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4 Different Drainage Solution Types

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

When it comes to drainage solutions, in general there are four different types; surface, subsurface, pipes and pumps. When it comes to a drainage issue the type of solution(s) chosen can greatly affect the results. Oftentimes multiple solutions may be combined for better results. Choosing the right solution(s) will make for a repair that will last for years to come without issue and minimal maintenance.

First, let’s talk about surface drainage. Many times this is our go to solution because in many situations the cost is lower and the site impact is less. Here is an example of a basic swale: (How to Stop Water Runoff from Neighbors Yard). Surface drainage also has the ability to carry large amounts of water away from the house or buildings on the property. Berms can be increased in height for even more capacity. Even if other drainage solutions are implemented oftentimes surface drainage and site grading will be an integral part of the whole scope of work. Here is an example where we installed a Creative Drainage Solution with a Dry Creek Bed. One downfall to surface drainage is that it requires the lay of the land to be favorable to moving the water away from the site and off the land. In some cases adjacent properties or fixed objects such as streets and sidewalks may prevent this from being a viable solution. In this event it is still important to maintain positive drainage away from the house foundation so water does not enter the crawlspace or basement. Proper surface drainage for a lawn area should be a minimum of 2-5 percent slope.

Subsurface drainage can generally be performed in the form of materials such as clean crushed stone to allow for drainage and water to flow underground. Other materials such as sand allow for water to more quickly pass through them, unlike heavy clay soils. Underground drainage solutions do not have the same capacity characteristics that surface drainage solutions do. But in some cases you want to retain the water on site but not on the surface. This can help with maintaining correct water requirements for landscape plants such as trees or plants. It can even prove to be beneficial for your lawn. Subsurface drainage allows for a slower discharge of water but allows for the needed percolation of water. Non permeable surfaces such as concrete driveways, patios and roofs do not allow water into the soil and quickly shed the water into permeable surfaces. This can create a large amount of water that needs to be dealt with. In one form or another the water will either runoff on the surface or soak up into the ground.

There are many ways drainage pipes can be used to direct water flow. Solid pipe is used to move water from one location to another and perforated (pipe with holes) can be used to collect or discharge water. Downspout drain extensions should be used to relocate roof gutter water a minimum of 10 feet away from the foundation. Here is an example of a project where we implemented drain pipe with a Complete Landscape Solution and overhaul. Pipe systems can be outfitted with a variety of catch basins and discharge points for specific drainage needs. One downfall to the use of pipes is the limited capacity. You can only move so many gallons of water per minute with pipe. In general a minimum size of 4” pipe is used. But increasing the pipe size can quickly increase the capacity. For example, 6” pipe is capable of carrying 3x more water than a 4” pipe and an 8” pipe can carry 2x more water than a 6” pipe. Sometimes a French drain will be installed, which combines subsurface drainage with perforated pipe. The pipe is then surrounded by crushed stone and wrapped with drainage fabric to prevent sediment from infiltrating the system. A French drain can be capped with dirt and grass or other landscape elements can be installed over the area where the pipe exists. Pipe also allows for tighter slope tolerances in contrast to surface drainage. A minimum slope of 1-2 percent is required depending on the pipe size.

Lastly, a drainage solution that in many cases is used as a last resort is a submersible sump pump. That said, pumps certainly have their place and perform a necessary function. One downfall of pumps is the necessary infrastructure can be expensive. With pumps you need a constant power source. Power outages can occur during heavy rain events where flooding is most likely to occur. Sump pumps are often used in crawl spaces to remove underground water from seeping and causing high humidity situations which can cause mold growth and rot out floor boards and cause other problems for your home. Pumps in general also have a small discharge size, generally under 2” in pipe size. For comparison, that's less than 20% of the water capacity when compared to a 4” pipe. This reduced gallon per minute (gpm) flow will lead to a slower dissipation rate. If your home is situated in a manner that doesn’t allow for other drainage solutions this is an option that can often give you the necessary relief you are looking for. Sump pumps are often installed in a basin and collect ground water for discharge. In addition to the necessary electrical connection sump pumps also require plumbing for the discharge line. Another big advantage of sump pumps is the ability to lift water for discharge. With the correct pump type and size you can install one nearly anywhere and lift water to a height needed for proper water relocation.

Regardless of your drainage issue there is likely a solution. As with many problems, creative solutions will provide the best long term repair for any given situation. A drainage solution or combination of solutions can make best use of your outdoor space and not only rid it of undesirable water but also encourage enjoyable use of the space. At Jasper Ridge we strive to provide “Professional Landscape Services” to our clients in Joplin, Carl Junction, Webb City and surrounding areas in Missouri. We would welcome the opportunity to assist you by finding a drainage solution that best meets your specific needs. For more information about Jasper Ridge LLC please contact us using the contact form.


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