Overflows from gutters and downspouts can erode the ground next to the foundation, leaving a gully that traps water in the worst place – next to the foundation. Filling the gully helps. Adding enough fill to create a slope away from the house helps even more. Ideally, firmly tamped dirt should have a gentle but noticeable slope away from the house for at least 2 or 3 feet.
Most yards can soak up a few days of rain without puddling. But eventually every yard runs out of storage capacity. Then groundwater follows the path of least resistance – often into that big hole in the ground, your basement. These four drainage projects can help. Two are simple improvements at the foundation that direct water away from the house. Two require excavation (a contractor with a back hoe) to greatly increase water-holding capacity.
Increase the slope
Try the quick fix first. Connect an elbow to the bottom of the downspout, and add several feet of straight pipe to release roof water where it can’t drain back to the house. That moves a lot of water away from the foundation, though it’s an awkward solution that leaves gutters stretching across walkways or lawns. But if you have basement leaks, try it. If it helps, you can invest in the underground version. This involves trenching, and connecting the downspout to plastic drain pipe that runs to a good release point. Set just a few inches below ground on a bed of gravel, the pipe should slope enough to prevent standing water from freezing. Remove sod neatly before digging, and you can replace it to conceal the minor excavation work.
Dig an area drain
This is the best solution on a lot where ground slopes toward the house. Even a gentle slope is enough to bring water from your property to the foundation – and runoff from a neighbor’s property higher up the slope. The idea is to intercept the flow of surface water and in-ground water before it reaches your house, or even the main yard, with an area drain.
The basic design is a porous trench, dug in an arced shape like a shield on the high side of the yard. The drain can slope to a safe release point at one end, or from the middle down to release points at both ends. Its size depends on how much water you need to divert. A typical system is 3 or 4 feet deep and 2 or 3 feet across – big enough to require a back hoe.
Over several inches of sloping gravel, perforated drain pipes run the length of the trench to release points. The high side of the trench wall is covered with filter fabric that lets water through but retards silt that can eventually choke the system. Fill the trench with gravel, creating a porous trench that water drops through until it reaches the pipe and is carried away. Or you can conceal the trench with a double layer of filter fabric under a top layer of sod.
Dig a dry well
This is the best solution on a small, relatively flat lot that puddles easily. It’s simply a hole in the ground, typically 3 of 4 feet across and 5 or 6 feet deep, depending on how much surface water you need to remove. Filled with rocks or gravel, the porous basin adds water-holding capacity in the yard. You might route downspouts to this underground reservoir, hidden under filter fabric and sod. Or you could locate the well in a low spot where water drains naturally.
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