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How do I hide this ugly box?
lilhoffy99
December 17, 2012 in Design Dilemma
Other than just bushes, and with respect to the electric company any suggestions? I am thinking of a big planter box or Perugia?
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houssaon
First check with the power company for restrictions. If this is your view out the street I would just plant a few strategically placed bushes between your line of sight and the utility boxes. You could add a screen:
.
December 17, 2012 at 2:23PM     
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Erica Smith_Bouc
I have something similar (but smaller) in the front yard of my current house. I found a large hollowed out log that has a beautiful grain pattern on it. My husband cut it in half, and I placed it between the box and my house, so it's still easily accessible, but I don't have to look at it. I love the idea of the screen fence shown above!
December 17, 2012 at 2:38PM     
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Buzz Garrett
Unfortunately, the power company in SC says 'no permanent structures or plantings within 10 feet". Thankfully mine is the back yard...I still built a barn 10 feet and 1 inch away between me and them...yes we have 3.
December 17, 2012 at 2:50PM   
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Custom Home Planning Center
http://www.amazon.com/Faux-Landscaping-Rock-Utility-Covers/dp/B000YP3986
easy to pick up and move when they need to service the nox
December 17, 2012 at 3:01PM     
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Elyn's Library
Leave it alone.

I think if you check your deed you will find that is a utility easement. That means that land and that box belong to whatever utility placed it there.

In the Spring, you certainly can plant a row, or island, or screen of shrubs, small trees, flowers, bulbs, etc. But there is probably a set distance you have to be away from the box.

If you have questions, there is usually a phone number on a label somewhere on the box - or just call the Customer Service number of whatever utility it belongs to.
December 17, 2012 at 5:19PM     
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Arlen Dau
I am wondering if you could get by with some tall grasses? They grow quickly and cover a lot of area. Also, if the permanent/planting thing is an issue with your zoning, maybe you could position some large concrete planters in the general area - though not easy to move, they are not permanent. And lastly, you may be able to level the ground back toward the house 10', build a wall and fill over the wall to raise the level of the lawn so your view out the front is somewhat improved (lawn higher than box). I hope someone comes up with a good idea, this is an issue for a lot of homes.
December 17, 2012 at 5:27PM     
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Kristi Dodson_Skinkis
I have that ugly box in my front yard too! My yard is part of a 4-plex, it is quite a bit smaller than yours and I have trees. I am trying to find pics! What the lady that lived her before me did was enclose it within a flower garden. Basically, pull up the grass and put in a border on the ground so the grass doesn't grow into the flowers. She chose plants that were different heights. I was surprised that the eye doesn't immediately track to the box. I have added more, my attitude is the more flowers the better! (Less lawn to mow!) Taller things closer to the box. Empress Wu Hostas or "Elephant Ears" can make it blend, My son has planted sunflowers. You have to be careful with those though, their roots are thick and grow deep. The wires that go to my box are only about 18" below ground. Cable and phone lines are only about a foot deep. One thing that I would like to do is put in a trellis and plant Clematis. Unpainted, wood trellis is as cheap as 15$ a panel at Home Depot. Make sure that you know which way the box opens so, it work has to be done your plants aren't ruined. Call Diggers Hotline before you start too! (dial 411) The wires placement may change your plans. If you choose to put in flowers look for them wholesale. MUCH less expensive!
December 17, 2012 at 5:50PM     
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pcmom1
Can you have some fun with it? Add a small walkway, faux paint the box, add some design detail to it, and put a lawn gnome by it?
December 17, 2012 at 6:22PM     
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nasmijati
I agree with custom Home Planning center. Cover the box with a faux boulder. You might look at other spaces much farther away or on the opposite side of the yard to landscape with a boulder or large rocks to make a rock garden, so the "lone" rock over the utility box is not so stark.

I doubt the utility company would be pleased to find their box painted like a Hobbit house or a Gnome house.
December 17, 2012 at 6:43PM     
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Glenna Partridge Garden Design
Here in Vancouver I have noticed some of these utility boxes disguised with decals that look like plants. It helps the ugly box blend in and the box is still functional. I'm not sure if this is something that could be proposed to your city council...here's a link to an article that might spark an idea. Maybe you could commission a decal to be placed on the box? http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/1927340/.html
December 17, 2012 at 8:16PM     
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Lori Sahlin
My friends neighborhood is very social, one built a table and benches to go over the box; so they have a place to sit and visit while the children play and ride bikes.
