Tips for Running Drain Pipe Under a Sidewalk

Tips for Running Drain Pipe Under a Sidewalk
Article Intro

Every drainage project runs into its fair share of setbacks—like having to run drain pipe under a sidewalk or pathway.

Setting up a proper residential drainage system is no easy task. It’s highly labor intensive and each project runs into its fair share of setbacks—like having to run drain pipe under a sidewalk or pathway.

It’s not an issue many homeowners think about until the time comes where it’s necessary. Sure, you could always lay at an awkward angle and dig the hole by hand, but it’s time consuming and uncomfortable.  

Whether you’re trying to hook up a pop-up emitter on your curb or are trying to extend a downspout beneath pavers into your yard, keep reading to learn how to run drain pipe under a sidewalk or walkway.

Things to Keep in Mind

There are a couple of easy do-it-yourself methods for boring a hole underneath an area of sidewalk. The level of difficulty depends on your soil type and its makeup. Clayey soil will be harder to dig through and the same can be said for rocky soil.

Another thing to note is sidewalk slabs are generally 4 inches thick, plus another few inches of gravel. Pavers or stamped concrete are around the same. Be sure to take that into consideration when digging the initial hole (and trench).

Photo courtesy of Zillow.

Method 1 – Dry PVC Pipe Needle

In the first method, you’ll need to cut one end of the PVC pipe at an angle resulting in something that looks like this:

Cut a piece of PVC pipe at an angle to piece through the dirt.

The next part is pretty straightforward but labor intensive. Grab a sledgehammer or mallet and a block of wood to drive the chiseled end of PVC pipe cut through the soil. Repeat the process until the pipe clears the sidewalk.

Method 2 – PVC Pipe + Water

This method uses water pressure to push the pipe through the dirt under the sidewalk. It can be accomplished with a normal garden hose; however, a pressure washer works even better. This is naturally the messier option, so make sure you have a change of clothes handy! (And as always, wear eye protection – you never know what the water will send flying).

You’ll want to dig a trench a few feet out from the sidewalk for the backflow of water as you push through. There are adapter sets available at big box stores that connect a hose to PVC pipe.

Use PVC and water to dig a hole under a walkway.

Depending on the type of soil, this process should be faster than just using PVC pipe alone.


No matter which method you choose, digging a hole under a sidewalk for drain pipe doesn’t have to be difficult. Time-consuming, yes, but once you have a clear path to direct excess rainwater with a pop-up emitter, it’ll be well worth the work.

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