How to clear clogged culverts

Written by jeremiah blanchard
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How to clear clogged culverts
Large concrete pipes or culverts help direct runoff away from your home. (Concrete Pipe image by bayu harsa from

Culverts and drainage ditches are common sights around properties in many low lying neighbourhoods. The ditch typically lines the perimeter of a property, and a culvert is a pipe that typically runs under a driveway. Over time and due to rainfall, the culvert will become clogged with mud and debris, impeding the flow and collection of water. Removing the clog is a dirty job, but it must be done if you want to maintain proper drainage around your property and prevent flood damage.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Pressure washer
  • Spade shovel
  • Long handled hoe

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  1. 1

    Dig with a spade shovel on both sides of the culvert pipe to remove any mounds of mud and debris that may be obstructing the culvert pipe. Obtain your neighbour's permission if the pipe runs onto his property.

  2. 2

    Spray the centre of the pipe with a pressure washer to remove as much debris as possible. Set the pressure on the highest setting possible. This will remove some of the mud and debris, and at the very least it will soften the dirt so you can dig it out.

  3. 3

    Dig away the remaining mud and debris from the culvert pipe using the spade shovel and a long-handled hoe.

  4. 4

    Spray out the culvert once more with the pressure washer until you can see the sides of the pipe.

  5. 5

    Move any dirt that may have fallen into the ditch surrounding the culvert. Ensure that the culvert pipe base is in-line with the ditch bottom.

Tips and warnings

  • Clean out your culverts a couple of times a year to avoid performing a long and exhausting culvert cleaning job.
  • Consider hiring a culvert cleaning professional to clear your culverts if the job seems too extensive.
  • Use the dirt from your culvert to fill unwanted holes in your yard.
  • Ensure that you obtain permission from your adjacent property owner or from your city prior to performing maintenance on culverts. In some communities, culvert maintenance is the responsibility of the city water, public works or waste department.

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