Four Most Common Residential Drainage Problems and Solutions
Spring in Alabama is a wonderful time of the year. It can also bring rain – rain that we need for spring flowers and green lawns. However, those rains, especially the heavy downpours common in our area, can cause problems in yards where drainage is an issue. Without proper drainage water can collect, cause damage to structures and kill expensive plants and trees. If you are experiencing water problems, a well designed drainage solution system is a top priority for maintaining your investment.
How Do You Know if You Have Drainage Problems?
It may be obvious, but if you’re not sure, you can test your current drainage by digging a hole approximately two feet deep and wide. Next, fill it completely with water. Your drainage is excellent if it drains within an hour. If it takes up to 12 hours to drain completely, there may be some problems. If it takes more than 24 hours, you have a serious drainage problem that could potentially damage the deep roots of trees and shrubs.
If you see standing water you should call a drainage specialist to analyze your property’s ability to shed water by “shooting the grade”. This will establish the exact topography and will tell you where the problem areas lie and what needs to be done to correct it.
Groundwater plays an important role in landscape drainage, and is directly related to rainfall patterns. Rainfall is the catalyst that typically sets drainage problems in motion. Where heavy downpours are common, and we know they are here in Alabama, poorly drained areas can become temporarily flooded even if proper drainage is in place, and for extended periods of time if they are not.
The top four most common drainage solutions are:
1. Surface Drainage
Many homesites have uneven grades, especially in some of the hillier areas, where water becomes trapped, causing flooding and muddy areas in lawns and shrubbery. A drainage specialist can create a drainage plan utilizing surface grading to allow for proper drainage. Correcting the problem on the surface is usually the most economical solution and is preferred due to the fact that you do not limit the capacity of the water being shed. If surface grading is not an option, other below ground solutions exist.
2. Positive Flow Subsurface Drains
A Positive Flow drain is a common drainage solution that collects water, usually from your roofs gutter and downspout pipes or strategically installed catch basins, then run it underground to discharge into a lower area, preferably the driveway or street.
3. Subterranean Leach Field Drains (Common Misnomer “French Drain”)
Subterranean drains collect water that comes from under your house or yard. As the water table rises underground springs or aquifers may manifest themselves by creating soggy places in your yard or perhaps even presenting as wet spots in your drive, house slab or basement. This drainage problem requires someone very experienced in identifying the exact location of the breach and able to find the most economical solution. Many times a gravity drain will work, while other times, due to the elevation of the breach, a pump may be installed to discharge the water to a higher elevation.
Often, hardpan soil layers exist and the entire site may be affected by poor drainage and standing water. In these cases, spot solutions as referenced above, simply won’t work. A site-wide grading and drainage solution plan is necessary. This plan includes an underground system of pipes fed by drop inlets or trench drains, making it easier for water to run off site and funnel directly into a storm drain.
These types of drainage solutions costs more to install, but it pays for itself with reliability. If no storm drain exists or it is inaccessible, this solution plan could flow into an underground sump. A sump is a large hole dug in the ground and then packed with gravel.
4. High Water Table
If your homesite is in a low lying area with a high water table, you have probably noticed what a challenge landscaping these areas can be. Over saturated plant roots, especially for an extended period of time, can quickly rot, resulting in damage and often dead plants. It’s best to choose plants and shrubs that originate in river bottoms and wetlands if possible.
Another solution for high water table landscapes is to actually raise the planting areas. This will allow you more options on what types of plants, trees and shrubs you can safely plant and grow. For trees and large shrubs, the size of such planters must be greater to keep the root crown high and dry.