How to divert water away from your house

Seasonal standing water or swampy areas around your home can cause damp basements and eventual deterioration of house foundations and driveways. Water flowing onto your property or changing runoff caused by construction must be diverted.

You can dig earthen ditches for temporary relief and even pave them for more permanence. But open excavations fill with leaves and debris and require regular cleaning. Drainage pipe installed in covered trenches, while more expensive, works best.

The water must be sent to a pond, stream, drainage ditch, or other outlet that is lower than the lowest problem area. Dig a trench 2 or 3 feet deep to the outlet, making sure that it slopes downward at least 6 inches for every 100 feet. Line the bottom of the trench with about 6 inches of gravel or crushed-rock filler. Use filler of uniformly sized pieces to provide fairly equalized radial pressure throughout the length of the line. Lay sections of drainage pipe 4 to 6 inches in diameter on top of the fill. Cover the pipe with 8 to 10 inches more filler and a layer of fiberglass or 15-pound roofing felt. Then replace the soil.

Drainage pipe is available at building supply outlets. Traditional earthenware or concrete drainage tile is laid with 1/8-inch gaps between the sections to let the water in. Less expensive, lightweight PVC tubing is laid in long connected sections. Water enters through perforations in the tubing. In sandy soils, wrap PVC tubing in sheets of fiberglass or cover the joints of earthenware or concrete tile with strips of 15-pound roofing felt to keep out fine sand.

If you don’t have access to an existing outlet, you may be able to empty into your municipal storm sewer system (consult your public works department). If not, build a dry well. If a steep slope is involved, run perforated drainage pipes across the slope and connect them to pipes running down the slope to your outlet.

Permanent wet areas can be contained in ponds. Specialists from the Soil Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will offer you free advice and help you design a pond. Call your local office. A nuisance swamp could become a family fishing pond or swimming hole.