How Deep Can You Go when Digging in Your Backyard?

August 8, 2017

in DIY,Lifestyle

There are so many zoning regulations involved in owning property, and sometimes it can be hard to keep up with the details on what you are allowed (and not allowed) to do on your own land. While having professional surveyors in (like One Search Locators, is a good first step, you still need to get more info on the zoning laws when you dig. For example, how deep can you legally dig?

Actual Depth

Most areas don't have set regulations about how deep a hole you can dig. Check with your local municipality office, just to be sure. Rural areas where wells are common on most properties, you can easily end up drilling holes that are dozens if not hundreds of feet deep which would indicate that there aren't many rules about depth on its own.

Before you take shovel to dirt, you need to take a wider look at your project though.


The bigger issue is where you are digging this deep hole. There are likely rules about how close to boundary lines you can dig, as well as proximity to sources of water (like a stream). Check your council office about these.

The main concern is your utility lines. Digging on your property is highly regulated in terms of avoiding the maze of sewer pipes, gas lines, water mains, electrical and television cables that are under the surface. Some can be several feet deep, and some may be just inches down. Take advantage of your area's "call before your dig" program to get all the necessary details on how to avoid the underground utilities. Be warned that if any utility line is damaged and you haven't made this call, you'll be liable.


A large hole is a safety risk, and you'll be responsible if anyone falls into it and gets hurt (even if they are not supposed to be on your property). You will need to have a reasonably secure fence around the hole to ensure no one is injured. A warning sign isn't enough.


We've been talking about abstract holes so far, but people don't generally go digging in their yards for no reason. Regulations tend to kick in depending on why you're digging the hole, not for the literal hole on its own. Basements are considered home extensions and would fall under all sorts of various building permit codes, for example. Pools are another form of backyard construction that may or may not need permits or approvals of their own. Check with your local office.

One other reason you may be wanting to dig a hole is to put in a pond. Since there is no further construction besides the hole itself (unlike a swimming pool), won't fall under the same regulations.

So even though there may not be local rules about how deep you can dig a hole, you need to be aware of other regulations surrounding your project, no matter what it is. 



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Lindsey Renuard is a blogger, YouTube beauty expert, and the Managing Editor of the Skiatook Journal.

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