Benefits Of Potholing Utilities With Hydrovac Excavation

Accidently hitting an underground utility during an excavation process can prove to be disastrous. Not only can it damage the underground utilities, causing delays in the project and costly repairs, but it may also lead to loss of lives and severe injuries to the workers. For this reason, it is of utmost importance to locate and expose these existing utility lines before commencing any type of excavation project. One way to do that is by utilizing a rather non-invasive technique called potholing.

Potholing And Its Techniques

Potholing, sometimes also referred to as daylighting, is a process of accurately locating and exposing underground utilities such as electric cables, gas and water pipelines, telecommunication lines, and fiber-optics.

Potholing can be carried out in various ways depending on the client’s project requirements, budget constraints, and the risk of intended work. However, the three primary methods of potholing include:

  • Hand digging
  • Backhoes
  • Vacuum excavation that includes air and water excavation/hydrovac excavation

Out of these three, the technique that is the most accurate, non-destructive, safe, and cost-effective for digging potholes is hydrovac. This blog will discuss the reason behind this and the various other benefits of potholing with hydrovac.

Drawbacks Of Other Techniques

Each potholing technique has its own set of pros and cons. For example, hand digging or digging with manual tools such as a shovel may provide accurate results and is less costly, but it is highly time-consuming and labor-intensive. Similarly, although digging with a backhoe is much faster than the other techniques, it is imprecise. It can damage the underground utilities posing a greater risk of exposure and environmental damage.

Potholing with hand digging is suitable for applications where working space is limited, and workers have restricted access to the proposed working zone. In contrast, potholing with backhoes is ideal for applications where the probability of utility interference is low such as in housing projects. Backhoes are not suitable for applications where there are space limitations.

The Hydrovac Potholing Process

When potholing with hydrovac, contractors use a hydro-vacuum excavator truck. To dig up a series of test holes of about 6-12 inches deep, the contractors first use a high-pressure water stream to move ground content. The mud slurry formed, as a result, is then suctioned or vacuumed to a tank mounted on a truck.

Hydro vacuum excavation can safely dig through hard and compacted dirt, rocky soil, and clay. Unlike other traditional potholing methods, it does not cut a utility line that might be hidden below the surface.

Here are some other benefits of potholing with hydrovac:


Potholing with hydro vacuum excavation is a safe, efficient, and highly precise method of locating and exposing utility lines. Moreover, thanks to the high-pressure water and variety of nozzles being used in the process, contractors can accurately excavate holes of different shapes and depths without damaging any existing utilities.


Potholing with hydrovac allows direct and precise access to locations that are typically inaccessible with traditional potholing techniques. With this method, operators can extend the lengths of their water line and hose to get to places where a traditional potholing machine won’t go, making it the solution to get to hard-to-read areas such as places near or close to buildings or structures.

Low Levels Of Risk

Underground utilities can easily get damaged by traditional potholing techniques, costing contractors a lot of time and money. However, potholing with hydrovac lowers the risk of utility damage to a bare minimum, making the whole process fast, clean, and safe.

Moreover, since hydrovac potholing doesn’t require heavy machinery and intense labor, it makes the process for the workers and passersby a lot safer than other techniques.

About Ghost Hydrovac

At Ghost Hydrovac, we offer professional hydrovac excavation, directional drilling, utility installation, cleaning, washing, and other hydrovac-related services across Alberta and British Columbia. For more information about our services, visit our website, or contact us here today.

Service areas



Need Hydrovac Services?
Call Us Now