Install a Drainage Pipe in 7 Steps

A drain pipe in mud with someone holding it.
  • 5-10 hours
  • Advanced
  • 300-1,500
What You'll Need
Drainage piping (closed or open)
Sharpshooter trenching shovel
Filter fabric (for open piping)
Sturdy work boots

Installing a drainage pipe is a fairly labor-intensive job unless you have the proper machinery. The most important aspect of any underground drainage system is that it must travel from a high point to a low point with a steady slope. This will prevent any pooling from forming at low spots. Follow this guide step-by-step to set up your own system.

Decide on the Route

The route of the drainage pipe should be as direct as possible. This will be easier if you are using it to deter water from a specific area. Do not forget to account for the necessary downward slope.

Decide on the Pipe

For diverting water, you might need a closed pipe at one point so that water goes in at one end and comes out at the other. The closed drainage pipe can come in flexible rolls several yards long with all the fittings required to join as many lengths as necessary.

If you are running water away from a general area, you will need pipes that are open. This type usually has a row of holes down the length of them and comes in individual short sections rather than a kit.

Dig the Trench

The drainage pipe needs to be set in a trench. Dig the trench along the route you have already decided upon. The trench needs to be eight to 10 inches wide and about 18 inches deep. When you're ready to start the trench, you can save the sod by cutting it out with a machete. You can then easily remove the 2-foot lengths of cut sod in sections along the line of the trench with a square shovel. Keep it and set it on the opposite side of the trench in a line so they can be replaced in the same spot. The bottom of the trench should be firm and smooth, and must always slope downward in the direction you want the water to flow.

The contours of the land might take the trench deeper or shallower at points along its length, but the bottom must be evenly downgraded.

Dig the trench.

Line the Trench

Line the trench with a couple of inches of gravel and level it off. If you are using open drainage pipe, line the trench over the gravel with filter fabric.

Install the Pipes

Reels of the closed system can be simply unrolled into the trench. If there is a drain that needs to be connected to at the beginning of the trench, be sure to connect it.

For an open system, the pipes need to be laid along the bottom of the trench. The holes should be facing downward and the filter fabric should be wrapped around the pipe as it progresses. The filter fabric will ensure that the drainage pipe does not get blocked by too many large pieces of debris being washed into it.

Re-fill the Trench

Once all of the pipes have been laid, and you have confirmed that there is a steady downgrade for the entire length of the system, you should fill the trench. Try not to disturb the lines you have installed, and take special care not to disturb the filter fabric.

Replace the Sod

To give a neat and professional finish, replace the sod that you set aside when you started digging the trench by laying each piece back in its place.

This is a labor-intensive project. If it is not a challenge you are up for, you should call a contractor. You should use a contractor if you feel any uncertainty about any of the project steps. Before you begin your drainage pipe project, do not forget to call ahead and get your utility lines marked. Like any project that requires digging, marking the utility lines will help avoid unnecessary damage to your property and fines.