How to Solve the 5 Most Common Drainage Problems

Evelyn Long

Jul 26, 2021


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If your yard floods every time it rains or your walk-out basement floods on a regular basis, you may have a drainage problem. Landscape drainage problems are common in yards with a slope or around areas where impervious surfaces, like a sidewalk, are present.

While drainage problems can cause significant headaches for homeowners, most issues can be easily resolved with a few basic fixes. Here are five of the most common drainage problems, and how to solve them.

1. Soil Impaction

Soil impaction most often occurs around new construction when heavy equipment disturbs the soil. However, soil impaction is more common in certain soil types. For instance, clay-based soil is more likely to have issues with impaction. If you have impacted soil, you may notice that the ground remains wet for days after a rainstorm, or that certain parts of your yard remain soggy all year round.

One method of mitigating soil impaction is incorporating new plant life into your yard. Adding organic matter to the ground, like compost, helps to break up the soil and improve its ability to hold water. Consider planting trees or shrubs in the impacted area, or constructing a raised bed that holds flowers or vegetables.

If adding plants to the area is not plausible, you may want to construct a French drain that can help mitigate standing water.

2. Short Downspout

Most homes have gutter systems that run into downspouts, designed to move water from the roof away from the base of the house. However, downspouts that are too short or facing the wrong direction can cause issues for homeowners. Short downspouts are a common drainage issue, meaning the water gushes out too close to the house, eroding soil and creating a stream.

To avoid this issue, redirect or lengthen the downspout. You may also want to look into planting a rain garden, which is an area of water-loving plants designed to soak up extra moisture in your yard. By running your downspout into a rain garden, you can avoid soil erosion and create a beautiful habitat for wildlife.

3. Erosion Run-off

Soil erosion is most common on previously disturbed soil, such as agricultural land or recently constructed home sites. However, the slope of the land around your house can also be a determining factor. Soil erosion happens when the top layer of soil is completely removed. You may have soil erosion run-off if heavy rainfall or flooding leaves you with rivulets through your yard or collections of loose soil at the bottom of a slope.

One solution to soil runoff is building a swale. A swale is a shallow trench that holds water. It slows down water flow and prevents soil from degradation. Building a swale is simple and inexpensive, and it requires only a shovel. Planting perennial plants can also help strengthen soil structure, helping the ground to hold water better.

4. Yard Slope

If you have a steep backyard or a graded driveway next to your house, you may experience drainage issues due to yard slope. Yard slope is perhaps the most common drainage problem. While it may seem like there is not much you can do to change the slope of your yard, it’s actually not that complicated to fix.

Consider adding a perforated drain pipe close to your house, especially if you have a walk-out basement or patio. This will help to catch a percentage of the water flow. In addition, you may want to build a trench drain to redirect water in the direction you want it to go. More serious landscape updates, such as flattening graded yards, may also help slow the flow due to yard slope.

5. Path Flooding

Impervious surfaces, such as paved driveways and pathways, can cause drainage issues. Impervious surfaces restrict the flow of water, causing it to run across the surface rather than be absorbed into the ground. This can make drainage much more complicated.

If you are experiencing path flooding, be sure to incorporate moisture-loving plants to help slow the flow of water, and consider adding drains that can reroute additional water flow. If you can, build a drainage plan before construction. That way, you can ensure that you have accounted for water flow before building.

Fixing Your Yard

Landscape drainage problems are very common, and most homeowners have had at least one encounter with a broken downspout or soil erosion. If you have regular flooding in your yard or find that areas around your home are holding standing water, consider these simple solutions to the five most common drainage problems.

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