Getting Rid of
Standing Water in
by Michael J. McGroarty
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Do you have one
or more areas in your yard that hold water after a rainfall?
This is a common problem, and sometimes difficult to solve. Over
the years Iíve talked with dozens of people trying to battle
this problem, and on several occasions I have been hired to
solve the problem. So what can be done?
Too often people
come to me asking what kind of a tree, or what kind of shrubs
can be planted in a wet area to dry it up. This is the wrong
approach. Most plants, and I mean almost all plants are not
going to survive in an area where the soil is soggy for extended
periods of time. The roots need to breathe, and planting a tree
or shrub in a water area will kill it.
approach is to try and fill the area with topsoil. Depending on
a variety of variables, this can work, but many times adding
additional soil to a wet area will only shift the water to
another area just a few feet away.
If you are lucky
enough to have some natural fall to your property, or a drainage
ditch nearby, this problem is easy enough to solve. If you
happen to live in an area that was developed over the past few
years, there might even be a system to remove storm water nearby.
In many new home developments Iíve seen storm water catch
basins already installed in backyards. Trust me, this is a good
thing. There is nothing worse than having a soggy yard all the
If you are
fortunate to have some fall to your yard, or a storm water
system that you can drain water into, this problem is easy to
solve. Make sure you check with your local officials before you
do anything at all with a storm drain.
All you have to do is go
to your local building supply center and buy some 4Ē
perforated plastic drain pipe. The best kind for this purpose is
the flexible kind that comes in 100í rolls. This type of drain
pipe has small slits all around the pipe. These slits allow
water to enter the pipe so it can be carried away.
Just dig a
trench from the center of the low area you are trying to drain,
to the point that you intend to drain it to. Using a simple line
level you can set up a string over top of the trench to make
sure that your pipe runs downhill all the way. A line level is
a very small level that is designed to attach to a string. Any
hardware store sells them for just a couple of dollars. Set the
string up so it is level, then measure from the string to the
bottom of your trench to make sure you have constant fall. You
should have 6Ē fall for every 100í of pipe.
point is going to be the area that you are trying to drain, so
you only want your pipe deep enough at this point so it can be
covered with soil. Once the trench is dug just lay the pipe in.
At the highest end of the pipe youíll need to insert a
strainer into the end of the pipe to keep soil from entering the
pipe. Cover the pipe with some washed stone, and then backfill
the trench with soil. The washed stone creates a void around the
pipe so that the water can find its way into the pipe.
stone is usually inexpensive stone that has been washed so it is
clean and free of mud. The only part of the pipe that needs to
be exposed is the low end, where the water exits the pipe. Do
not put a strainer in that end.
If you do not
have anywhere that you can drain the water to, you still might
be able to do something. But first consider what is happening,
and why the water is standing where it is. Even if you have well
drained soil, water can not soak in fast enough during periods
of heavy rain, and it runs across the top of the ground and
eventually finds the lowest point, and either leaves the
property, or gets trapped.
If you have well
drained soil, the trapped water usually soaks in. If you have
heavy clay soil, the water lays there, and the soil underneath
becomes very compacted, and the problem compounds itself. The
more water that stands, the worse the drainage gets.
What I have done
in areas like this, where there is standing water but nowhere
to drain it to, is to install a French drain system that
actually carries the water away from the low area, and allows it
to seep into the ground over a larger distance, where the soil
is not quite so compacted. To install this French drain system
you do everything exactly as explained above, except instead of
draining the water to a lower area, you can send it in any
direction you like. Even in the direction from which it came,
which is uphill.
this type of system, itís a good idea to dig a number of
shorter trenches, all heading away from the area where the water
stands. Using the line level, make sure your trenches fall away
from their point of origin so once the water enters the pipes it
will flow away from the wet spot. What is going to happen is
that during times of heavy rain the low area is still going to
trap water, but much of that water is going to seep into the
drain pipes and eventually leach into the soil under each
soil has not been compacted by the standing water and the baking
sun, it will accept the water. It wonít happen near as fast as
if you could just drain the water to a ditch, but at least you
will have a mechanism in place that will eventually disperse the
water back into the soil. Itís a lot easier to leach 200
gallons of water into a series of trenches that total 100 lineal
feet, than it is to expect that water to leach into a 10í by
10í area that is hard and compact.
J. McGroarty is the author of this article. Visit
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