The Importance of Performing Culvert Inspections

The Importance of Performing Culvert Inspections
  • Opening Intro -

    Unique structures known as culverts often support today’s infrastructure. Unfortunately, many existing culverts cross the barrier into reduced functionality or disrepair due to environmental factors and time. As such, many culvert structures must go through regular inspections to examine current hydraulic performance and structural integrity.

    Let’s discuss the importance of performing culvert inspections and what goes into them. You should understand everything from the frequency of inspections to the details of the culvert inspection process. A combination of skills and experience is necessary to observe the quality and performance of culvert pipes.


Frequency of Inspections

Because corrugated steel culvert pipes reside as submerged substructures or are in remote locations, performing an inspection can be difficult. Scheduling culvert inspections regularly helps ensure proper culvert functionality. The required inspection expectations should occur every few years.

Inspect frequency ranges depending on the bed load, pH, corrosion, erosion, size, age, and importance. Based on rating levels I through III, each culvert ranges from working fine to requiring urgent care. For instance, level I culverts require inspections only every 10 years.

Specific Inspection Assessments

There are many considerations when performing a culvert inspection. First, it’s crucial to look for culvert safety risks, including fall hazards, low embankment risks, and confined spaces. Furthermore, accurate baseline measurements serve as benchmarks for future inspections. Some baseline measurements include:

  • The length and size of culverts
  • Roadway elevations
  • Roadway and culvert interaction angles
  • Debris buildups impacting the flow
  • Stream channel upstream and downstream characteristics
  • Drainage area types
  • Culvert material, alignment, and shape changes

Based on the condition of the culvert and significant deficiency discoveries, culvert inspection can determine changes or conditions at risk of worsening. Other inspection assessments include corrosion rate, coating loss, perforations, abrasions, seams, cracks, and joints.

Culvert Inspection Process

Culvert inspection covers various factors. These include identifying the issue, determining the deterioration cause, evaluating hydraulic and structural conditions, looking at the method of repair, implementing designs, and doing post-repair and rehabilitation maintenance. Firstly, inspectors must review available background information regarding the project area and culvert, including existing maps, historic digital videos, as-built drawings, and more. Following up with a preliminary site inspection helps inspectors review and note features that can impact inspection implementation.

After the preliminary phase, the inspection team moves into the implementation and data evaluation phases. The implementation phase occurs when onsite work meets MnDOT’s requirements. Meanwhile, the data evaluation phase helps data meet quality expectations through technical staff who support design and asset management decision-making.


The importance of culvert inspections comes from the fact that they’re essential to society’s infrastructure. They ensure functionality and stability. Understanding the minor details can allow inspectors to carry out their jobs effectively when performing culvert inspections. The use of accurate and logical data with follow-up action plans makes for timely culvert inspections that fulfill all fundamental aspects of satisfactory culvert infrastructure management.

Image Credit: Adobe royalty-free stock image #314887285



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Categories: Building Management

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