A wet yard can be extremely inconvenient for a few reasons. For one, it is visually unappealing to have a flooded lawn. Still, visual aesthetics aside, a wet lawn can inhibit outdoor activities and pose a significant risk to your home if it is close enough to its foundation. Ideally, you’d want to fix this issue by re-grading and leveling your lawn, but since this can be a pricy and extensive process, there are some easier and cheaper alternative options.
Read on to learn the step-by-step process for how to dry up a wet lawn. The solution we will discuss here is how to create a French drain for your yard to help channel excess water away from your property and prevent flooding or pooling.
Get the Right Equipment
Installing a French drain into your lawn might sound fancy and extensive when in reality, it is a fairly simple process that requires minimal tools and materials. The first step in using this method to dry up a wet yard is to acquire the proper equipment necessary for installation. Luckily, this process only needs two tools: a shovel and an electric edger.
Get a High-quality Shovel for Speed
You’re going to need to dig a trench for your French drain, but thankfully, you can do this with a standard shovel.
If you have a shovel already lying around in your garage, that will most likely work fine. However, if you don’t have a shovel or the only option is an old, rusted one, consider investing in a high-quality shovel, such as the Hooyman shovel. This product is built with an ergonomic non-slip handle for comfort, 1050MN steel for durability, and a serrated blade for functionality.
Although you could certainly get by with any shovel, the higher quality your tool, the faster this process will go, and the Hooyman shovel is guaranteed to make the French drain installation process a breeze.
Invest in an Electric Edger for Efficiency
An electric edger isn’t exactly necessary for this process, but it will certainly help in your speed and efficiency when the time comes to dig the trench. Electric edgers can help cut through the dirt like butter and provide a straight and clear guideline for digging your trench, something you wouldn’t get with an ordinary shovel. More likely than not, without an electric edger, your trench would be crooked and uneven because you don’t have the precision of this tool to guide you.
An electric edger isn’t your typical garden tool, so it isn’t unlikely most people have one already on hand for this process. If you are interested in investing in a quality electric edger, we recommend the WORX WG896.
Buy the Necessary Materials
Installing a French drain is a little more of an involved process to dry up a wet lawn than some easier alternatives, like covering the area with sand or compost. However, a French drain is a more long-term fix than these alternatives and well worth the time and investment.
In order to install a French drain, you’ll need certain materials. These include:
- Corrugated drain pipe or PVC pipe
- Spray paint, stakes, or flags
- Landscape fabric
- Pipe fittings
- Inlet grate
Overall, these materials will cost about $100-$200 depending on how long you need your drain and if you want to use corrugate pipes for a straight and standard system or PVC pipe for a curved and more durable system.
Find Out Where the Water is Pooling Most and Where to Redirect It
Of course you already know where the water is pooling. It’s probably an eye sore for you. But before building your French drain, you’ll need to know where your lawn is the most wet. Look for obvious signs of pooling to determine where to place your inlet grate and then find where your system needs to end as it redirects the excess water.
Ideally, the end of your French drain should flow into a public gutter or drain in the street. Bodies of water, such as ponds, are another suitable option.
It is important that your drain flows away from your home so it doesn’t risk damaging your foundation. Additionally, for legal reasons, make sure your French drain is not installed or redirects water onto your neighbor’s property.
Map It Out
Using spray paint, stakes, or flags, map out your French drain. This will provide you with a visual guide to follow when it is time to dig the trench. You’ll want the trench to start where your lawn water is the most excessive and end at a sufficient point of drainage.
For functionality, make sure that the drain flows from a high elevation point to a low elevation point. You should also ensure that your French drain will not disturb any drainage or piping underground where you have mapped its location.
This might require you to look at plumbing blueprints for your land or consult with town officials.
Start Digging the Trench
Now it’s time to get down and dirty. Using your electric edger, follow the trench path you laid out to cut a clear border into the ground where you will dig the trench.
