How often have you seen a corrugated drain pipe next to the road or driveway and thought or said “can you drive over that?”
A number of times no doubt, however you have probably also never seen someone put corrugated drain pipe to the test.
The short answer is yes, you can drive over buried corrugated or PVC drain pipe.
For the long answer, read on.
This article’s aim is to offer you answers to this question and why drainage pipes are corrugated.
What is a drain pipe?
A drain pipe is a piping system designed to drain rainwater and other water from roofs, foundations, basements or any place where it may accumulate.
The pipe is buried in the ground and connected to a storm drain or sewer main.
In some cases it can be at-grade (on the surface), especially when the drain is a dry well.
Culvert pipe is a type of drain pipe most often used to carry road runoff.
Older versions of culvert pipe were made from cast iron, but modern drainage systems are almost all made from non-rusting galvanized steel.
PVC pipe is made from a flexible material that can be easily bent to accommodate the terrain.
The cross-section of the corrugated drain pipe is normally circular and of varying diameter.
A layer of gravel protects the corrugated pipe from damage and erosion, preventing it from sinking into the soil during heavy rains.
Can you drive over buried corrugated pipe?
Vinyl corrugated drain pipe is light, strong and flexible.
Like most types of pipe, it has been proven that you can drive over buried corrugated drain pipe.
As used, with the “buried” qualifier, this is mostly true.
Uneven ground can cause visible, non-permanent damage.
Some types of corrugated pipe have been standardized for vehicular use in buried applications.
These specialized standards are typically proprietary. In the US, using non-standard pipe in buried applications is generally prohibited by building code jurisdictions.
In places where corrugated HDPE pipe is specified, it is usually buried at depths of at least 1 ft for pipe diameters from 4- through 48-inch.
It’s somewhat surprising that the vast majority of corrugated pipe in your backyard drainage is not manufactured to buried vehicular standards, but this appears to be true.
Not surprisingly, specialized buried corrugated pipe is somewhat more expensive than non-standard products.
Corrugated drain pipe size
Bearing in mind the material as used, and how it is usually buried, corrugated drain pipe size varies widely.
In the US, most corrugated pipe is manufactured in diameters between 4 and 60 inches (10 to 150 cm).
The size of corrugated pipe you should use is typically specified on plans for residential construction projects.
For commercial work and municipal or civil engineering projects, the standard configurations are most often used based on local practices and local standards.
Corrugated drain pipe is typically either buried directly in the ground or placed into a corrugated drain pipe trench. In either case, the size of the pipe used is usually specified in terms of internal diameter.
The larger the diameter of corrugated pipe required, the more expensive it is to purchase and install yet it also reduces overall hydraulic resistance.
The fact that corrugated pipe is light, easy to carry and flexible makes it a popular drain type for do-it-yourself projects.
Flexible corrugated drain pipe can be bent to change the direction of flow, or even flattened into a trench in place with an ordinary hand-held pipe bender.
For example, corrugated drain pipe is widely used in basic drainage systems for mobile homes and outbuildings.
Generally, corrugated pipe is not used in building plumbing systems.
Specialized plastic drainage pipes are often required for buried residential systems with internal building plumbing.
Corrugated drain pipe is sometimes used in those applications, but most commonly it’s installed as a component of sub-surface drainage systems.
Corrugated pipe is often specified in those applications, because corrugating makes the pipe somewhat stronger than solid-walled drain.
Does corrugated pipe flex or crack?
Gardeners sometimes bury corrugated drain pipe under their lawn.
They often wonder if the pipe will flex and crack as it settles over time.
If a hole is dug for the pipe and filled with sand, after the pipe is installed, will it stay in place or will it crack over time?
The short answer is flexing may cause visible changes to the appearance of corrugated pipe, but it will not make it crack and break.
When you dig a hole for a corrugated drain pipe, you’ll notice that it flexes as it tries to slide into the hole.
This is because corrugated pipe has a large amount of flexibility for its mass, and that gives it the ability to flex too.
Oftentimes, it is necessary to twist and turn the pipe as you push it into a hole.
Holes for corrugated drain pipe are often a bit deeper than the pipe, and the pipe is therefore easily bent at that point in order to conform to the shape of the bottom of a hole.
It is not difficult for corrugated pipe to flex in this way and usually no permanent deformation results. Once the pipe is in place, its full properties are supported with no bending or flexing.
If you stand on a length of corrugated drain pipe and try to flex it, it will break.
But laying in a hole under a lawn is not the same as standing on the pipe above.
Reasons drainage pipes are corrugated
The corrugation of drainage pipe is crucial because it makes the structure more flexible and decreases its mass.
Flat-walled structures are heavy and stiff. They also have more mass, which means they also take more force to bend them into position than corrugated pipe does.
Since corrugated pipe is usually buried in the ground, it must be lightweight without being weak.
The large distance between each of the parallel ridges increases its flexibility. It also makes the structure lighter and therefore easier to install in new construction or repair work.
Corrugated pipe is also used because it’s easier to cut, and the ridges that give it rigidity also make it easy to twist as you slice through it.
Care for corrugated drain pipes
The most effective way to extend the life of a corrugated drain pipe is to use it correctly.
Drain pipe is designed to carry the flow of water from one place to another.
Frequent use of the pipe can cause it to wear down and crack.
Trying to prevent problems by placing a heavy object on top of the pipe will not work, since the weight can be hard to distribute correctly and over time the pressure from the weight can cause the pipe to crack.
The best way to keep corrugated drain pipe in good condition is to use it correctly.
The pipe is designed to carry the flow of water from one place to another.
Driveways that have a lot of traffic should be repaired as soon as possible.
If a crack has formed, the pipe should be replaced before water is allowed to get through and cause more damage.
Corrugated drain pipe can withstand a certain amount of pressure and when it becomes too much the pipe starts to wear down.
The more stress on the pipe, the quicker damage occurs.
Another way to extend drain pipes’ life is to do some maintenance.
The pipe is designed to carry the flow of water and other liquids from one place to another.
If there is a blockage such as tree roots in the pipe, this can cause damage which will lead to cracks.
You can prevent this by clearing blockages regularly.
Drive carefully over drain pipes!
While it depends on the type of buried pipe you are driving over, since mainly PVC drain pipes and corrugated plastic pipes are used across the country for many years, driving a standard car over them causes no problems at all when it comes to the safety of the pipes.
The only problem is that one needs to be careful when driving over buried pipes in order to avoid any damage caused to
The fact that they are buried deep in the ground is enough to ensure that even if you drive slightly off course, there will be no accidents or damage done.
High traffic areas such as driveways, parking lots as well as roads may be an exception, so always check the terrain and approach corrugated plastic drainage pipes with care.
That said, circumstances can vary.
In places where the pipes are exposed above the ground, it is best to avoid driving over them.
If you are not sure, better safe than sorry. You can always call a plumber to check it out.