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How Much Weight Can a Plastic Culvert Pipe Hold?

Used across nearly all landscapes nowadays, culverts carry water that is running off of a roadway or train tracks to more remote areas where it can safely flow.

The weight capacity of a culvert pipe depends on the diameter and thickness of the pipe.  

A clear corrugated plastic pipe with an outside diameter of 6 – 24 inches can support 40,000 pounds total.

Roughly speaking, a plastic culvert can hold the weight of a backhoe or an RV.

If you are not sure about the land where you want to put your culvert, there are certain requirements that will make the permitting process much easier. Make sure you contact your local authority to learn about these specific standards.

Read on to find out more about how much weight a culvert can withstand.

Culvert pipe sizes

Fences and driveways can increase the amount of water that flows during a rainstorm, which can lead to flooding.

A culvert pipe can redirect some of that water off your property, but you need to make sure it’s the right size.

Suppliers and manufacturers typically will provide you with a table or an equation that can be used to figure out the right size of pipe for your situation like this one here.

Most drainage problems can be fixed with an effective solution that’s between 6   and 24 inches in diameter. While there are exceptions to this rule, it’s a good starting point if you’re designing your own drainage solution.

Landscapers and landowners can use these guidelines to determine the right size of culvert pipe for their landscape.

There are several factors to consider, including the size of your yard and whether or not you live in a flood-prone area.

Take note of the amount of water that drains off your yard during a heavy rainstorm. If your yard is small, you may need to install multiple drainage solutions to prevent flooding.

It’s important to remember that in many cases, the cost of the pipe will be much lower than the cost of labor. So while it may seem easier to buy a cheaper product, it can sometimes be more expensive if you have to bring in a contractor to repair a poorly-designed drainage system.

How much weight can a plastic culvert pipe hold?

Roughly 4 million miles (6.4 million kilometers) of culverts exist in the United States alone as of 2020 and they all require regular inspection and maintenance for a number of reasons.

One important reason is to ensure that they are safe and functional for the purpose they were designed. Another very important reason is to make sure that they are safe for the environment around them.

In order to inspect a culvert, one must know how much weight it can hold. A standard plastic culvert pipe will hold a maximum weight of 40,000 lbs according to reports.

Considering that the average car weighs around 4,000 lbs, that means roughly 12 cars can fit within one standard plastic culvert pipe.

That means that plastic culvert pipes are very safe to use and they are sustainable, too.

Let’s just hope that we can get by with only inspecting the culverts every 10 years instead of 20 so our inspection crews don’t have to push nearly as much weight along the roadways and across water crossings.

Bury culvert at the correct depth

Your home’s most significant drain may or may not be in your kitchen, depending on where you reside.

I’m talking, of course, about culverts.

Natural and man-made waterways need to be able to drain freely in order for them not to flood the nearby property. The natural solution is to have a hole bored up through the ground, allowing for any excess water to escape.

This is where your culvert comes in.

Culverts need to be at least 12 inches down beneath the ground, and this is for a number of reasons.

For one, it allows for easy access for any future repairs or replacements when removing the cover over the drainage. You don’t want to dig up your entire driveway for a replacement pipe if you can avoid it.

But an equally significant reason is to keep the culvert from being tempted to float upwards in a flood.

This also ensures the area is properly graded and it won’t be a nuisance later on. An improperly buried culvert will cause problems for your yard and cause your grass to be unevenly distributed.

It’s also crucial for the safety of any waterway since culverts help with water quality and ecosystems.

You not only need to take into account your local city ordinances, but also Mother Nature.

Cities, counties, and municipalities have varying regulations regarding culvert installation. If you’re not sure what these are, call your local planning department.

Also remember that culverts can be exposed to various freezes and thaws, which are the normal seasonal changes. These fluctuations have a tendency of pushing the culvert to the surface, which means you’ll have to dig it up again.

This is less of an issue when you are dealing with short-term drainage projects, but with any planned rerouting of a natural waterway or stream, you’ll probably want to talk to an engineer about how deep you’ll need to go.