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How to use land drains

Updated April 17, 2017

Poor drainage can cause problems on your property or to your home that include flooding, standing water, foul odour, breeding of insects, mud, diseased or dying plants and a ruined lawn. Heavy rain or snow can be seasonal, so it can be easy to put it off until the next season, but by installing land drains, you can remedy the situation permanently and contribute to the long-term well-being of your property.

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  1. Identify low spots in the property and determine where water is entering and exiting the property. If water is entering your home or building, find out where it is entering. A build-up of water around the foundation of the home will require a different drainage scheme than diverting a flow of water entering the property.

  2. Survey the land and lay the job out on paper. Determine what drainage system or systems you will need. French drains are the most popular system, they feature perforated pipe surrounded by gravel. For flat of low-lying areas, a herringbone pattern using perforated pipe can be used as an effective layout for drainage away from the home.

  3. Purchase all the required materials and excavate the area. Dig trenches to the necessary depth to ensure that water will flow away from the home into appropriate drainage system or otherwise off the property.

  4. Install downspots with underground drainage away from the home. They do not have to be buried deeply, but need to slope downward.

  5. Install perforated pipe with at least two inches of gravel below and four inches of gravel above the pipe. In some applications, such as when water flows across the ground, you should fill the gravel to ground level, perpindicular to the flow of the water. This will intercept the water, as it flows down the gravel seeps into the perforated pipe underneath.

  6. Cover any exposed trenches with dirt and pack down the soil. Seed the ground with grass or other form of landscaping.

  7. Tip

    Check with your local building department before starting. If you are planning to use a contractor, they may be able to provide names of reliable contractors for installing land drains.


    When draining water, consideration must be given to the owner of adjoining properties. If the water is draining into a municipal source, then permits are needed from the township or city. If the water is draining to a neighbour's property, getting written permission is a good idea. Do not drain water onto a road, as this can result in skidding or accidents, nor should you drain into a stream or river, which can be damaging to the ecosystem.

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Things You'll Need

  • Excavating equipment (small backhoe or trench digger)
  • Peforated drainage pipe
  • Fittings
  • Outlet pipes
  • Filter material
  • Catch basins
  • Inlets
  • Downspouts
  • Gravel

About the Author

Scott Wolfenden began writing in 2006 on the subject of mental health. He has written a book on ADHD, children's mental health, education and parenting partially based on experience teaching in public schools. He blogs for Learning Things, an educational products website. He graduated from Thomas Edison State College with a Bachelor of Arts in social science and additional coursework in psychology.

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