Achieving the Best Rainwater Drainage

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It’s finally spring! Out with the snow, in with the rain. How much rain? Let’s do some quick rainwater mathematics.

For every square foot of surface area, one inch of rainfall produces about 0.6 gallons of water. The average annual rainfall in Greenwich, Connecticut, is 47 inches, which is 10 inches more than the national average. So, assuming average rainfall, a Greenwich resident with an acre of land would receive 1,228,392 gallons in just one year. With that much water, you could leave your shower on for the entire year and still have some water to spare.

Natural Drainage

You don’t want these guys in your yard.

Once all that water is in your yard, where does it go? The ground absorbs some, but can only do so at a rate that’s determined by your soil. Sand can absorb as much as eight inches per hour, but clay can only absorb 0.04 inches per hour. Most soil is loam, a mix of sand and clay, which absorbs about an inch per hour. Any unabsorbed water then collects above the ground as a standing pool or follows gravity downhill as runoff.

Standing water will eventually dry up, but it can be dangerous while it lasts. Mosquitoes use these pools to lay their eggs, so excess water can attract them in droves. Besides being a nuisance, mosquitoes carry all sorts of terrible diseases, putting your family and pets in harm’s way. Excess water can also harm your plants, drowning the grass and plants in your yard. For these reasons, most homes have a system for more efficiently draining rainwater from their home.

Home Drainage

For most homes, this system begins on the roof with gutters. Your gutters keep water away from your foundation, protecting its strength and integrity. Once it’s out of the gutters, you can choose where you want to direct the excess rainwater.

pop-up emitter at work.

One common method is to bring it to the road through piping under the sidewalk. This method, while effective, can quickly become a hassle. Your sidewalk is public property, so you have to get a permit to cut into it, which can cost a few hundred dollars. Instead, we recommend using pop-up emitters. These drains release water from above-ground in strategic locations, allowing it to flow down to the street. Before making changes or additions to your drainage system, however, be sure to check with your local laws and ordinances! Some municipalities don’t allow runoff of any kind to drain onto the street, into storm drains, or even off the property at all, which will quickly de-rail your project.

Yard Drainage

To drain water in the yard, many people have catch basins in place. Water falls into the basins through grates, where solid pipes then carry it off. The pipes have to be at a slight slope (1/8 inch for every foot of piping) for the water to flow, but there are ways to go against gravity if a slope isn’t possible. If this is a problem you anticipate, consider getting a sump pump. A sump pump collects water and uses an electric pump to send it up and out from the property.

Although there are ways to hide the grating of catch basins, some people prefer a more natural look. One great way to keep the natural aesthetic of a yard is to use a French basin. For a French basin to work, your yard must gently slope into a trench about 12 inches wide. Gravel is placed under the trench, which is extremely efficient at letting water percolate through. You then place a hole-filled pipe under the gravel to catch any excess water that doesn’t naturally absorb into the soil. You should also place a fabric sock filter over the pipe to keep debris out.

This diagram is a good visual of a French Drain.

Eco-Friendly Drainage

Rain barrels can be fashionable too, like this owl one.

These methods all work to take water away from your home as quickly and efficiently as possible. While these common methods work, there are more eco-friendly ways to remove excess rainwater. After all, according to the EPA, 40% of water consumption in the summer is used for the yard and gardening. To save money on your water bill and help the earth, attach rain barrels to the end of downspouts. The rainwater collected in rain barrels is free of lime, calcium, and chlorine, which makes it perfect for watering plants or the yard. The average barrel can hold 55 gallons, but you can also chain them together for greater water savings.

You can create your own beautiful rain garden, just like this one!

One unique way to drain water from your yard involves no pipes, pumps, or basins whatsoever. It’s called a “rain garden” and it turns waste into beauty. For your own garden, place water-based plants in a 6-inch deep basin. Water flows into this basin, where it’s absorbed by the soil and plants to create a beautiful and natural way to remove water. 

Drain Maintenance

No matter what drainage system you have, problems are bound to arise. The most common issue is debris getting clogged in the drain. This can happen from landscapers blowing debris into lawn drains or rain bringing leaves and things down with it. Winter snowmelt can overwhelm your drains, so pay close attention to the health of your drainage systems when temperatures warm. Above all, watch for broken pipes, which are the most serious issue. Pipes under the ground can deteriorate over time or break when crushed by something heavy, such as a truck. Crushed pipes restrict the flow of water, decreasing the efficiency of the drainage system and potentially flooding your yard and home.

Inspecting and cleaning each stage of the drainage system is crucial for the overall health of your home. You can do it yourself or hire help. Dibico’s Home Maintenance team checks, tests, and cleans the drainage of our clients’ homes 3-4 times per year. For more information about this crucial service, visit our website or send us a message at info@dibicoinc.com.

Dibico Construction, Inc. will be there every step of the way in the design, build, addition, renovation, or maintenance of your home. Conveniently located in Greenwich, CT, Dibico primarily provides custom home building services to Fairfield County, Westchester County, and Manhattan.

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