7 Common Property Drainage Problems and How to Resolve Them

You may not have control over when it rains or how much it rains, but there are things you can do to lessen the impact that rainwater has on your property. Without proper drainage, water can collect in your yard creating structural issues to your home, damage to plants and flowers, an increase in bugs and a messy, swampy mess. Signs that you may have poor drainage are:

  • Water in the basement
  • Mosquitoes breeding in puddling water
  • Dead grass, trees and plants suffocating/drowning
  • Erosion
  • Ice building up on walkways and patios in the winter

Let’s discuss seven of the most common property drainage problems and what you can do to resolve them.

Problem #1: Improperly Installed Downspouts and Gutters

Gutters and downspouts are essential parts of a home’s exterior, but if they aren’t installed or maintained properly, they can cause problems. The most common hurdle is when the gutters overflow or when leader pipes are not directing water away from the home. Instead, runoff will pool around the foundation of the home and cause both landscape and structural problems.

To fix, make sure all downspouts are pointed away from the home and that they lead far enough away from the dwelling. Connect these spouts to a drainage system if necessary to carry the water even further.

Even more importantly, be sure to clean your gutters. At Horizon Landscape, the biggest drainage issue we see is gutters that are overflowing. Sometimes, a tennis ball will be thrown up in the air and onto the roof -and plop! – it lands in the gutter. This will then create a cover over the leader drain so the gutter overflows. And sometimes, it’s not just balls in the gutters, either. We’ve seen everything from dead squirrels to bird nests to sticks, leaves and debris piling up and blocking the downspout. It’s amazing to see how much blows around and collects in the gutters or are carried there by squirrels and birds looking for a place to nest or hide food.

If you want to see if your gutters are the issue, grab an umbrella and step outside when it’s raining, observe the gutters and check if there are wet areas around your house. This is a quick and easy way to see where the issue is stemming from.

Problem #2: Improper Grading

In a perfect world, lots are graded to drain so that water moves away from the house and flows through a swale, to a drainage catch basin or down to the curb. Unfortunately, homeowners, landscapers and builders don’t always get their grades right, and this can cause water to become trapped, or worse yet, flow toward the house and into the basement, home or building. The solution to this watery mess: a new drainage plan. The plan may involve drains to collect water and pipe it away, subsurface drainage to collect water as it percs into the ground or regrading to direct the water in the correct direction.

Problem #3: Run Off From Neighbors

Erosion coming from higher elevations is a major problem, and it happens when you live downhill from other properties. It’s not really your neighbors’ fault that this is happening, but you can’t exactly ask them to prevent it, either. The best thing to do is to watch at how the water runs into your yard during a rainstorm. You can then divert the water by building a berm or swale, or by re-routing the water to a catch basin or dry well. Another option is to hire a professional landscaper to grade broad surfaces.

Problem #4: Your Landscaping

It’s hard to believe that your hard work may be causing the problems, but it’s possible. Bare soil without vegetation, a yard that slopes toward your home or paved surfaces that direct water to the structure are all potential problems. Unfortunately, not everyone thinks of these things when making amendments to the home. The key is to divert the water elsewhere, which can be done with French drains or other creative solutions like gravel and rocks.

Often we see that people use too much topsoil or mulch in their planting beds, or they were simply graded the wrong way when they were created. They become raised and slope back toward the house, causing water to run back and against or into the home. If the gutters overflow, too, then you have real problems. Be sure the grade of the planting beds is AWAY from the home or structure.

Problem #5: Roots in your drainage pipes

If you notice your drains are backing up, it may not be a crushed or broken pipe but roots that have invaded the pipe. Sometimes we find that they squeeze in at joints and quickly grow, breaking the fitting and loving all the moisture in the pipe. In a short time, they not only block the pipe but completely fill it requiring removal of the pipe or a root cutting service to come in and mechanically clean the pipe out. Occasionally we find perforated pipe used in shallow situations or near trees. This allows grass roots or tree roots to quickly find the source of moisture and invade the pipe. After you clean the pipe of roots – be sure that perforated pipe is wrapped in filter fabric when close to roots and glue the joints to keep roots from finding a way into the pipe.

Problem #6: Surface Depressions

If water is collecting in flat areas or the soil is staying saturated in some spots, it may be surface depressions causing the problem. These depressions allow water to puddle, creating a mess. A swale could be helpful, or certain portions could be filled in and graded so that the water drains out of the low spot and away from the home. If this doesn’t work, an underground catch basin or drain may be necessary.

Problem #7: Your Soil

If you notice that your lawn is muddy in one spot and dry in the next, it could be the type of soil that is causing drainage problems. There are three basic soil types: sand, silt and clay. If your soil is heavy in clay, it won’t drain very well. If it’s sandy, it will let water slip right through. If it is sandy right against your home, the water will run down the sides of your foundation causing wet areas in the walls to your basement.

The best trick is to dig a small hole, fill it with water and watch how it drains. If it takes 12-24 hours to drain, you have a problem. (It should only take about 4 hours.) Improve your soil with a coarse aggregate like sand or pea gravel and organic matter.

If you are experiencing one or more of the drainage problems we describe, these tips will help you resolve the problem. Often we find that several issues contribute to the situation. We’re happy to help you figure it all out — just schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our drainage experts. Call 201-848-0022 or complete our consultation request form. We’ll get back to you right away to schedule a visit to your property.