Effective Patio Drainage for Paver Patios

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You can spend a ton of time picking out pavers, planning out where they will go, prepping the ground, and even choosing the furniture and embellishments you'll put on top of them once it's all done. But if you aren't also spending some time considering effective patio drainage for paver patios, your project is incomplete and possibly even doomed.

Effective drainage for paver patios is absolutely essential for a patio of any size in any location. Include drainage as part of your paver plan, or everything else you do might end up ruined and your hard work will go to waste.

Why Do You Need Drainage?

Even though it may not be the first thing on your mind when you go to plan your new paver patio, drainage will greatly impact your ability to enjoy your new outdoor living area. Speaking technically, drainage is the natural or artificial movement of surface and sub-surface water.

Without the proper drainage, water can roll back on your foundation or pool up on or around the patio, causing damaging erosion. Standing water can breed insects and ruin your landscaping, and it can cause your paver patio to subside.

Water can even throw the entire area out of being level.

You don't want to deal with any of these problems and you don't have to. There are a number of ways you can effectively drain the water from your patio and plenty of DIY options for you to consider when you’re building your patio.

Designing a Patio Drainage System

The question of how to install patio drainage has left many homeowners feeling frustrated. There are a lot of options and there is a lot of information out there, some of it highly technical and difficult to understand.

Understand a little more about your options and how to build a patio to be optimized for good drainage in the first place, and you will be well-equipped to make decisions regarding all your drainage problems.

To get effective drainage, there are a few different things you can pursue. Essentially, all you need to do is capture the water and send it where it will do no harm to have a working patio drainage system.

Of course, learning how to install patio drainage is a bit easier said than done. It does take some work and even hard labor but with good preparation, you can create a well-draining paver patio that looks beautiful.

With the right drainage system, you can even improve the look and health of your garden and landscape areas.


Where you start has everything to do with where this project will end up. The base should be made up of several inches of gravel and sand.

Lay at least six inches of gravel and one inch of sand to build a strong and well-draining base. A thick base like this will prevent pavers from shifting and moving while it provides drainage.

More sand should be used between pavers, unless you're using mortar to seal them together. You want to use sand if you want to provide optimal drainage for patio with pavers.

A good base will already provide a good drain for pavers, giving the water somewhere to go. This is a good start, but you want to use a good base in conjunction with some other system that provides water drain for pavers.


Make gravity work for you by creating a slight slope around the base of the patio. This will allow water to naturally slide down the patio.

Patio drainage slope will do a lot to keep the patio area dryer and prevent water pooling that can do a lot of damage. Water pooling on paver patio is a slip-and-fall hazard and it will also cause damage to pavers.

Dig a trench or install additional drainage so the water has a place to go after it rolls off the pavers. This could even be part of an irrigation system for plants.

Plants are a natural way to prevent erosion and water runoff. Consider planting a ground cover around the perimeter of the patio and this way, the water runoff will naturally keep the ground cover irrigated.

A slope acts as a natural drain for patio pavers, but you don’t want to draw water away from one area so it can start causing trouble in others.

Drain Pipe

The best way to provide drainage for patio with pavers is to capture the water with a drain pipe. Run the pipe under or alongside the patio as desired.

PVC pipe is relatively inexpensive and it is highly durable. Drain lines often use PVC because it stands up well in outdoor conditions.

Use the drainpipe to guide the water elsewhere. Either tie the drain into the existing main drain line for the house or put it to use as a landscape or garden watering system.

A French drain patio feature is easy for anyone to install. Simply dig a trench where you're having drainage problems.

By drilling a few holes in the bottom of PVC pipe, you create a drainage system that will deliver water into the soil and keep it from pooling up in your yard. Bury the trench and pipe with gravel and direct the water anywhere you want.

French drains are a popular option as concrete patio drainage solutions and they work well with other types of patios, too. It is relatively easy to add a French drain, though digging the trench is certainly a chore.

You can also choose a channel drain, which is essentially a more refined version of a PVC pipe with DIY holes drilled into it. Channel drains are made in a huge variety of sizes and styles but all essentially have small slats along the top where water drains through.

The water is captured by the channel, which serves the same function as a piece of pipe in directing the water away and to a different location.

Installing channel drain in paver patio designs is more expensive than using PVC, in most cases, but the installation process is the exact same.

