Drainage System Design Basics and Tips

A drainage system.

A good drainage system design is a much-needed solution for homeowners who have large land surfaces to irrigate, who live in areas with greater rainfall rates, and whose land includes surface dips or depressions. If you fall into one of these categories, the following will help.

Determining the Source of Excess Water

Problems of pooling water that cause muddy gardens, soggy lawns, or flooded yards typically involve one of two problems: 1) excess water, and 2) poor drainage. Before deciding to develop a drainage system, you should first consider the possibility that you can eliminate excess water by eliminating its source. Typically, this can happen because of heavy rainfall, melting snow, underground springs, broken underground water pipes, or a broken sprinkler head.

Repairing broken pipes could eliminate any need for installing a drainage system, but if excess water comes from unrepairable sources, or if repair is not possible, then you will need to look at designing and developing a drain system. If a new drainage system becomes your choice, you will want to consider a few factors.

Soil Composition

Clay soil often contributes to pooling water. You can often remedy this problem by using a garden tiller to mix this clay soil with sand, gypsum, or compost.

Land Elevation

Property sloping direction will most likely determine the depth of the drainage ditch you'll need to channel your water, and will determine the direction in which you will need to drain excess water. The key here is to design your system so that the place that receives your drained water is lower than the area of pooling water.

Open Ditch

To create an open ditch drain, dig your ditch at least 12" deep and 12" wide. If the length of your ditch is not too great and the soil is soft, you should be able to dig the ditch by hand. The alternative would be to hire a contractor with a mechanical ditch digger.

Gravel Trench

Having an open trench in your yard may not be your idea of beauty, and if you prefer your trench not to be seen, you can fill it with gravel, then cover it with topsoil or grass. The downside to using gravel, though, is that it has the potential of becoming clogged by soil washed into it by running water.

Drainage Pipe

In using a drainage pipe, you will have less trouble with clogging if the pipe diameter is 12' or larger. But with a pipe that large, your material costs will be greater than with a smaller pipe. And if the pipe consists of several sections your work time will increase because you'll need to seal each section to keep dirt from entering the openings in the pipe.

Most drainage problems can be resolved by using one of these draining systems. In some situations, you might need to use more than one method. But, unless the area to be drained is bowl-shaped, you should have no problem keeping your land free of excess water.