How to Build a Stone Culvert

Learn how to build a stone culvert with dry-stacked and flared wing walls to divert water.

| January 28, 2014

  • A dry-stacked wall made with large stones secures this 9-foot-diameter (2.7-m) stone culvert at its discharge end.
    Photo courtesy Lark Crafts
  • "The Complete Guide to Stonescaping," by David Reed, presents the basics of stonescaping in easy-to-understand terms for projects that will be functional and beautiful.
    Cover courtesy Lark Crafts

Learn techniques for building functional and beautiful stoneworks that will last for ages with The Complete Guide to Stonescaping (Lark Crafts, 2013). With easy to follow instructions and hundreds of breathtaking photos David Reed shares stone projects to turn any yard or garden into a retreat. In the following excerpt, Reed outlines how to build a stone culvert under a driveway that crosses a creek or stream. 

Reworking a Creek Culvert

Many property owners with driveways that cross over creeks or streams already have culvert pipes in place. In this project, you’ll learn how to build a stone culvert with dry-stacked walls around the intake end of one of these pipes.

The 4-foot-diameter (1.2-m) culvert shown in the photo above allows a creek to run beneath my driveway. When I first moved to the property, the outflow end of the culvert — a concrete-block wall faced with stone — was still in good shape. The dry-stacked stonework at the inflow end, however, had collapsed into piles of stone on both sides of the pipe’s opening, and the slope from the driveway down to the top of the pipe was caving in. The simplest and most practical solution was to stabilize the bank by dismantling the old stonework and restacking the stone walls.

One tip before you start a similar project: Unless the creek or ditch is dry, there’s no way to avoid getting wet as you build the stone walls of a culvert! You’ll be standing right in the bed of the creek or ditch as you work. To minimize sogginess, wear a pair of tall rubber boots. Making a few walkways by placing boards just above water level will also help.



Dismantling the Old Stonework

I started work when the creek was low. First, I completely dismantled the old stonework on the right-hand side of the inlet end. In order to redirect some of the creek water away from my work area and off to the left, I removed some of the largest stones and placed them in the creek itself.

Some of the original stones were suitable for restacking. The others, irregular in shape, were good backfill material, so I saved them to thicken the new wall and add to its ballast. To supplement the useable recycled stones, I handpicked about 1/2 ton (508 kg) of stone at a stone yard.






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