How to improve drainage in your backyard

Your backyard could be a great extension of your living space. You can grow plants and create a beautiful garden, build a patio or deck for entertaining, or even add a playground for your kids to enjoy. But all these beautiful plans could easily be ruined by one thing: poor drainage.

You don’t want your plants to die from being soaked for too long or your kids to bring mud into the house. So if you are experiencing problems with your backyard’s drainage, here are some nifty solutions that you can follow:

The different types of yard drains

There are different kinds of drainage systems for backyards and it’s very important to know which type you have to be able to maintain it properly. Some of the most common yard drains include:


Swales are usually shallow depressions that catch water runoff and let it flow to a ditch or common drain. This type of surface drainage is commonly used in yards with slopes that can point to swales to easily drain storm water away from your property.

Underground piping

This subsurface type of drainage is used for properties that don’t have slopes or if the area isn’t ideal for surface drainage. Underground pipes are usually installed on a gravel bed leading towards the discharge point.

Dry well system

A dry well is an eco-friendly option because it doesn’t only catch storm water, but it also keeps it in underground storage where it is filtered and used for watering the plants in your backyard.

Using rocks to divert water

If your property doesn’t have an existing drainage system and if you don’t have the money to invest in it yet, you can use rocks as a cheap and easy solution to divert water out of your backyard.

One of the biggest benefits of using rocks for drainage is that they don’t only serve the purpose of keeping water away from your backyard, but also add to the aesthetics of your property. Rocks can also be easily manipulated into different formations depending on the look that you want to achieve and the topography of your backyard.

Rocks also absorb heat during the day and release it at night. This can help melt ice during the winter and divert that water away from your property. The downside, however, is that you can only use rocks to divert water if you have a slope in a direction away from your backyard or home’s foundation.

If you’re dealing with a flat backyard, rocks wouldn’t be of much help because there’s no way for the water to be drained into a ditch. In this case, you would need to work with a landscaper to create a proper drainage system for your yard.

Is sand or gravel better for drainage?

A lot of landscapers use sand or gravel beds around the backyard to help prevent water accumulation and offer the following benefits:

They offer natural drainage

Sand and gravel are naturally capable of preventing water accumulation in your backyard, especially after a heavy downpour. This is because water actually drains more easily on them than on just soil. This means that you can prevent any puddles and keep your pathways dry even after heavy rain.

They keep weeds away

If you don’t want to constantly call the gardener to maintain your backyard, you will benefit from having a sand or gravel bed because it prevents overgrown shrubs, weeds, and even soil mounds.

They prevent excess moisture

Sand or gravel beds are ideal for backyards because they don’t retain moisture that could be the beginning of pest and termite infestation.

They offer heating

Like rocks, sand and gravel beds absorb the heat from the sun during the day and they radiate it back after the sun sets. This will provide extra warmth throughout your property, especially during those cold, winter nights.

Using a trench to drain your yard

A trench drain has been used for many years to remove water away from paved areas to keep backyards dry. It is also beneficial in keeping rainwater from flowing into a patio or pool. This is why most gardeners and landscapers use it.

To use a trench drain for your backyard, you need to start by building a slope first that should be 2% of the total measurement of the drainage line. This will allow for water to flow properly throughout the trench, whether it’s coming from a gravel bed or piping.

You will also need a catch basin where all the drain water will be stored and slowly released into the ground. Make sure that your catch basin is sturdy enough to allow the water to slowly flow before it is discharged to a ditch or pond.

If it’s going to be the water’s last stop, it’s very important to create perforations or holes throughout the catch basin so it can slowly release water into the ground without creating a puddle or pool around it.

To build your trench, you need to line the bottom with about 2 inches of coarse stone or gravel. You should also do the same step to cover the drain line after it’s installed. Make sure to leave at least 3 to 4 inches to allow for your lawn’s growth. But, if your drainage problem is severe, you can leave the top gravel exposed and let grass grow over it.

Drainage problems and solutions

Finally, you need to be familiar with some of the most common issues in backyard drainage and how to solve them. A problematic downspout, for instance, could leave your plants dying because of too much water. You can address that by adding corrugated drain tile or creating direct drainage that leads to swales where your water-loving plants can enjoy the constant water flow.

Moisture is also another common issue, especially if you have a basement. If you don't control the water from your backyard it can easily end up in the foundation of your home.

Prevention is still the best way to address this problem. You have to make sure that you have proper underground drainage system. Or you have to use one of the above ground methods described in this post.

Whichever way you attack your backyard's drainage problem, you need to continually maintain it so it doesn't fail. Check you drainage system thoroughly at least once per year. Look for places where your materials may be breaking down. Replace anything that looks like it might fail.

Your back your drainage can be improved. Just take a little time to access what is causing the issue. Then choose the right drainage solution that will work with your yard and budget. If you take a little time to plan, you will be able to fix your drainage issues in your backyard.