How to Grade a Yard for Drainage

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One of the great challenges of landscaping is dealing with poor drainage. Properties with a shallow grade have water that pools up from rainfall, snow melt, gutters and other drains. You can deal with poor drainage and create a beautiful landscape in your home by measuring the right grade.

Things You'll Need

  • Wooden stakes
  • String
  • String level
  • Yardstick
  • Identify utility lines along the path that you wish to grade before you begin your project. You should have separate flags for telephone, water, electric and gas installed by utility representatives as the first step in the grading process.

  • Locate the end point for drainage on your property to help you determine the grade of your property. You should construct a small pond at the edge of your property line if your city does not allow drainage into a public drain.

  • Drive stakes a foot from your home's foundation and a foot from the final source for drainage on your property. You should mark each stake with spray paint to help see your boundary points from a distance.

  • Run colored string between the two stakes to help determine the grade of your yard. You should tie the string tightly to the stake near your home and leave the other end loose to adjust the level.

  • Raise the stake placed near your drainage location until the string level demonstrates an even balance. You should attach the string level to the center of the string and ask a friend or family member to announce when balance is found.

  • Measure the distance between the bottom of the raised stake and the ground to find the grade of your yard. Most experts agree that 12 inches of distance for every 50 feet of property is ideal for proper drainage.

  • Utilize terrace grading if your property has a steep grade that makes drainage difficult. Terrace grading allows a property owner to create steps every 10 to 15 feet to facilitate controlled drainage from your home into the final drainage area.

Tips & Warnings

  • Assess the type of soil that lays beneath the initial level of sod to help determine the best approach to drainage. You can get away with a shallow grade from foundation to street drain if you have an area of sand on the edge of your property. A cheap way to get soil tested is to speak with the geology department at your local university.
  • Collect building permits if you need to perform extensive work on your yard to ease drainage issues. Your municipality may require a permit for the creation of drainage pools and creeks as a way to avoid flooding during the rainy season.
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