How to Set Your Own Utilities in a New Build

One pitfall about building out in the county as opposed to in the city is setting up your utilities. Most builders don’t cover them. We had to hire out for our septic system (they rocky soil requires a complicated and expensive aerobic setup) but the rest are things we can tackle ourselves. How are we doing it? Check it out!

My dad and his neighbor are involved in a local charity group called Carpenter’s Helpers that aids people who need handyman help. So they have a large stash of random stuff. Like propane tanks. So he gave us one. But how to move it into place? Well luckily Jacob has extensive Bobcat experience and knows how to operate this versatile piece of equipment. He grabbed some shackles (because what redneck doesn’t have shackles to go mud-hoggin?) and attached his thick ties. They’re specifically for hauling trucks out of mud, so we knew it would handle an empty propane tank. He used the digging points to pick up the ropes and drove it into place. Now it was time to start the trenches!

We chose a pretty little hiding spot for the tank 40 feet away from the house. The county requirements are only 10 feet of distance, but I’m on the paranoid side of thinking. I want that sucker to be far away in case it blows. We started out with a walk-behind Ditch Witch. Um, yeah. That was ridiculous. You know why there are no basements in the Hill Country? Because we grow rocks. Lots and lots of massive rocks.

I might as well have started up a quarry or something. So anyway, the walking trencher got the boot. We took it back to the rental place (Jim’s Rent All in Wimberley, for any folks looking to do some rock trenching) and got a Rock Saw. It was a BEAST!

It’s kind of like a suped up lawn mower. With a 6 foot tall wheel that grinds rocks to dust. It took me six hours to trench the 40 feet for the propane tank. I was hot and dusty and sunburned by the end. Yet thrilled to be able to say I can now operate heavy machinery! Maybe I should apply for some construction jobs. I’m sure those guys would love it 😉

What sucked about trenching was when the wheel would get snagged on huge chunks of rock. We’d have to grab pry bars and drag them out. It’s also not fantastic that we’ll have to dig out the rocks and dirt since the wheel simply cuts the trench, it doesn’t remove all the dirt. We’ve got about 18″ of rocks and roots and dirt to remove and I am not excited about that at all. I hope I end up with rockin’ shoulders and back muscles by the time I’m done! Our last trench to dig was for the electrical wires. We have to bury them to keep the pole out of our yard. Things started out great, mostly dirt and small rocks. The farther I went from the house the larger the rocks got. Yet unlike the propane area, they were loose rocks, not solid. When I was about 20 yards from finishing, the last bolt broke on the wheel and the trencher was out of commission. Lame. So we had to move the electrical pole a bit closer, and now the guide wire will have to be on the yard. Oh, well. At least there’s no more trenching!

Can you see the color variation? Brown means dirt, white means rock. Lots more rock than dirt. I will most definitely be doing raised garden beds! We also had another tragedy. While breaking out a rock wedged in the wheel, Jacob’s phone fell into the ditch without our notice. So I ran it over.

I would like to take five seconds to plug the Lifeproof case, because that $80 chunk of plastic saved his phone. It’s still in top shape, despite being run over by a grinding wheel.

So, what’s next? Well, luckily I married a man with a lot of blue collar knowledge. His dad is a plumbing foreman, so he grew up working for him. Jacob measured out how much PVC we needed to connect the well spout to our house. He glued it all together, laid it in the ground (we had to dig that trench on a slope so the water flows freely) and made all the connections. Now he needs to leak-test it and bury it. For the propane, he’ll have to solder metal pipes together, which is slightly more complicated. And if you recall, he has his degree in Electrical Power and Control, so he’ll be taking care of building our meter and burying the line as well as tying it into the house. He’s all licensed and everything. Who knew I’d snag such a catch? 😉 He sure does know his utilities!

So if you find yourself building a house in the country, don’t feel like you have to pay to get everything done. While some things are best left to the pros (like the septic system and running lines) you can easily do the grunt work yourself and dig the trenches. Even if you’re digging through 18″ of solid stone. If I can do it, so can you! And it saved us hundreds of dollars to do it ourselves instead of hiring out. One more thing ticked off the list to get this place move-in ready! Our goal is to move in before the New Year, so we have 8 weeks left to get it done. LET”S DO THIS!



2 thoughts on “How to Set Your Own Utilities in a New Build

  1. Everything looks great. It is so exciting to see things coming together. Can’t wait to see it in person. (I find it interesting that there are 3 missed calls from you on Jacob’s phone.)

    1. I was trying to locate it! I called when the battery on the saw died, and he didn’t answer. I called back while I was walking to the ditch, and heard the faint buzzing sound (he leaves it on silent/vibrate). The third call was the worst, since I heard it coming from the trench. I should have known that it was working if it was ringing! He really got pretty lucky. Knowing me, my phone would have been in 87 pieces

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