How to Improve Drainage in Yard


Poor yard drainage is not only unsightly and messy, but can damage your house and any other buildings on the property. Poor drainage causes foundation damage, a wet basement, and other structural problems due to excess moisture in the structure above the foundation. Poor drainage could be due to bad grading or clay soil that does not drain properly.

Things You'll Need

  • Topsoil
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Landscape rake
  • Trenching hoe
  • Gypsum
  • Spreader
  • Grass seed starter fertilizer
  • Grass seed
  • Weighted lawn roller or sheet of plywood
  • Peat moss

How to Improve Drainage in Yard

  • Check the grading around your house. Stand about 10 feet off the corner of your house and look at the ground along length of your house. If ground slopes down toward your foundation it will be fairly obvious. Add topsoil around the house to correct the grade.

  • Move topsoil using a shovel and wheelbarrow, dumping it evenly along the length of your house.

  • Spread the topsoil along the foundation of your house with a landscape rake. Grade it off so that it slopes away from the house. When deciding how deep the topsoil should be, allow for settling and compaction. Do not fill above the foundation. If the topsoil is up against the wood or siding of your house, the moisture will seep up into the walls and cause damage.

  • Dig shallow trenches a few inches deep with the trenching hoe from the corners of the house where the downspouts empty to a low area as far from the house as possible. Do not dig the trenches too deep. The goal is to create a gentle swale, or shallow depression, in your yard, not a drainage ditch.

  • Spread topsoil over the trench about 1/2-inch deep and smooth it out to create a swale.

  • Fill any other low areas in your yard with topsoil. Grade it off so that it naturally slopes toward the swales or, if there is a drainage ditch at the front or back of the yard, grade it toward the ditch.

  • Spread gypsum over the lawn using a spreader. Use one 50-pound bag of gypsum per 1,000 square feet.

  • Spread seed starter fertilizer over the new topsoil. Do not use a weed and feed fertilizer. Use fertilizer specially formulated for new seeding.

  • Spread grass seed at a rate recommended by the manufacturer over the fresh topsoil along the foundation, the trenches, and any other area that needs to be seeded. Use grass seed formulated for the conditions in the area you are seeding. There are many formulas created specifically for shady areas, sunny areas, high traffic areas and just about any other lawn conditions you might have.

  • Tamp down the fresh topsoil. Use either a lawn roller or a sheet of plywood, Put the plywood down over the fresh topsoil and walk on it. The topsoil in the trenches can be tamped down by simply walking along them and tamping it down with your feet.

  • Cover the seeded areas with dry peat to a depth of 1/2 inch.

  • Water the entire lawn to wash in the gypsum and the fresh seeded areas. Continue to water the newly seeded areas at least twice a day until the grass is well established.

  • Apply gypsum each fall and spring to the entire lawn.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always follow manufacturer's instructions.

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