December 17, 2012 at 8:32PM     
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Custom Home Planning Center
an easement allows not permanent structures a removable hollow boulder is fine
December 17, 2012 at 8:58PM   
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Stamps Design Services
I saw some plastic "fencing" units at a store (like HomeDepot or Lowes) they fit together and are designed to help hide things like this. There are free standing (so no digging) and remove easily so the utility company can access the box as needed. After checking with them, you could then place plants, grasses or shrubs in front of the fencing. I put a couple of pictures up to show you examples.
December 18, 2012 at 12:15AM     
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lc29
The first house I bought after I was divorced had an electrical box in the front yard. Luckily the setback for plantings wasn't as large as yours, but your yard looks larger than mine was so it's all relative. We used two sections of rail fence to define the corner, planted a lovely blue spruce between the house and the box that would be large enough to hide the box from view from the house and added some dogwood bushes (kousa?) and other plantings between the fencing and the box to hide it from view from the street. I had a great landscaper that designed it all.
December 18, 2012 at 3:58AM   
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lilhoffy99
Thank you! Now we have lots of options!
December 18, 2012 at 7:59AM     
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Noah Modie - Siegfried Porth Assoc.
Paint it white in the winter and green in the summer.
December 18, 2012 at 11:52AM     
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Ross NW Watergardens
A nice screen with horizontal slats between your view and the box would help. Some accent plantings could make the area one of the nicer parts of your landscape.
December 18, 2012 at 1:21PM     
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lilhoffy99
Good ideas!
December 18, 2012 at 5:26PM     
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thickskin
Before you start digging around that box remember there could be high voltage material in and coming from the box. Be careful.
December 19, 2012 at 4:15AM     
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sclawson
Don't worry about it. Everybody has one, no matter how upscale the neighborhood.
December 19, 2012 at 5:39AM     
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barbellis
Is it far away enough from your house to put in a berm?
December 19, 2012 at 5:46AM   
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silverscreenstar
sclawson, with all due respect, NOT "everybody has one". I won't buy a property with a utility box in the yard. This is our fourth home. Not one of them had one of these dreadful boxes. I'm a former Realtor, now retired. Something to think about BEFORE making your Offer of Purchase and Sale.
December 19, 2012 at 6:45AM     
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Danny Mc Govern
make them into a feature of some sort. put a roof on the green box and make it a scale house,dog house same for the other boxes.
December 19, 2012 at 6:48AM   
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astraea
My area just went thru Hurricane Sandy, and there's nothing so "pretty" as an intact utility pole, with the transformer & lots of wires attached to it! I get a little peeved when people make such a big deal over utility-related structures, and that they're "ugly"; be glad that they're functional. And please listen to all the wise comments here about checking with your town & the utility, as far as what you can/can't do around those boxes.
December 19, 2012 at 6:58AM     
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Womansong Traditions
Living in Loveland Colorado we enjoy artists' work on electrical boxes. Perhaps your town could do this also - http://www.cityofloveland.org/index.aspx?page=802 Absolutely delightful!
December 19, 2012 at 7:29AM     
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brobyhouse1
Try Pampas Grass about five feet out and around the green box.
December 19, 2012 at 7:37AM     
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barbellis
Watch out for non-native invasive species such as Pampas Grass! It's a bear to get rid of and it spreads like crazy!
December 19, 2012 at 7:45AM     
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slbrez
Be sure to respect the utility's restrictions, they will remove anything that encumbers their access to the box.
December 19, 2012 at 7:50AM     
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PRO
Designs for All Seasons
My advice is to ignor it and to design something really beautiful in another part of your front garden - perhaps a bold curve of planting that leads your eye towards the front door of your house. The idea is to distract your eye from the offending box and draw attention to something you do like.
I don't know if you could move your letter box away from it as this might help too. You may find that screening the box just draws more attention to it.
Sorry if this language is very English - I hope it makes sense!
December 19, 2012 at 8:17AM     
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RJM Design Inc.
Tough to hide 'em, so why not enjoy them cleverly! Grab an image of an outlet off the internet, enlarge to fit onto four (4) pieces of paper, print each page onto 8.5 x 11 clear sticky-back decal sheets (available at office supply stores for less than $20) and slap onto the middle of each offending face of the utility box. You'll be surprised at how many folks smile as they pass it, and comment on how you made "lemonade" out of lemons! :) Enjoy.
December 19, 2012 at 8:27AM     
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astraea
@RJM Design - It's probably illegal to attach anything to these electrical connections boxes, and will be removed the next time a utility vehicle passes by.
December 19, 2012 at 8:29AM     
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Danielle Davis
I would not plant or put anything around or near it. Just try to block your view of it. My husband works for the electric company here in CA and anything you put around it will more then likely be removed.