Once you have successfully cut your trench’s borders into the ground, use your shovel to start digging the trench. As you dig, keep in mind that, in order for a French drain to work properly, it needs a grade slope of at least 1% to ensure gravity pulls the water down the drain.
The drain needs to slope down at least one inch for every 10 feet of pipe to achieve this. Before you move on, make sure your trench measures about 18 inches deep and 9 to 12 inches wide to accommodate your piping and keep everything underground.
Use Your Landscape Fabric to Line the Trench
To protect your French drain piping and its longevity, you’ll want to line the trench with landscape fabric. The fabric should be long enough to cover the whole trench and wide enough to stretch across the trench and still leave 10-inches of excess fabric on each side. You’ll need this excess to help cover the pipes before burying the system.
Line the Bottom of the Trench With Gravel
Pour 3-inches worth of gravel into the bottom of the trench. Make sure the gravel is compact, so it supplies a sturdy foundation for your piping. This gravel will provide your French drain with durable and sturdy bedding, so it does not move as a result of loose or wet soil beneath it.
Install Your Inlet Grate and Piping
After you have successfully dug a trench that can accommodate your inlet grate and piping and you have provided your system with a sturdy foundation, it’s time to start installing your pipes and inlet grate.
Place your inlet grate at the designated location that water pools the most. This should also be the highest point of your French drain.
Once the grate is in place, secure it to your drainage piping using as many fittings as necessary. If your trench is curved, we recommend installing a flexible, corrugate pipe for your French drain.
Conversely, if your trench is straight and you want an exceptionally durable drain, install PVC pipe instead. If you opt for the PVC pipe, drill holes about 6 inches apart along the entirety of the pipe before installation. These holes need to face down towards the earth when placed in the trench.
Your piping needs to be long enough to properly connect to your inlet grate and still reach the end of your drainage point.
Test Your System
Before you cover your grate and piping with more gravel and dirt, test the system first. It would be a lengthy and irritating process if you were to cover your French drain now only to find it isn’t working properly.
The testing process is simple. Using a bucket of water, pour the water down the inlet grate and watch it flow down your French drain pipes. If you notice any pooling or the water isn’t exiting the pipe at a steady flow, then the trench isn’t dug on a sufficient enough slope, or the water is somehow being redirected elsewhere.
If the test succeeds, you can move on to the next step. If the test fails, make the necessary adjustments to the system before moving on. They will be much harder to fix after this step.
Cover Your System with Gravel, Your Excess Landscape Fabric, and Topsoil
After you are confident that everything has been properly installed, it’s time to start wrapping things up. Cover your system pipes with another 3-inches of gravel for ultimate protection and stability. Next, fold the excess landscaping fabric over the gravel.
Finally, cover your entire system with topsoil, excluding the top of your inlet grate. Your grate should be uncovered at all times to ensure excess water can enter your French drain and be redirected out of your lawn. To ensure no dirt or debris falls into the grate during this step, briefly cover the top of the grate with large stones and remove them once you’re finished.
The topsoil above your piping needs to be compact. You can even cover and pack this area then wet the soil so it settles further. Once it has dried, lay, and compact another layer of topsoil over your French drain.
Maintain Your Drain
Installing a French drain is guaranteed to dry any wet lawn, but it will also require occasional maintenance. If you notice new pools of water in your lawn, check your drain to make sure it isn’t clogged. Ensuring your French drain is clear of obstructions should be done semi-routinely so you are certain everything is functioning properly.
If you find the drain is clogged, either at the inlet grate or the drainage point, you can attempt to remove the obstruction by hand, or you could blast water through the system to try and dislodge the obstruction. If it is still clogged after this, you will, unfortunately, have to dig up the system and remove the obstruction.
Another point of maintenance is what to do with the topsoil once you have successfully installed your system. You could leave the topsoil as is, leaving a giant brown streak in your lawn, but this isn’t the typical lawn aesthetic most homeowners want.
Therefore, to make your French drain more appealing or inconspicuous, you can lay grass seed over the topsoil, so ordinary lawn grass grows here, or you can cover it in more gravel or decorative stone.