Keep a wary eye on your tile line or you will suffer the consequences


I have improved tile drainage around my property and have clear open outlets to the road ditch. In low flows everything is fine, but then during high flow events, the water can’t get away because my neighbor’s driveway culvert is half plugged and in complete disarray and they do not seem interested in doing anything about it.

Why? Because they can cross it any time without concern. This got me thinking about other tile drainage goof-ups we have seen assisting homeowners.

Here are some examples:

Let’s start with utility companies with their buried electric lines, gas pipelines, buried phone cables and buried water lines, etc.

All these companies install their product underground with all good intentions. The end result sometimes has been to cut a tile line, and either by design or default, fail to reconnect or reroute the line.

Homeowners are now at the mercy of the utility company to fix it. If not, get ready for blow outs or blow holes or sinkholes or that perennial new wet spot.


One time an electric company set a new pole and bored right through an 8-inch plastic tile main and did not attempt to fix, replace, reroute or inform the landowner of their errant act.

When a foundation is dug out for a new basement, the homeowner is at the mercy of the earth-moving contractor to properly reconnect any tile lines they encounter.

In one instance a 15-inch main tile line was cut off and not reconnected around the excavation. This occurred in the summer. Well guess what happened when the house was built and the homeowner wondered why they had so much water in their basement overnight from one rain storm?

A pond was being built and the excavator failed to reconnect or reroute an existing tile line around the pond or a tile was right next to the edge of the pond but unknown to the owner and excavator.

Here again, good intentions, but another example of a future problem yet to be discovered.

“Why won’t my pond fill up only to a certain level?” yells the owner.

Standing water

When a geothermal system was being installed, the installer again failed to reconnect or reroute existing tile lines. The homeowner wondered why there was so much water on top of the ground above the geothermal system two years after installation, when there was not any water before the system went in.

One time the phone company ran a new phone cable line in front of my property, and when they bored the buried cable toward the neighbors property, they actually bored right into my plastic tile line for about 50 feet and the end result was blow holes.

When I started digging it up to see what may have caused the problems, to my surprise, the plastic tile was all buggered up.

I contacted the phone company, who came out and when they saw what had happened, declared “that shouldn’t have happened.” They did dig up and repair my tile line at their expense.

Attention to detail by installers on behalf of the owner would go a long way toward preventing these tile line horror stories. Tile lines are not part of the locator service industry because the tile lines were not put in by them nor are they part of their reporting system, and because they are usually privately owned and privately installed, unlike the utilities infrastructure.

Old plans

Most of the soil and water conservation districts may have old designed tile plans on file, if they still exist or if they are on some kind of maintenance program, but unless someone has first-hand knowledge of tile being in place because they saw it go in, or there are tell-tale signs a person can recognize on site, then be prepared for someone cutting your tile lines or you will end up fixing it yourself. If you do, be sure to reconnect or reroute the line so it can still function properly.

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