Essential Driveway Culvert Replacement Tips

Kathryn Pomroy
Written by Kathryn Pomroy
Updated September 30, 2021
Father and son walk up driveway
Photo: MoMo Productions / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Replace your damaged and worn-out culvert with these four tips

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Without proper drainage from a culvert, water can build up at the end of your driveway. While the small murky puddles might be fun for the kids, they can be a sign of other problems. If the materials used to build the culvert were not installed correctly, it might not be strong enough to withstand the weight of your car, causing it to buckle or crack. Cold temperatures can also cause bulging. If your driveway has seen better days, use these four tips to replace your driveway culvert.

1. Decide Whether to Repair or Replace

Generally, a rusted-out or damaged culvert is not worth repairing. It will take less time to replace the culvert, and it will likely last longer than a repair. It will cost more to hire a professional, but a pro will have the equipment and expertise needed to ensure the job is done right with minimal disruption to the rest of your property. Hiring a pro will also save you money renting or buying equipment and the time it takes to learn to use it (although we admit we’ve always wanted to learn how to drive a backhoe). 

2. Know the Costs

Although you are replacing your existing driveway culvert rather than starting from scratch, you still want to be sure it’s done right so it never has to be done again. Depending on the size of the culvert and type of pipe, you can replace your driveway culvert yourself or hire a professional.

A larger project may require bringing in some heavy equipment. So, if you’re not comfortable operating a backhoe or skid-steer loader, you may want to seek out the expertise of a professional. However, if you DIY, you will likely need to purchase or rent a few materials, including a culvert pipe, stakes, a measuring tape, a concrete saw, and a trenching shovel or two (for a friend).

For professional installation of your culvert, you can expect to pay between $1,000 and $9,000, with an average cost of about $4,500, depending on the length and type of pipe and your driveway material. This price may or may not include any materials like stones, rocks, sod, or other materials to line the drainage ditch, but usually will include resurfacing the area of your driveway that sat on top.

3. Check Out Building Codes and City Regulations

Culvert in driveway
Photo: keiserjb / Adobe Stock

Some cities maintain driveway culverts if located on the city's right-of-way to preserve the structure of roads, streets, and public property. Generally, the homeowner will need to complete an application before beginning the project. Only insured and bonded contractors may perform work in the right-of-way. 

If you’re not on a right-of-way and doing the work yourself, you will need to obtain any permits required by your city. You’ll also want to check with your city’s building code administrator to see if you must follow any regulations regarding the type of pipe and diameter.

You will also be required to contact your utility company to find out the location of underground utility lines before digging.

4. Know the Materials and Equipment Involved

Replacing a driveway culvert is a big job. Here are some basic (and not-so-basic) tools you or your pro need to replace your driveway culvert.

  • Nylon string: $6

  • Stakes: $8 (bundle of six)

  • Tape measure: $15 (25-foot)

  • Carpenter’s level: $20–$40

  • 3/4-inch to 2-inch gravel mix: $25–$35 ton

  • Vibrating compactor: $500–$1,500 (to buy) $83 (per day to rent)

  • Skid-steer loader: $200 per day to rent

  • Backhoe attachment: $40 per day to rent

You’ll also need the replacement culvert pipe. Choose a pipe with a large enough diameter—typically 10 or 12 inches, occasionally smaller or larger—to accommodate the water. Culvert pipes are usually aluminum, galvanized steel, or plastic. 

Galvanized steel and aluminum run about the same price but galvanized steel can rust over time, creating weak spots. Aluminum and plastic will not rust but are not as strong. All three can be cut to size.

  • Aluminum or galvanized steel, 24 x 20 foot length: about $800

  • Plastic, 24 x 20 foot length: $700


Who is responsible for driveway culverts? 

The property owner is responsible for driveway culverts. Check with your city and state for local laws, but in most cases, it is the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain and repair culverts. 

Since repairs can be costly, routine inspections and maintenance are essential in order to keep costs down and prevent flooding.

Can you use something instead of a culvert? 

If you are looking for a culvert alternative, a bridge is another option. Either way, building a bridge or culvert should be done by a professional since improper installation can lead to dangerous washouts and collapses. 

Should I use a metal or plastic culvert?

Check with your local laws since some cities regulate what culvert material you use. However, plastic will be more affordable than metal.

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