December 19, 2012 at 8:42AM     
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RJM Design Inc.
@astrea and @Danielle Davis: Thanks for the responses! A previous responder above (Womansong Traditions in Loveland, Colorado) posted a great link showing how out there they applied some pretty cool painted art to their boxes. Certainly worth confirming with your local utility :)
December 19, 2012 at 8:52AM     
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brobyhouse1
http://www.vermontwildflowerfarm.com/pink-pampass-grass-seeds.html?cmp=googleproducts&kw=pink-pampass-grass-seeds&gclid=CMXYubyBp7QCFQeDnQodXwMACQ#TB_inline?height=600&width=550&inlineId=eyInsets&modal=false

This ha sworked great for us over the past 10 years. Has not invaded anything. Kept in its own bed between five to 10 feet away from utility box. Locally, five feet away is the restriction.
December 19, 2012 at 9:44AM   
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astraea
@RJM Designs - This is from one particular utilty, whose material I found quickly online: http://www.csu.org/residential/safety/Pages/utilityboxes.aspx. My guess is that they don't want people painting them, because that means it's harder for their crews to check out their condition, as they drive by.
December 19, 2012 at 10:45AM   
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Murray Lampert Design, Build, Remodel
You need to check with your local utility. I doubt if they will allow you to build a structure above it and i am sure there needs to be clearance around the perimeter for technicians. You may be able to build a low fence or wall around the box as long as proper clearance is maintained.
December 19, 2012 at 10:51AM     
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Media Decor
Whatever you do, be prepared for the power company to rip it out or charge you to repaint it. They own it and have a legal easement. Sorry to be a party pooper, but power companies in general hate people messing around their electrical boxes.
December 19, 2012 at 10:53AM     
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P B
The city of Minneapolis and the power company here allowed mural wraps to make them interesting in some neighborhoods.
December 19, 2012 at 11:13AM     
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Murray Lampert Design, Build, Remodel
Yes, utility companies are very possessive of their power boxes. Look at the bright side, it's better than overhead power lines and transformers.
December 19, 2012 at 11:16AM     
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Ramona
tall grass as far away as need be. mine stands upright all winter. i wish i had thought to put it in front of some the weird boxes i have. they were totally misplaced in my yard in two places instead of one. i am frustrated but dealing with lots of other issues so getting them camoflauged doesn't get high priority.
December 19, 2012 at 11:22AM   
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KMZ Landscape Design
Nine times out of ten when a person tries to hide something like a transformer or a power pole they just end up drawing attention to it. Try creating a planting bed that will instead draw attention to your front door; and if you really feel that you need to hide the transformer and post box stand then create a large planting that will anchor the whole corner of your property. Go for a mix of evergreen shrubs and perennials - please not just a screen and a hedge. Good luck.
December 19, 2012 at 12:37PM     
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Mackin Drafting & Design
I would have to agree with KMZ Landscape Design. Whatever you do should not be in connection to the electrical box alone but as part of a broader plan that incorporates the rest of the property. It would be a good idea to contact the utility company. I am sure they will tell you right up front what you can and cannot do. Good luck!
December 19, 2012 at 6:07PM   
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dbruna
I planted Mountain Laurel bushes and variegated lirope grass around an identical box. The power company needs access to the front of the box from the street. My bushes are strategically placed in a way the power company agreed to. It softens the appearance of the box. My overall landscaping draws attention to the front door.
December 19, 2012 at 8:51PM     
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designideas4me
snow... more snow....
December 19, 2012 at 10:26PM     
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designideas4me
I personally have been searching through many contemporary panel and fence ideas to put in front of a palm tree these people who just moved in behind me put on thier side of my fence. Its right in the middle of my kitchen window maybe 12 feet away just past my pool. I am pissed. They have 12000 sq ft lot and I have half of that and yet they wont move it. So anyway I may build a trellis and I have these huge rose vines that I can attach to the trellis. Your lucky cuz unlike this palm tree, your box wont grow taller every day.
December 19, 2012 at 10:31PM     
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milfw4kids
Funny!!! I painted the one in my front yard. A greenish color then planted tall grasses around it. I did not call the company. It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission sometimes.
December 20, 2012 at 3:49AM     
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astraea
@milfw4kids - I hope nothing ever happens with that box, or power in your neighborhood, because if they have trouble finding your camouflaged electrical box, you may be facing a fine rather than forgiveness .. and your neighbors won't be happy either.
