the pipe through the dirt, it would be helpful.

He did so and it worked like a charm.  I got two hours of work done in a few minutes.  Later on I learned that there is a piece of equipment available for this purpose called a “Pipe Pusher.”

This is all good and well unless you encounter a large rock.  I heard that one crew was using a Pipe Pusher when they struck a rock.  The pipe bent and came up through the roadway, right through the asphalt.

When that happens there is no alternative.  You must stop traffic, dig a ditch, lay the pipe, backfill the excavation and resurface.  In the end that saves no time or money.

Back at the job where I had used the back hoe to push the pipe, I had run the conduit next to the building and entered the structure through an L.B.  (An L.B. is a metal elbow with a cover.)  Some months later I returned to do additional work, and brickwork had been installed on the outside of the building.  It had been installed right over the cover of the L.B.

I had to explain to the homeowner that covering up an access point, like an L.B. cover, was a “no-no.”

If I had known they were going to do the brick work, I would have left it out far enough that the cover would be exposed.

Lesson: We live and learn.