Drainage isn’t sexy, but it saves


A good way for you and your landscape to start off 2019 might be expanding your living space outdoors. It can be exciting to start a new project — so exciting it’s easy to rush into the fun, skipping the forethought and preparation.

But, like everything else in life, doing a job right the first time will make the experience great (and in this case, a chance to save money and frustration by avoiding future disasters).

Start out with good drainage. This is the foundation for your new outdoor world.

You can call in a landscaping company to handle the job or you can do it yourself. Here is a little guidance for those of you who are up for a little money-saving exercise.

Ideal digging conditions with hard or clay soils are several days after rain when soil is soft, but not wet. If there is no rain, slowly water the areas you will be digging so the water can seep down and moisten areas below. You just want soil damp enough to dig easily.

Place drainage at the lowest point(s) of your backyard. All general land surfaces should have a slope of at least 2 percent toward your drainage area.

Look for a swale. A swale is simply a mild depression in the land that will conduct water away from the house. Most properties built in the last few decades, were constructed with one. If you have no swale, look for the lowest point in the lay of your backyard ground surface. This is where water will normally pool making it the best place for  placing drains.

Dig a trench that follows the existing swale or create your own using the low areas of your yard. This will be the collection area for the water to flow. Make sure the channel you create is at least six feet away from the walls of your house. The drainage needs to cross your backyard and angle down the side of your house to open onto a street or other drainage area. Ideally, you should run exiting drainage down both sides of a backyard to make a “U” shape leading past either side of the house and down to the street.

Putting together the drainage is the easier part of the job. Lay 3 inch corrugated, perforated or unperforated pipe made specifically for this purpose into your trench at a depth of six inches or more. You can use prefabricated connectors to extend pipes or to turn corners.

Slot tee joints along the drainage pipe at least every ten feet, especially where the pipe lines at their deepest levels. Either end of the tee will join the two parts of the main line pipe together. Point the stem of the tee upward toward the sky. The open end of the tee should rise up level to the bottom of the swale. Then slot a preformed drainage grid over the open part of the pipe. The grid will keep leaves, stones and other materials from pouring into the pipe.

There are plenty of how-to diagrams available online or in printed materials. Depending on your soil, rocks and tree roots, the digging can be the greatest challenge.

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