December 20, 2012 at 4:27AM     
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silverscreenstar
I think the local hydro company knows where they installed THEIR boxes so it's not something I would worry about. I would be concerned that the utility company would just remove benches, shelves, boxes, etc put there by the homeowner in an attempt to obscure the box(es) from view, and have the cost of the removal added to the homeowner's property tax account. That's the way it's done here (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada). From their perspective, it makes sense because they work 9-5, like everyone else, unless it's an emergency. So, that is when they do their drive-bys, to make sure THEIR equipment is in good repair. That is when most of us work too, so knocking on our doors and having a polite (or otherwise) conversation is usually neither possible nor practical.
December 20, 2012 at 4:36AM     
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milfw4kids
They gave been out to do some work. I went out and talked to them. They laughed. Thank goodness. They said you would not believe what some people do. The paint and grass was perfect!
December 20, 2012 at 4:41AM     
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silverscreenstar
You are fortunate. That scenario would be highly improbable here. Weather is either too hot or too cold for both sides to hold their tempers (joke).
December 20, 2012 at 4:51AM     
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Noah Modie - Siegfried Porth Assoc.
Have you tried tall beverages? Their accompanying fog can obscure annoyances of all scales.
December 20, 2012 at 7:54AM     
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never2muchbex
I have one like that. I found a very large planter, put it on top and planted trailing annuals in it. In the winter you could try the faux pine pieces and do a makeshift bush around it. Granted the company who owns it doesnt fine you.
December 20, 2012 at 8:19AM   
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silverscreenstar
Sorry, but I really don't like the appearance of this plastic, fake, "rock" anymore than I like the look of the unencumbered utility box. I also believe that it"s the wrong shape to help in the present situation where the utility box has a much larger base, and is flatter, rather than narrower and higher.
December 21, 2012 at 1:48AM     
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rllilly
I used ornamental grass in front And behind mine....don't even notice the box and electric company doesn't seem to mind.
December 29, 2012 at 11:00AM     
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lilhoffy99
Well, I plan on the risk that they can do what they want to the plants or structure and I did call they said no perminate structure. We could easily design something removable and idf they ruin it, we can replace it. I am not too concerned about that. But turn it into a garden area maybe?
December 29, 2012 at 1:59PM   
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jagood
We have a BIG one next to our driveway gate (rural area) but that's the price we pay for not having overhead lines and poles, which I think are much uglier and more easily damaged in storms. So I guess one way of looking at it is to be thankful we have some ugly green boxes in our yards......
However, to answer the question posted - the overall plan of the landscaping can be done in such a way that the focus of attention goes elsewhere and then one hardly notices those boxes. I would take a drive through neighborhoods where these are located (and while these isn't snow on the ground) and note the ones that stand out vs the ones that are barely noticed, and try to figure out why.
December 29, 2012 at 2:52PM   
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MAlps
This is part of having electric ;) notin todo bout it
December 29, 2012 at 2:59PM   
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cyn222
Check with utility company regarding use of easement area for planting, structures before doing anything else. I would just install a fence in front of it and landscape around it. Use some plants that won't require pruning and enjoy.
December 29, 2012 at 3:10PM     
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lilhoffy99
It was very much considered in the purchase of our home, and I did not think that it was a big issue, in the Corner of the yard with a huge evergreen in front of it. We removed the tree, I thought that was more of an eyesore and blocked the house. Now step two.
December 29, 2012 at 3:43PM   
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silverscreenstar
Which is...
December 29, 2012 at 10:04PM   
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lilhoffy99
Don't know yet.
December 30, 2012 at 1:00PM   
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lilhoffy99
Bump
January 5, 2013 at 1:27PM   
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architectrunnerguy
It's been three weeks. Any direction on your end from all the great feedback?
January 5, 2013 at 2:02PM   
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lilhoffy99
I think I may make a garden around, a tree in front several feet, with the screen that doubles as a faux planter box and just set a potted plants on top. The screen I will do so they are hinged like gate doors. I will use those cement post blocks so i do not even have to put it in the ground. Thats within the regs(no permanent structure) and should be cheap enough that i can replace if there is an issue. A bench facing the house like it was planned. I have till spring to secede
January 6, 2013 at 6:05PM   
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lilhoffy99
When I bought the house there was a giant evergreen probably 20 years old that the city never touched so its worth the risk
January 6, 2013 at 6:07PM   
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silverscreenstar
I think KMZ Landscape Design (above) said it better that I can, but basically, the more stuff you do to try and hide the box, the more the eye will be drawn to it. I think it would be better to ignore the box and create a diversion away from it by making an eye catching statement elsewhere on your property, a good distance away from the box.
