Yard Drainage Issues & Solutions




Have you ever surveyed your yard and noticed standing water, random puddles, or soggy, muddy patches? Oftentimes, excess water may arise after it rains or if other factors need to be addressed. If the exterior of your home shows signs of poor drainage, it can adversely affect the appeal, condition, and performance of your yard and landscape. Although this is a common, unfortunate problem for homeowners, there are steps to take to resolve and improve the lay of your land.

If lawns and landscapes repeatedly have excess moisture, the soil is likely not draining adequately or the slope of the land is hindering the water runoff. Sometimes, heavy rainfall can leave water atop the surface; however, it’s also an issue you’ll want to address if the problem persists without storm occurrence. For whatever reason, the soil is retaining too much moisture and soaking the surrounding surface area. More than merely making a muddy mess, too much standing water can damage your grass, deteriorate plant life, attract pests and mosquitoes, and potentially flood basements and home interiors. Soaked soil can cause root rot underground that might require the replacement of plants, trees, grass, and gardens. If not addressed, inadequate drainage around the yard can affect the foundation, walls, and cement in and around the house.

A muddy backyard with puddles after spring rain

Let’s explore common causes that could factor in to the water-logged land outside your home.

Roof and Gutter Performance

Too much water flowing from the gutters can cause an overload if the downspout points directly onto soil, mulch, flowers, or garden beds. The roof’s drainage system may also get compounded with leaves and debris obstructing a seamless flow. Check roofs and clean out gutters at least twice a year, preferably prior to Spring and Fall.

A Slippery Slope

Land that lies on slopes or pitches might have issues draining water away from the home. In some cases, houses on a slope may naturally direct water toward your property from neighboring yards’ water runoff. Soil soaks up and cannot drain fast enough when there’s a lack of free-flowing water through an even layer of ground. Grading the area with drain pipes can help transfer water off your lawn and away from your home’s structure. When a yard has different elevations, a retaining wall is a useful installation that diverts soil and water away from the home to improve drainage and prevent flooding.

Drainage Trench

Digging and Developing

Water can soak the soil when there is frequent digging around the yard. Clay, silt, and dirt deep below the ground hold a lot of water and cause proximate areas to become soggy and swampy. Large-scale construction projects, such as the installation of an in-ground pool, descend deep into the Earth where hardpan clay is abundant and more readily retains water. Furthermore, when filled with soil or grass, water soaks in and drainage is even less efficient.

Boundaries & Borders

Sometimes, cement sidewalks, pathways, and patios block water flow from permeating through the yard, draining through soil, or seeping into storm drains. These sturdy surfaces act as dams that restrict water flow and can leave excess water between the home and the path. Some landscaping efforts may overload rocks, bricks, and hardscaping elements which can impede water from flowing through the grounds. Lining paths and garden beds with gravel and rocks will ease the barrier and facilitate water to pass through.

Soil & Erosion

In some yards, the soil is too dense and should be monitored and treated for improved aeration. Loosening the soil helps the water drain through and leaves less of a soggy trace on the topsoil.

Some landscaping duties remove leaves and attempt to clean up the area; however, when it rains, topsoil erodes and water penetrates the lower textures of silt and clay that are less likely to properly drain. Adding a cultivator to high quality topsoil will loosen the soil so it drains better. Or cover with mulch or organic material like compost which aerates the soil and allows water to sufficiently seep down into the root system.

A soggy yard at every rain shower

Tips to Tackle Drainage Problems

Now that the common drainage issues have been identified, let’s address some surefire ways to resolve undesirable overflow.

When experiencing issues with standing water and gradual deterioration of plant life outside your home, there are some DIY solutions to implement that may combat the problem and contribute to a more sustainable garden and yard.

It’s vital to conduct research, consult with and seek estimates from landscaping experts, and compile the right tools before digging into your drainage solution. Understand your home’s topography and assess where there are high and low points around the yard. Take measures to help dictate water flow and deal with areas lacking level ground.

Watering Routine

On the surface, a simple, potential quick fix could be adjusting the watering frequency throughout the yard. Reduce sprinkler settings or take a less aggressive approach in how often you water. Limit water supply over a few days or weeks and observe the trouble spots to see if that makes a difference and dries up the drainage issue.

