How to Achieve Better Yard Drainage

Soggy yard? Here are your options.

Wet spots in your yard are a nuisance and an eyesore. Grass will die if it’s underwater for too long. You can’t mow over wet areas, and everyone tracks mud into the house. If the soggy area is close to your house, it can cause your basement to leak, or worse. So what’s the answer? In this article we’ll review the options.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

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Try Simple Fixes First

Before you start digging a trench or taking some other drastic action to get rid of a wet spot, step back and survey the situation to see where the water is coming from. The problem could be as simple as a downspout or sump pump discharge that’s draining into a low area of your yard. Redirecting your downspout or running the discharge pipe from your sump pump to a different location might be all you need to do.

Draw a Drainage Plan

Construct a Creek Bed

You can solve drainage problems and create an attractive landscape feature at the same time with a dry creek bed. Build a creek bed to direct water away from a low spot in your yard. Or if the slope of the ground permits it, use a creek bed to drain a low spot.

Start by making a swale—essentially a gentle, shallow drainage ditch. Then line it with gravel or stones and add interest with boulders, a bridge or plantings.

Of course, you don’t have to turn your drainage project into a creek bed. A simple swale is an effective and subtle way to control surface water. Obviously it’s easier to create a swale before you seed or sod your yard, but if necessary, you can cut out the grass with a sod cutter and replace it when you’re done regrading.

Build a Rain Garden

Add a Drainpipe

One of the best ways to get rid of water from a low spot is to simply drain it away through an underground pipe. For this to work, you need an area to discharge the water that’s lower than the inlet. The drainpipe should slope downhill at least 1/8 in. per foot. If you had a discharge outlet 100 ft. from the inlet, it would have to be about 1 ft. lower.

To create the drain, you’ll have to dig a gradually sloping trench from the source to the outlet. Then bury a plastic catch basin at the source and connect it to the discharge with PVC drainpipe. This system has a few advantages over a French drain (see p. 46). Since the pipe is solid, and not perforated, there’s no need to provide gravel for drainage along the length of the drainpipe. Also, smooth-wall pipe drains water quickly, and if it gets clogged, you can use a drain snake to clean it out.

Drainpipe discharge: The discharge end of your drainpipe can be connected to a pop-up emitter that sits flush to the lawn when no water is flowing.

Drainpipe inlet: Position the inlet catch basin at the low spot of your soggy area. The grate will sit flush to the lawn for easy mowing.

Install a French Drain

A French drain is a versatile system for dealing with all kinds of drainage problems. It disperses water over a large area through a buried perforated pipe. The pipe must be surrounded by material that allows water to drain through. Conventionally this was gravel, but NDS sells a system called EZflow that includes the pipe and surrounding polystyrene aggregate in one convenient and lightweight package. A French drain system can be used alone or combined with a dry well.

A properly designed French drain system does not require an outlet. The water will simply soak into the soil as it flows along the perforated pipe. In fact, a French drain doesn’t require an inlet on just one end either. You can construct the drain to accept water along its length, and disperse it underground.

Anatomy of a French Drain: A typical French drain consists of a perforated pipe—usually flexible lightweight plastic—sheathed by a fabric sock to keep dirt and sand from clogging the pipe. The pipe is buried in a trench and surrounded by aggregate. Water enters the pipe, from an inlet at one end, through the earth, or through long narrow grates spaced along its length, and is dispersed through the aggregate and into the ground.

Install the Pipe in a Trench: Connect the lengths of tubing and place them over a bed of gravel. Then add gravel on the sides and over the top before covering the pipe. Perforated drainage pipe is also available with the sock in place.

Create a Dry Well

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