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Do You Need a Permit to Dig in the Backyard?

Do You Need a Permit to Dig in the Backyard?

There are so many reasons to dig your backyard, and maybe you might not see the need to look for a permit before doing so since it is within your property. Having a hole in your backyard may at times pose a risk to you and your family if not to your unaware neighbors too.

So is it necessary to get a permit if you wish to dig your backyard? And what does the law say about digging your backyard in your county?

In this article, we will learn every detail related to digging your backyard and what the law says about it.

Do You Need a Permit to Dig a Hole in the Backyard?

Digging holes on your property that are 0-4 inches (100 mm) deep pose almost no risk to underground utilities like the electricity cable, gas pipe or water pipes. Usually, it can be done without the need for permission or a permit from local authorities.

It is generally safe to dig holes up to a maximum depth of 12 inches or (300 mm), but it is safe to contact your local authorities before digging holes deeper than 4 inches.

Notifying local authorities can assist you in determining the location and depth of underground utilities on your property, as well as whether you need a permit to dig.

While contacting your local authorities may be tiresome and costly, this action can really help you to avoid destroying underground properties and also endangering your life. So generally, a permit may be required according to the level of digging you want to do.

The best thing that you can do is to call 811 before raising a shovel. When you call 811, a service rep will come out and flag the lines either with spray paint, flags, or both.

Reasons Why You Might Need a Permit to Dig in Your Backyard

If There is a Power Cable Underneath

If you have electricity cables running through your backyard, you may need to get permission from your energy provider. As a result, before you begin excavating the backyard, you must obtain approval from either the local authority or your utility provider.

Line of Sewage

If a sewage line serving your area runs beneath your backyard, you may not be allowed to dig ditches or a hole in the area. Even after you have obtained the permit, the local authority may have to evaluate how deep you can dig.

Provision of Water

Water is a valuable commodity in our homes. It is required for cleaning as well as cooking. So, if the conduits that serve your neighborhood are laid in your compound, you must obtain permission from your local authority or your utility operator before digging a trench or a hole in it.

In the United States, failing to obtain the necessary permits could result in hefty fines. When you destroy underground gas, sewerage pipes or water pipes, it can lead to flooding, which can endanger the lives of your neighbors.

It may also have a negative impact on the immediate environment. As a result, your local authority can charge you for the damage and even make you compensate the affected neighbors.

Risks of Digging Too Deep Underground

The most severe issue you’ll encounter is that you’ll accidentally hit something that may be of importance or a danger to your life. Underground power, phone lines and gas are all present. The first two are occasionally dangerous and can have an impact on your neighbors.

Repairs can be time-consuming, which adds to the frustration. Another thing to remember is that the dangerous areas differ depending on the climate and utility. Their pathways from the origin may appear evident at times, but not always.

In general, utilities will take the path of least resistance and travel the shortest distance. Saving money on materials and labor makes sense. Many factors may not be obvious at first.

How Deep Can You Dig in Your Backyard?

Even if you obtain a permit to dig a hole in your backyard, you could still be prohibited from digging beyond a certain depth. As a result, you must determine the depth you can dig without minus a permit.

Usually, the level you can dig is determined by the size of the hole and the reason you want to dig it. In most cases, you may be required to use specialized equipment before digging a hole in your backyard. This means the only way to get permission is by presenting the professional you intend to hire and the equipment you intend to use.

Your local planner primarily determines how deep you can dig in your backyard. They will consider the dangers you pose to your neighbors, the digging person and yourself.

They will also direct you on the likelihood of encountering utilities such as telephone, television, oil, gas, electricity, cable, oil, gas, and even water. Running and damaging these utilities can be highly inconvenient.

However, if the excavation is for an emergency, you do not need permission. Similarly, you can excavate up to 12 inches deep without a permit.

How Deep Can You Dig in Your Backyard Without a Permit?

The depth to which you can burrow in your yard without the need for a permit varies depending on the area and the reason for your digging. If you use a tool to move the ground without permission in some states, it will be considered a crime. Holes that are 5 feet or deeper usually require a permit.

One of the reasons you can’t dig a trench or a hole deeper than 5 feet in your backyard is that the hole could endanger the digger’s or neighbors’ lives. It is illegal to dig deeper without supporting the walls. Most civil codes require you to build support to prevent the holes from collapsing.

How to Stay Safe While Digging in Your Backyard?

Take care of your body

Digging is strenuous work, and if you aren’t prepared for its physicality, you could sustain a severe injury. Before you begin digging, stretch your muscles and go through a quick warm-up routine. Make sure to keep water nearby throughout the day. It’s hard work, so take breaks when you need them!

Use the appropriate tools for the job

While your shovel will get the job done most of the time, it is not always appropriate. Consider your project as well as the kind of digging that might be required as part of it. As a result, the only way to stay safe is to have a tool fitted for the job so you won’t have accidental injuries during your digging.

Examine the weather

The weather report should always be the first thing you look at when digging at home. The correct weather conditions can significantly simplify your job.

When the weather is terrible, such as when it is raining, you risk slipping in the mud and injuring yourself, or working on the underground may be dangerous due to the dampness. If you come into contact with a live electrical cable, this could end disastrously.

Contact a professional

You won’t always be able to complete all of your digging in one session; perhaps the weather has changed, the sun has set, or you need to attend to something inside.

It would be best to take precautions to protect your family members and your neighbors whenever this occurs. This may include letting them know what you are doing and where you are digging for them to keep away from that area even after you have covered it.

Don’t be afraid to contact a professional; numerous complications can arise when performing such work; this does not imply that you are careless or lazy. You can have a professional on-call just if you run into a problem. Professionals have the know-how and experience to work through problems and solve them before they become more complicated.


As much as it seems simple to dig a hole in your backyard, it might cost you a lot more than your expectation. Follow the correct protocols and what the law says. It might seem as if the rules are against you because the land is yours, but you should also consider the effects it might cause to you and your family or, at large, your neighbors. The damages you might cause without the right directions from the local authorities can be catastrophic, and they might cost you a ton of cash.

Therefore, before deciding to dig holes in your own backyard, consider notifying the local authorities and the right professional so that you can get the best advice on what to do and what not to do.

On the other hand, you can hire professional excavators and leave everything to be done by those qualified to handle such kind of issue. This way, you will be safer on the side of the law and also keep your neighbors happy.