Generally speaking, all land drains are surrounded by gravel, usually smooth and rounded to avoid the pipes being punctured in any way. This type of gravel (sometimes referred to as ‘pea gravel’ due to the shape) can be purchased at your local hardware store for around $4/cu foot. It can also be used to accent garden spaces and prevent weeds from growing OR to help the downspouts coming off of your gutters. This is obviously the introduction to the simple type of land drain that can be found near a home.
Building Your Own Land Drain
There are a few things to consider when deciding where and how to build your own land drain. First, you have to figure out the natural flow of water in relation to your property and then you must decide whether you want to keep the water away from your basement OR, if that’s not your issue, to simply create a path for the water to be dumped into the street or possibly the woods surrounding your house.
Again, the pea gravel and pipes with small gaps in them (to promote faster and more efficient water flow) are easily found at your local hardware store.
Then, you’ll be digging and be careful to focus on a few key spots where the water can drop off (sometimes called downspots) – the whole structure doesn’t need to go from top to bottom but those key points are essential for water transfer so that it can drop from one section of pipe to the next.
Generally speaking, you’ll want to surround the pipes you lay with about 5 inches of the pea gravel, in all directions. Then, you’ll put topsoil on the gravel and begin the process of spreading grass seed over it to get back your lovely lawn that you just dug up!
Things to Think About Before Starting
Permits are a pain to apply for (especially if you don’t understand the measurements or technical jargon) but if you’re planning to run your water into any structures that are managed by the town in which you live, you’ll have to head down to city hall and fill out the necessary paperwork. Of course, this is one of the benefits of having a contractor do this type of work for you – they understand the ins and outs of this type of paperwork and can correctly fill it out to protect you from any issues with the local officials.
The Biggest Problem with Land Drains
Blockages are very common even in pipes that have a large diameter because there must be an opening in the pipe in order for water or waste to flow into it from the soil. When this happens, the water brings the soil and other pesky debris with it which creates enormous problems. Sometimes, there can be a screen installed on the outside of the pipes to avoid silt build-up but even so, the screens and filters used in these situations can also become clogged especially if the soil is loose in that region.
When this happens and the water flow is completely stopped, it is common practice to clean the pipes out by pushing water at an elevated rate through the screens or possibly the entire pipe system but the reality is that any type of land drain will cease to work well after a number of years because there’s just no way to keep the debris from flowing against the screens or into the pipes with the water.