Dig deep and make some headway

In more extreme cases, it’s worthwhile to dig a swale, ditch, or create a small creek nearby the flooding trouble zone. This facilitates poor drainage areas when water flows its natural path but is consequently redirected into this small man-made trench. Cover and surround with stones for a resolution to hold the excess water while conveying a natural, appealing aesthetic to your yard.

A small creek or river bed will add charming appeal and have a lasting effect while directing water away from soggy spots in the yard. Be cautious of erosion of soil and fast-flowing water; but otherwise, digging these shallow ditches can be a cure-all cover-up to drainage issues around the yard.

Level up the Landscape

If standing water exists even without recent rainfall, this may be due to underground springs soaking your yard. Disguise the drainage problem by developing the area with native plants and flowers that can retain the water and add charm to an area that used to be a detriment. This scenic solution, commonly known as a rain garden, can feature moss, ferns, and plant life that withstands water, prevents excess mud, and diminishes the soaked surface.

Gutter Gut Check

Consider the property’s roof and gutter system when determining the cause of drainage deficiency. As a result of storms and heavy rainfall, the downspout at the bottom of your gutters might splash directly into the ground. This drenches the landscaping, impacts plant and lawn survival, and can lead to floods and moisture penetrating inside the home.

Gauge the flow and functionality of the gutter system so water and debris are not clogging and preventing natural flow from the roof to the ground. An unintentional basin becomes a bother so consider adding an extension to the downspout or positioning it so it stretches away from the house. This helps excess water span a larger range of the land and directs the flow outward toward soil, storm drains, and sewers. Consult with a professional to understand local laws and guidelines when dispersing water toward external drains or public, pedestrian areas. Correspond with neighbors to discover if they are experiencing similar drainage issues. If this is the case, seek guidance from local municipal officials and drainage experts to help formulate a solution.

Drain, Drain, Go Away

A more arduous approach to solving drainage issues in the yard occurs below the surface. These tactics involve digging and installing an underground drainage pipe to transport the excess water to an area that can absorb the water and catch it in a basin so it won’t soak the soil above.

Burying a pipe underground, often known as a French drainage system, will help divert the water downward into the soil. The pipe’s material should be perforated, lightweight, and flexible so dirt, sand, and debris can pass and water flows easily from the swampy setting to a more free-flowing area beneath your property. Water is either directed through the French drain system’s outlet or permeated underground through slots, gravel, or fabric so pooling and puddling on the surface dissipates. Ensure pipes slope away from your home and at an approximate descent of one inch for every ten feet. Installation of a French drain system can be labor-intensive, so seek the help and expertise of a capable contractor.

Ground Level

Identify the lowest areas of the yard. If the home is on a slope, regrading the surface allows water to flow away from the foundation. A more level ground allows water runoff to spread and gravity will help it flow through a controlled drainage route without pooling in one low-lying spot.

Garden beds should also be graded properly so water runoff does not surge toward the house. Raised garden beds are a smart alternative to ensure growth in the garden without drainage issues.

Health and “Well”ness

To preserve lawns and landscaping from water-logging, installing a dry well could reap botanical benefits. Forming a large hole in the ground will hold and absorb water runoff or stormwater from the surface. Wells can take on more water when connected to a French drainage system. An alternative method integrates plastic containers with holes in its sides and bottom inside the well. This initially holds the water and gradually disperses it throughout the underground area. On the surface, an underground well can be hidden with a covered combination of gravel, soil, and grass.

A French drain located beneath this gravel walkway provides drainage for adjacent lawn and planting areas.

Flood Watch

Although a more costly solution, a sump pump will collect excess water and essentially pump it back up into your land where it eventually drains and dries. This equipment is also commonly found inside homes to prevent flooding, mold, and mildew in garages and basements.


In summary, most homes will encounter a drainage issue at one point or another as a result of various mishaps around the home’s exterior. While standing water and muddy patches can be damaging and disappointing, there is typically a solution to fix the flooding and prevent future occurrences. Once you pinpoint the problem and put protocol in place, your yard and landscaping will be prime for a healthy environment in which to grow, sustain, and appreciate.

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