How Deep Can I Dig In My Backyard

How Deep Can I Dig In My Backyard? Are you a USA or a UK resident? Have you ever considered making some developments in your backyard but did not know where to start?

Once in a while, something comes up where you need to excavate your Garden or backyard.

Perhaps, you want to create an extension of your house.

Or maybe, you need to build some timber garden structures such as a summerhouse or a garage in your backyard. It’s also possible that you may want to lay your dead pet to rest.

The decision becomes even harder if you are a new resident.

To make your work easy, I have prepared a guide that will provide you with the necessary information you need.

Making developments or excavating your backyard is not prohibited in the UK and USA. However, there are rules to be followed.

For instance, you can only dig to a certain stipulated level if you have not sought permission.

If you need to go beyond the stated depths, you will require a permit from the concerned Authorities.

So, how deep can you dig in my backyard without planning permission in the UK or the USA? The answer to this question and more have been provided before. Read on to find out more!

How deep can I dig without a permit in the USA?

In the United States, the law requires that you first seek permission from the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) before making any hole in your backyard.

Once you have received their approval, you can dig a hole up to 5 feet deep. If you intend to dig a hole that is deeper than this, you will require to receive a special permit before proceeding.

This requirement applies regardless of where you intend to dig the hole.

Even if you want to excavate your front yard, the first step that you must undertake is obtaining permission from the Common Ground Alliance. The ‘5 feet deep’ rule still applies.

There are two ways to reach CGA. First, you can call them directly using the number 811. Once you call, CGA will then contact the local utility operators in your area of residence.

Alternatively, you may opt to visit their website and then directly make an online application from there.

After you have selected your state, you will receive an online ticket that will come in handy whenever you want to track the progress of your application.

The application may take a couple of days before it is officially completed.

A team of inspectors will come to your property so they can map out areas with utilities.

How deep can I dig without a permit in the UK?

In the United Kingdom, the laws are more stringent, unlike in the USA.

You must stick to the ‘100 mm or less’ rule to dig without a permit.

That is way stricter compared to USA’s ‘5 feet deep’ rule. However, the permit is a necessary evil.

Obtaining a permit is not a punishment! It serves the greater good in society as it ensures that you don’t disturb the ground level, affecting the utilities in the area.

However, it’s noteworthy that there are various instances when you will not need to obtain a permit before you can dig in the UK. These include:

  •   Routine maintenance of a shrub bed

If you are doing routine maintenance of a shrub bed that is in existence, you may dig up to 300 mm or less without needing a permit.

  •   maintenance of a static site.

If you are doing routine maintenance of places like schools or parks, you will not need to obtain a permit.

  •  Holes that are 100 mm or less

As a rule of thumb, you do not need to obtain permission if the hole you are digging is less than 100 mm.

However, there is an exception to every rule. For instance, you will need permission if the hole you are making is in a footway.

Likewise, it is important to stress the various instances when you must obtain a permit before you think of doing any excavation in the UK.

Besides holes that are deeper than 100mm, other instances include:

  •  Refurbishing a playground.
  •  Installing a sign
  •  Waste bin installation
  •  Putting in place fencing posts
  •  Planting a new shrub bed

If you master these basic rules, you will be on the safe side of the law.

Do I need planning permission to excavate my Garden?

In most cases on How Deep Can I Dig In My Backyard, gardening and landscaping works do not need planning permission.

However, you may need planning permission to excavate your Garden in certain instances.

The reason is simple. You do not want to interfere with underground utilities or affect your neighborhood with your excavation activities.

In the US, several rules are applicable. For instance, you must refrain from digging too close to the utilities or their markings.

Generally, you should maintain at least 18 to 24 inches between them.

Likewise, you are prohibited from using heavy machinery such as excavators near these utilities.

Instead, you can opt to use smaller equipment like a shovel.

In various instances, you might need a scanner to locate the depth of service lines, water pipes, or other utilities.

Like in the US, you may need planning permission if you intend to excavate your Garden and reside in the United Kingdom.

An example is where a homeowner wishes to pave their front garden without using a permeable material, and the paving is more than 5 square meters.

The requirement to seek planning permission in such a situation came about following the 2007 big floods in the UK.

The reason was that converting gardens into driveways significantly contributed to the floods since the runoff water went into storm drains whenever it rained.

The planning policy requires that permission be sought regardless of the paving, the back garden, or the drive.

There are instances when you will not need planning permission.

These include when you want to install timber garden structures such as sheds and outbuildings. Such activities are permitted under the ‘permitted development rights.’

Frequently Asked Questions

How Far Down Can You Safely Dig?

The health and safety guidelines relating to digging trenches, holes, and excavations have been detailed in the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970 in the US.

According to state building codes, you must dig between 18 and 24 inches (457 mm to 610 mm) from the utility or its marking. That will ensure that the utility line is preserved.

How Deep Can I dig in my backyard in the UK?

If you do not want to seek a permit in the UK, you are only required to dig 100 mm or less.

The permit is essential since it serves as security insurance to ensure that you will not tamper with the existing ground level.

How Close To my House Can I Dig a Hole?

If your house has a strong foundation, you can dig beside it, yet it will remain intact.

If it’s not strong, the trenches may collapse. Also, you are likely to interfere with utility lines and pipes.


Knowing where and how you can dig holes in your compound is a prerequisite to avoiding incurring the wrath of the law.

The laws differ from one country to another, from state to state when it comes to How deep can I dig in my backyard.

While this may seem burdensome to you, there is a sound legal underpinning for why you should seek a permit in certain scenarios.

The main and obvious reason is that you do not want to interfere with utility lines and pipes, which may affect the entire neighborhood.

In the UK, the requirement to seek planning permission has been intended to combat serious cases like flooding.

In a nutshell, the UK has strict laws compared to the USA. In the USA, you must first seek permission from the CGA.

However, you can dig up to 5 feet deep without a special permit. In the UK, on the other hand, you can only dig 300 mm if you do not have permission.

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