Do I Need A Permit To Dig In My Backyard?

  • By: Mike Hale
  • Date: July 17, 2022
  • Time to read: 4 min.

Do you have a small project or task that you want to complete in your backyard? Does the project entail digging? If yes, then you must call 811 and obtain a permit. Of course, you can dig a hole in some countries without the need to obtain a permit. However, in some countries such as the United States, you cannot dig in their backyard without a permit.

You need a permit before digging a trench in the backyard, and you should comply with certain rules and regulations before you dig trenches or excavate the backyard. The type of permits you need will depend on where you live, where the backyard is located, and why you want to dig the hole or trench. 

You may also need to consult with your utility mapping service and ask them if it is safe to dig in your backyard. If any utility bypasses the backyard, you will not be allowed to dig a hole or a trench in such areas. Here are reasons why you may need a permit to dig into your background

Dig in backyard

Do I need a permit to dig in my backyard?

If there is an electricity cable beneath

You may need to get clearance from your energy provider if electricity cables are running in your backyard. Therefore, you must obtain a permit from the local authority and utility provider before you start excavating the backyard.

Sewerage line 

If a sewerage line that serves your area passes beneath your backyard, you may not be allowed to dig trenches or a hole in the area. The local authority may need to determine how deep you may dig even after acquiring the permit.

Water supply

Water is an essential resource in our homes. It is needed for cleaning and cooking. So if the pipes that serve your area are laid in your compound, you need to get clearance from your utility operator or local authority before you dig a trench or a hole in the compound.

Not obtaining the right permits in the United States could cost you a lot of money in terms of fines. When you damage underground gas, water, or sewerage pipes, it can cause flooding, which may pose a danger to your neighbors’ lives. It may also degrade the immediate environment. 

As a result, the local authorities may surcharge you for the repairs and require that you compensate the victims. This could be expensive and untenable. So you need to call 811 if you are based in the United States of America for advice on where you can get the permit and further guidelines.

How deep can you dig in your backyard?

After obtaining the permit to dig a trench or a hole in your backyard, you may still not be allowed to dig beyond a certain depth. As such, you need to find out the maximum depth you can dig without the permit. Typically, how deep you can dig depends on the hole’s size and why you want to dig it. In some cases, you may need specialized equipment before you are allowed to dig a hole in your backyard. It means that you can only obtain permission from the authority after you present the professional you intend to hire and the equipment you will use.

The local planners will have a say in how deep you can dig in your backyard. They will look at the risks you pose to yourself, the person digging, and the impact it will have on your neighbors.  They will also advise on the chances of running into utilities such as telephone, TV, oil, cable, electricity, sewer, gas, and even water. Running and damaging these utilities can cause a big headache. That is why it may be critical to call and talk to the authority on 811 before you start digging.

But if the excavation is for emergency reasons, you do not need to seek permission. Similarly, you can excavate up to 12 inches deep without the permit. It means that you can till the backyard to plant crops to a depth of 12 in utility easement areas and 20 inches deep if the backyard is 20 inches outside utility easement areas.

How deep can you dig in your backyard without a permit?

How deep you can dig in your backyard without a permit varies and will depend on the area and why you want to dig in the backyard. In some states like California, you will be considered to have committed a crime if you use a tool to move the ground without permission from 811.  In the United States, you generally need a permit to dig trenches that are 5 feet deeper.

One of the reasons you cannot dig a trench or a hole of more than 5 feet in the backyard is that the hole may start endangering the digger or neighbors’ lives. It is criminal to dig deeper than the designated dangerous construction depth without supporting the walls. Most civil codes stipulate that you construct support to stop the holes from collapsing and injuring a person when you dig beyond a certain depth.

Having said all this, it is important to note that even when you obtain permission to dig holes in your backyard, there are rules that you will need to follow and abide by. For instance, state building codes prohibit digging a hole less than 24 inches from the utility markings. It is also recommended that you dig alongside the utility line, and you may need to use a CT scanner to help you see how deep the service line is.

Thus, when you choose to dig a hole in your backyard, you must consult the local authority by calling 811 if you will be digging a hole deeper than 12 inches. Also, you must check and follow the laid down rules. It reduces accidents and safeguards life.