Ideas & Inspiration

Yard Drainage Problems and Solutions

Standing Water in Yard
Standing water in a yard.

One of the first signs of a drainage problem in your yard is standing pools of water after rain. Ideally, the soil should absorb as much water as it needs, then the natural slopes of your yard should direct excess rainwater away from your home. When water pools in your yard, it could be because there are low spots that collect water, the soil is too compacted to absorb water or there are natural underground springs adding too much moisture to your yard.  


Here are some solutions for standing water:


  • Note which areas the water tends to pool, then direct water away from those areas using a French drain, a catch basin or a swale. A swale is a shallow channel designed to catch and reroute runoff water. Direct water away from your home and toward an appropriate area such as a street drain or a natural body of water. Don’t direct the runoff water into a neighbor’s yard. 
  • Soil can become compacted if you live in area with dense, clay-like soil or if you’ve recently had a major construction project, such as installing an in-ground pool. Help free up the soil using a cultivator and mix in high quality topsoil. If frequent rains are washing away the topsoil and leaving behind only the compacted clay, then you may need to mulch the problem area and wait for the soil to naturally dry out and stabilize. This can take several months to a year. 
  • If you have areas that are soggy even when it has not rained recently, you may have underground springs that are flooding your yard. In this case, make use of the water by creating a rain garden. Excavate the problem area and fill it with a mix of soil and gravel. Then plant water-loving plants to create a low-maintenance, self-watering garden. 


Tip: If you have an automated watering system in your yard, make sure it’s running on an appropriate schedule so that you’re not accidentally overwatering.  

Poor Yard Grading
A covered French drain running near a fence.

Poor grading is the top cause of flooding or pooling in yards. In extreme cases, bad grading can result in basement leaks and flooding because runoff water flows toward your house foundation instead of away.

  

Below are DIY solutions for poor yard grading:


  • If you are collecting water in your basement, consider installing a sump pump. A sump pump will collect water and pump it out of your basement before your home experiences major water damage.  
  • Installing a French drain or digging a swale can help direct water away from your home. Make sure that your drain or swale has at least a 1-percent downward slope that leads away from your home. In other words, it should slope down a total of at least 1-inch for every 10-feet. 
  • Make sure your garden beds all have proper grading as well. Garden beds next to your house foundation can collect too much water, which will cause mildew and attract pests, besides damaging less water-friendly plants. Either build raised garden beds or grade your beds so that they slope downward a total of 6-inches in the first 10-feet.  
Path and Patio Flooding
A cement and brick patio off the back of a house.

Walkways, patios and paths can collect water and flood when not properly graded. This problem is most common for cement or sealed brick pathways that don’t allow water to flow through them.

 

To prevent pooling on your paths and patios, try one of these solutions:


  • Install or replace existing paths with gravel or stepping stones so that rainwater can easily pass through the path. Alternatively, replace just the section with the worst flooding problem with gravel or segmented pieces. 
  • Install a catch basin. Water will flow through the catch basin’s grate, then be funneled away through an underground drain. Installing a catch basin is often labor-intensive. 
  • Dig underneath the path to install a pipe or a drain that will allow water to pass under, so that it doesn’t pool between the edge of the path and house foundation. 
  • Your pathways and patio may be flooding because of where your gutter downspouts release water. Adjust the downspouts so the water flows elsewhere. 
Downspout and Gutter Problems
A downspout with water flowing through.

Downspouts and gutters can be the source of flooding in your yard. If the downspouts are too short, they won’t divert water far enough away from the house. Clogged gutters can also cause water to spill over and pool near the house foundation, in garden beds and on patios.

 

  • Regularly clean your home’s gutters to prevent clogging. Gutters should be cleaned twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall. If you have many trees around your home, you may need to clean the gutters more often.  
  • Add an extension to the downspout so that it releases water farther away from your house. 
  • Create a gravel bed underneath the downspout to better absorb the runoff water so that it does not erode the soil and create a crater for water to fill. 
Erosion
A dry creek bed with shrubs.

Not all yard drainage problems result in flooding. Erosion of topsoil can be a big problem too. If runoff water is damaging your landscaping, try these solutions: 


  • Add more hardscaping features to your yard, especially in the trouble spots.  
  • Create a dry creek bed. A dry creek bed is a trench that is lined with landscaping fabric, then filled with gravel, with larger stones and rocks along the edge. The dry creek bed will allow water to flow through and overtop, while keeping the soil on either side in place.  
  • Line the edge of garden beds with gravel and decorative rocks to keep mulch in place.  

Solving yard drainage problems doesn’t always require a professional to level your yard for you. Once you’ve identified the source of the problem, you can usually fix it yourself with one of the solutions we’ve listed above. Ready to get the supplies you need to work on your yard’s drainage? The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them.