Alabama is known to get its fair share of spring rain – rain that we need for spring flowers and green lawns. However, the heavy downpours common in our area can cause problems in yards where drainage is an issue. Without proper drainage, water can collect and damage structures or expensive plants and trees. If you are experiencing water drainage problems, a well-designed drainage solution system is a top priority for protecting 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 percolation rate by digging a hole approximately two feet deep and wide. Next, fill it completely with water. Your soil perks 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 your soil perks and yet you are experiencing standing water in your yard or around your home or property, you should contact a landscape drainage contractor to analyze your property’s ability to shed water by “shooting the grade.” This will establish the exact topography and identify where 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 such as aquifers in motion. Where heavy downpours are common, and we know they are here in Alabama, poorly drained areas often become temporarily flooded, sometimes for extended periods of time, resulting in damage to your home and landscaping.
The four most common drainage solutions:
1. Surface Drainage
Many home sites have uneven grades. Hillier areas can commonly collect water, causing flooding and muddy areas in lawns and beds. A drainage contractor 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 because it does not limit the capacity of the water being shed. If surface grading is not an option, other subsurface solutions exist.
2. Positive Flow Subsurface Drains
A Positive Flow drain is a common drainage solution that collects water from your roof’s gutters and downspout pipes or strategically installed catch basins and evacuates the water through a solid pipe. Water then runs underground to discharge into a lower area, preferably the driveway or street. Where a lower elevation is not possible a pump can be used to push the water to the discharge point.
3. Subterranean Leach Field Drains (Common Misnomer “French Drain”)
Subterranean drains collect water that originates 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 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 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 like gravity drains or pumps 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 cost more to install but pay for themselves in reliability. If no storm drain exists or it is inaccessible, this solution plan could flow into an underground dry well. A dry well is a large hole dug in the ground and then packed with fabric and gravel.
4. High Water Table
If your home site is in a low lying area with a high water table, you have probably noticed what a challenge landscaping can be. Over-saturated plant roots, especially left 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. In many cases, a subterranean leach field drainage system improves soil drainage conditions when a high water table is present.
Whether you are building new construction or have an established landscape, drainage solutions are essential to the health and beauty of your property.