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Tracer Wire Installation

Tracer wire is installed as a method of locating piping after it has been placed into the ground. Correct installation of the tracer wire is a must in order for it to fulfill its purpose. Always check local codes and regulations before starting this project, and wear the appropriate safety gear.

Tracer Wire Connections

There are several different types of connections made with tracer wire. All of these connections must be made with a direct-bury wire nut.

Remove 5/8 of an inch of insulation from each end of the wire and slip the two ends firmly into the nut. Twist the direct-bury wire nut in a clockwise direction while pushing the wires into place. Do not torque the connection too much. Tie the wires into a loose knot.

Joining and Installation

There are connections that are made at the surface at tees, crosses and so on. For this type of connection to work, open the lug and strip the main wire to fit the width of the lug. Put the lug onto the main wire. Strip the branch wire to the width of the lug and place in into the lug in the spot nearest to the front. Secure the screws and take off the sealant cover. Put down the lid of the lug and latch it closed.

Install the wire in a continuous flow and in place it on top of the water main. Tape the wire down every five feet to keep it in position. Bring the wires up to the surface area whenever there is a cc box, blue plastic marker or a vault. Use tracer wire connectors or dead-end hydrants for this purpose. Tracer wire must also be brought to the surface every thousand feet even if there are no markers. If the wire coating is damaged, cover it with electrical tape.


When tracer wire is brought up to above-surface vaults, do not wrap it around steps or in any area where it could cause someone to trip or fall. Connect the wires with a direct-bury wire nut and bring the branched tracer wire up on the outside of the vault. Slip the wire through a grout hole that is on the opposite side of the steps and coil up enough wire so that it extends one foot above the ground.

To bring a tracer wire to a blue plastic marker, bury a four-foot u-channel but only two feet underground. Lead the wire up through marker before running it over the post. Put the marker six inches underground and attach the tracer wire to the brass connecting screws. Use a permanent marker to label the screws. For a cc valve box, connect the branch wire and wrap it around the outside of the valve box. Drill a hole and slip the wire through. Coil enough wire so that it extends a foot above the surface and tie a knot in the end.


Wirnani Garner holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy and works in the medical profession. Her articles focus on health-related subjects, though Garner is proficient in researching and writing about a diverse range of topics.