Drain pipes are highly effective patio drainage options and you don’t need to be a plumber in order to run a simple under paver drainage line. PVC pipes and fittings are widely available at hardware stores and they are very easy to work with.

PVC lends itself well to DIY projects and its very user-friendly, so to speak.

Drainage under pavers is not always necessary but if you are placing pavers in a spot where water tends to pool up, you will want to bury drainage pipes to run beneath the patio.

Dry Well

You can also construct a dry well to handle excess water from a paver patio drainage system. This is a hole or barrel filled with gravel and sand that transfers water into the subsoil.

A dry well is a good choice to receive water from a French drain paver patio drainage system. It could also be put in under your patio as part of the base.

Using a dry well to capture water is only recommended if you know it can handle the water flow it receives.

Dry wells are buried in the ground, fortified with gravel, and can be placed just about anywhere. Dry wells can be used to capture water from anywhere, even the gutter drainage system.

Effective Patio Drainage Options for Paver Patios

No matter which option you choose, you need drainage for your patio. Without drainage, water will pool up and compromise the structural integrity of the patio.

Use a drainage system to direct the water where you want it to go, instead of finding it everywhere you don't want to see it.

Start with a drainage system and then get to the business of learning how to make a paver patio look good on the top. With the right base and the right planning, you won’t have water problems around your patio area.

That means you can simply enjoy having and using your patio area.

Drainage for Paver Patios FAQ

Do you need drainage under a paver patio?

Paver stones need good drainage. Otherwise, you run the risk of having water pool up around the pavers.

Water weakens the pavers, as water can wear away stone in time.

Standing water can create chips and cracks and in cold weather, the water in cracks and around pavers will expand as it freezes. This will widen cracks and cause further damage to pavers.

Good drainage is essential for paving stones.

How much slope does a paver patio need for drainage?

Patios should have at least a slight slope, but this small incline is not really noticeable. For every four to eight feet of paver area, you want one inch of slope.

If this area doesn't have enough slope or has no slope, you will end up with water that pools up around the pavers, which can happen even if you have good drainage.

Do I need gravel or sand under pavers?

There is no debate between gravel versus sand under pavers, because you need them both. The pavers are only as good as their foundation, so you want to have a firm one and create a well-built outdoor area.

You need a gravel base with both fine and coarse pieces directly on top of the ground where you plan to place your pavers. Compress this firmly, packing in as much gravel as possible.

The gravel should have a depth of six inches at least.

A layer of sand is next. This layer will prevent pavers from shifting and sinking and help provide drainage.

At least one inch of sand will help ensure good drainage and give the water plenty of room to drain away instead of pooling up.

Can I just lay pavers on dirt?

You can always place pavers right on the ground if you want but remember that the pavers will shift and sink in time. The ground gets soft when it's wet and pavers will slide out of place as a result.

How do you prepare the ground for a paver patio?

Measure and mark off the area where you will place your pavers using wooden stakes and string. Excavate the grass and dig out a shallow, level area.

You may need to add material to some areas and dig away material from others in order to get this area graded with the right slope. Place landscaping fabric down directly on the dirt to prevent grass and weeds from growing.

Now, you can begin placing the gravel, sand, and pavers.

What is the best drainage system for pavers?

There are a few options for adding drainage in and around patio pavers, whether you're burying a drain pipe or using a natural slop or you've chosen another option. However, the best solution may be to choose permeable pavers.

These pavers are designed to allow water to pass through them. They are made with porous materials, such as fired clay brick.

Permeable pavers are also called concrete drainage pavers in some designs. Concrete drainage pavers are available in a huge variety of sizes and styles, including designs made to mimic natural stone and various types of brick.

What is the best drainage for a patio?

A drain pipe is the more reliable method of drainage. Building a strong base and properly sloping the patio is highly effective but it is always more effective to have a drain pipe that catches and directs the water.

Any type of drainage system will be much more effective than nothing at all, and even starting with a good base will give you some drainage. You always have the option to add more drainage as needed, because you can dig a trench and bury a pipe to catch water any time you like.

Further Reading

4 Tips for Laying Bluestone Pavers

Alternative Paving Solutions

Cheap Paver Patio Ideas (And How to Install One)

Green-Friendly Garden Pathway Ideas

How to Kill Plants Between Patio Bricks

How to Maintain a Bluestone Paver Patio

How to Make Cement Pavers

How to Make Molds for Concrete Pavers

Installing Rubber Paver Blocks