Solving Drainage Problems in Your Yard

Nothing ruins a backyard quite like a drainage problem.

Drainage problems can:

  • Damage the structural integrity of your home
  • Cause basement flooding
  • Serve as a breeding ground for disease-carrying insects
  • Ruin grass and cause ruts from lawn mowing
  • Cause plant erosion
  • Flood patios and other hardscaping in your yard
  • Create a mess inside your home from mud tracked in by people and pets

For all these reasons, solving drainage problems in your yard is critical. Unfortunately, finding the exact cause of your water problem can be tricky.

Drainage Problems are Frustrating

Drainage problems in your yard can range from consistently muddy soil to large standing pools of water.

Trying to solve drainage problems can be frustrating—especially if you implemented the “obvious” solution, only to find it didn’t work. The pool of water has returned and you’re back to where you started.

Causes of Common Yard Drainage Problems

Consider these causes of drainage problems. Does your property have any of them?

Poor Soil Drainage

Good lawn drainage depends on good soil. Some soils drain better than others.

A man’s hands filled with dark rich soil

In New Jersey, soil can range from sandy to clay-like. Sandy soil drains better, while soil with lots of clay has slower drainage. Loamy soil—good crop and gardening soil—consists of a mixture of clay, silt and sand. Loamy soil resists getting dried out in summer and avoids getting water-logged in winter.

You can improve soil drainage by adding organic matter to the soil—often in the form of compost, sand or shredded leaves.

Soil can become compacted during construction or by heavy foot traffic. This also slows drainage. Going over the soil with a power aerator helps.

Too Much Watering

Overwatering a lawn or garden can cause drainage issues.

Try shortening the automated sprinkler watering time. The soil will have more time to drain, and the drainage issue may be fixed.  

Water Draining Directly onto Your Yard

A neighboring home’s downspouts may be directing water onto your property. Or the town-owned property behind your house slopes in your direction.

Even new construction on the lot next door can cause drainage problems. Rainwater can be inadvertently directed in your direction as old trees are removed and a new foundation is poured.

Property Has Subtle Low Areas or Slopes

It may not be obvious to the naked eye, but land with low spots or a gentle slope can cause significant drainage problems.

Very flat land can also cause drainage issues.

Impervious Structures

Impervious hardscaping, such as concrete patios and walkways, can cause drainage problems. They don’t allow water to pass through them and so reduce the square footage of your property’s total drainage surface area.

Man building a concrete walkway is smoothing the newly poured concrete.

If you’re adding a concrete structure on your property, be sure your new project keeps your property within the town’s acceptable pervious vs. impervious ratio.

Use modern pervious hardscaping materials that allow water to seep through and promote drainage.

Too Much Lawn Thatch

Lawn thatch consists of dead leaves, roots and other organic material. A thin layer of thatch makes great organic mulch. However, lots of thatch on your lawn will keep water from draining through the soil.

Use a dethatching rake or power dethatcher to solve this problem.

Poorly Managed Downspouts

A short downspout draining rainwater next to a foundation.

A short or misdirected downspout causes serious drainage issues. Sometimes the obvious is overlooked, and a downspout drains directly into a flower garden, or to a low area in your yard.

Repeated runoff in your yard erodes topsoil and causes water to collect.

Effective Drainage Solutions for Your Landscape

If you’re planning on building a new home, adding heating and air conditioning isn’t as exciting as designing a new kitchen. But if it will be disastrous if it’s left out of the plans.

Similarly, when planning your landscape design, don’t forget about planning for adequate drainage. If you fail to plan, it will have to be addressed later—probably at a greater cost.

A good landscaper will always address drainage issues.

Here are some effective drainage solutions for your yard.

Man-Made Creeks/Swales and River Stone

Man-made creeks are visible landscape features that redirect water and promote good drainage. They are dug into the landscape to drain overly wet areas. The creek needs to be on property that slopes downward to encourage water flow.

A swale is an open channel for water collection. It’s covered by grass on the sides. and properly directs and filters the water. The water slowly percolates into the ground.

A river rock bed alongside a patio

River rocks are an attractive addition to a man-made creek. Place river rocks on foundation fabric, with gravel under the larger rocks. This promotes drainage and discourages weeds from growing in the stone bed.

A man-made creek empties into a dry well, or if allowed by the town, into a storm drain.

Dry Wells

Simply put, a dry well is a deep hole where water collects. Landscapers fill the hole with rocks to help water drain slowly into the soil. The rocks are kept from eventually blocking water drainage by being placed in a perforated plastic tub.  

The more water there is to be drained, the larger the dry well needs to be. A common dry well size is 4’ x 4’ x 4’.

Rain Garden

A rain garden is an attractive way to deal with excess water on your property. This garden area uses native plants that easily absorb water. The plants can surround a small water retention area and help return collected water back into the ground.

In New Jersey, swamp milkweed, white turtlehead, cardinal flower, ferns, ornamental mosses, and hostas work well in rain gardens.

A rain garden helps when you don’t have space for a man-made creek. Other times, a rain garden serves as a beautiful base at the mouth of a man-made creek.

French Drain Construction

A French drain is a trench that is dug into downward sloping property to collect runoff water. The trench usually contains gravel that surrounds a perforated drainpipe.

The French drain empties into a dry well or storm drain. A French drain is often hidden by grass.

Channel Drain

A channel drain moves water to another area on your property, often using PVC pipe.

Channel drains are often connected to downspouts and move water away from building foundations.

Regrade Property

Water should always drain away from your property to prevent water damage and basement flooding.

Often slight regrading of property to direct water away from your home will make a dramatic drainage improvement.

Talk to an Expert About Your Drainage Problems

Drainage problems are easy to solve with the proper machinery, knowledge, and experience. Contact us  at Sponzilli Landscape Solutions for superior landscape design, outdoor living spaces, and maintenance.

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