January 6, 2013 at 6:37PM     
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andoy12
Install just one freestanding fence panel that stands away from it, but covers the sight of the box ... the fence can be a design feature in itself.
January 6, 2013 at 7:07PM   
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Shelton Sound Design
I planted grasses with room to work if needed. The guys said they really didn't care because if they needed they would cut them down.
January 23, 2013 at 6:16AM   
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Lisa Roush
Hi

Two weeks ago the power company installed the transformer box or single phase sleeve box on my property in front yard while I was not home. It is only 15 feet to my house. I came home and was shocked. I worry about that...too close and direct to my room. Is it bomb or electricity wave spread? Any children don't allow to play with the box (I invested several children got hurt when they hid or play with it) I am afraid about my grandchildren will play with it because I am profoundly deaf and can't hear them. One of grandchildren has hyperactive, knows the rules but don't care and play very wild without think rules. I informed the power company about it. They don't care my concerns. I am stuck with it. Also the power company promised me to install the branches around the box but they never did. Also they installed dead grass. I am frustrated.
October 11, 2013 at 5:33PM   
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Lisa Roush
PS the box is 4 feet height and stands right next to sidewalk. If child plays with it, lose balance and fall. I worry about that.
October 11, 2013 at 5:36PM   
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veggiesoup
here in Phoenix, AZ we plant several shrubs around them, but far enough away in case the electric company needs to service the boxes. Here, if shrubs are too close or overgrown, the city is allowed to trim the bushes as far down as they want. This is for their safety& job ability too. Never know if there are bees in there. So, choose something that does not overgrow too much & not planted too close or make sure you up keep and trim them away from the box regularly. My neighbor did not keep up with trimming hers (next door), but I did & the city cut her shrubs in half. She was not happy, but oh well. ---if you plant shrubs on one side of your yard, maybe you could plant shrubs on the other side of your yard/driveway to BALANCE it. Sounds like a FUN project.
October 16, 2013 at 8:36AM   
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sunnydrew
You can see how big/wide the easement is for it and then plant some grasses/shrubs between that "line" and your home. That is all you can do.
October 16, 2013 at 8:42AM   
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Sean Lundgren
I am a utility worker, and I will tell you this from experience. That transformer, cable pedestal, phone pedestal may be an eyesore to you, but imagine YOU the customer without service. Your angry throwing every bad word in the book about that company because it is taking so long to restore your service or everyone's on your block because of what you or your neighbor planted or placed around those items in the utility easement such as fences. I agree with the other comment, be happy you have underground utilities compared to aerial plant. I guarantee you they will have to do periodic maintenance on those from time to time and it really bugs us we have to have thorn bushes and the like preventing us from working on our equipment. We all pay franchise fees which we pass onto you for accessing those utility easements and you are just making it take longer and longer to restore service in the future if anything goes terribly wrong. And then WE are the blame for ripping all that stuff out that you planted! You can't have neatness and reliable service at the same time. Not to mention you are playing with fire planting things around those. Utilities can't always bury those lines deep due to rocks or other reasons such as city regulations if they have lines of their own below they want adequate room from other utilities. All you have to do is put a nick in a line and since it's buried it will corrode and eventually go bad causing issues for someone or an entire neighborhood, and if eventually causes a surprise outage especially for 911 service on that specific line, that utility company especially cable is not going to be happy since everyone likes to talk down on them. But it's a fact they get hit the most and have to deal with these issues the most out of any utility. Just keep those thoughts in the back of your mind. Make it as easy on the utility workers as you can or it may backfire on you!
December 27, 2013 at 12:22PM     
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soberg
I've seen many cases where people plant bushes around these and IME, all that does is draw attention straight to the eyesore....especially when those bushes are the only feature in an otherwise plain lawn. Randomly-placed bushes are a dead giveaway, and to get thm to actually hide the box in a meaningful way, you would have to grow a large, dense thicket that would make the box hard to access (especially in snow or other rough weather). It's like trying to disguise your acne by wearing a fake mustache and clown glasses! Makes things worse!

Rather than disguise, I'd suggest distraction. Give yourself and your visitors something else, much prettier and more striking, to look at....like flowering tree(s), rose arbor, planting bed, rock garden, stone wall, rose bushes on fence, or just great landscaping with all detail placed AWAY from the utility box. And then make sure the paint on the box in in great repair and matches your lawn closely. And then just start ignoring it....
December 27, 2013 at 12:51PM     
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soberg
Whoops, my point was already made previously. Sorry for the unintentional repetition.
December 27, 2013 at 4:28PM   
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