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The 101 on Proper Drainage Systems

Why drainage? Water is good, right? Well, in some cases water can be damaging. Excess surface and subsurface water can be damaging to structures, unhealthy for turf and plant life, and erode soils.

The first form of action in resolving a drainage problem is finding out where the water is coming from. Here are the most common forms you might find collecting around a residential property; “Direct contact water”; water from rain or an irrigation system that does not penetrate the soil, “Run off water”; water from gutters, paved areas, or adjoining properties, and “Underground water”, in the form of seepage or high water tables.

Each water problem may require its own specific drainage solution, but the basic concept to any drainage design is to Collect, Transport, and Discharge water. The most basic solution can be simply adding soil on an area to reroute the water flow or keep it from collecting in a specific area. Some more complex systems may include an elaborate network of drains and pipe. Consulting a professional to help determine the best choice of action and proper drainage system is recommended.

Although, materials are readily available at most home improvement stores, novice do-it-yourselfers should do plenty of research before tackling this type of project. Materials like Catch Basins, Channel Drains, Dry-Wells, and multiple sized pipes and fittings can get quite overwhelming. It’s also very important to understand the amount of water you’re dealing with so that a system can be designed to handle that amount or greater.

If you do plan to do a drainage project on your own, here are some basic tips;

1. Examine your property; direction of slope and grade, find where the water is coming from and going

2. Determine where you will be collecting water and where the best place will be to discharge it; Remember, discharged water should never be directed onto another property or city system without prior authority.
3. Design the system; select the type and size of drainage products; check with your city departments for any local code requirements, try to gain 1%-2% of pitch with your pipes ( approx. 1.25″-2.25″ per 10′) to make sure water flows in the direction of your discharge area.

An alternative to installing a drainage system is to growing bog plants and /or water loving specimens in the area to help absorb excess water. Usually, this will not completely resolve your excess water, but is a great alternative. Especially, if the area has little importance to be completely dry.

There are also many permeable paver types on the market that can be installed to prevent runoff from paved areas. Permeable paver systems are also useful for creating water collection systems that can be used for irrigating landscapes and vegetables or water features.


-TJ Slowkowski