How To Bury An Underground Electrical Cable In Your Yard

There are many reasons for extending the electrical supply from a home to an outdoor location or building: lighting a utility shed, installing a freestanding outlet or powering a swimming pool filtration system are just a few possibilities. While electrical cable can be elevated, burying the cable is a simpler and neater option in most cases. Burying electrical cable is a straightforward project for the average do-it-yourself homeowner and can be accomplished easily with proper planning and technique. Below is how to properly bury an electrical cable:

Tools and materials you will need

  • Spade or shovel
  • Steel ruler or yardstick
  • Wooden stakes
  • String
  • Type UF-B electrical cable
  • Topsoil or sand

Step-by-step procedure for installation

1. Purchase your wiring – for use in an outdoor buried location, you will need to buy Type UF-B electrical cable. This type of electrical cable is specially-sealed to prevent water intrusion and can be directly buried in the soil without the need for electrical conduit. As for cable size, choose a 12-gauge wire size with 2 strands, one of which is "hot" and the other is "neutral", as long as your power needs do not exceed 120 volts of alternating current (AC). If you will be operating a clothes dryer or other appliances requiring 240 volts AC, then you will need a 3-stranded wire that contains an extra "hot" lead.

2. Contact your local buried utility locator service – many states operate a free buried utility locator service that will mark the locations of underground power lines, gas lines, water lines, telecommunications cables and other buried infrastructure items. Be sure to take advantage of this service before beginning your project; it isn't worth the risk of causing costly or dangerous damage to a utility. The locator service will paint color-coded marks on your lawn to signify where a utility lies buried and what type it is.

3. Lay out the route for your electrical cable – when routing your electrical cable, keep in mind that a direct path from the source to the destination may not be ideal. For example, buried utility cables or lines, tree roots, and old foundations are a few possible obstructions that require re-routing. When making changes in direction, use gradual smooth curves, and avoid 90 degree or other sharp turns.

To mark the path, drive wooden stakes 1 foot apart on both sides of the power cable "right of way", and tie them together with string. Make the trench 4 inches wide, and avoid overly-wide trenches whenever possible.

4. Dig the trench – with a spade or shovel, dig down into the space between the 2 strings and remove the soil to a depth of one foot. Use the ruler or yard stick to help you determine when you have reached the appropriate depth. If you have difficulty digging in the soil, the use of a garden hoe may be helpful in making the trench even with clean edges.

5. Lay the electrical cable – starting at the source located at your home, carefully unwrap the cable and permit it to unravel, if it is twisted. Next, lay the cable into the trench you just placed so that it lies flat on the surface of the soil. Be sure not to let the cable coil or kink as you place it in the trench.

6. Cover the cable – once the cable is in place, begin to back fill the trench with the soil you removed in step 4. If you have preserved the top layer of sod that contains the grass, then save those sections for last and place them on top of the bare soil. Water the area thoroughly with a garden hose to expose any sinking spots and fill those barren areas with extra topsoil or sand.

For more information, or for help with the project, contact a local electrical service or visit