View Full Version : soggy front yard dilemma

08-08-2007, 04:04 PM
The city just recently completed a drainage project through my property.

The is both an underground drainage systema and above ground drainage swale (emergency swale).

The emergency swale is rock lined in my backyard with a catch basin, then becomes a 12" deep (by 20' wide) grass-lined swale in the front yard.

They added a double curb chase drain, which allows for draining right into the street drain, but the drain seems on ly drain till the last inch.

So the last inch of water remains in my yard, resulting in a super soggy center part with is about 3' wide by maybe 10-15 into the yard.

The sod looks green but is difficult to mow and isn't rooting like it is everywhere else. It's starting to look black in a few spots. I also spotted a small toad the other day when mowing. The water depth by the curb is about 1" deep. Its progressively less deep as you go further from the curb and seems mowable 10-15' into the yard.

I also don't have enough drop in my yard for them to correct this issue.

When me or my neighbor irrigates our yard, the water can flow all the way from the back to front in some instances. So this area seems perpetually wet, even during weeks when no rainfall has occured at all.

So my question is:

- do I try to pump this water out?
- do I try to convert some yard to water loving plants than can be overrun
by water on occasion ?
- do I try install veritical PVC drains to give the final 10 gallons another place to go? or a drywell?
- do I add pourous layers, like rock into this area, to give water a new home ... or will that just make this existing puddle deeper?

Here is a picture of my front yard before the sod was added:

08-17-2007, 02:55 PM
If that was my yard I would have a consult from a landscape architect who knows soils and drainage issues.


08-20-2007, 08:10 AM
A trick we used on the golf course if we had a soggy spot was to plant pine trees. They will suck that water up. otherwise you may want to look into a drainage system combined with a sump pump. I would advise getting a referral on a local drainage pro since I've seen many a poorly done drain. I don't know that you need a L. A. unless you want a complete plan for the whole yard.

08-20-2007, 08:12 AM
in the future shrink the size of your pics they are larger than my laptop screen and we have to scroll to see the whole thing.

08-21-2007, 03:59 PM
The city has been out to take a look at it. I haven't heard what ideas if any they have come up with.

It rained for about 10 minutes the other (fairly light rain) and it left this area 1-1.5 deep in water for the first 15-20' and the drains under the sidewalk were high and dry.

I wouldn't necessarily say trees would be a bad idea, except that this is all within a 30' drainage easement -- so they discourage trees in those areas, whenever possible.

The 2% grade just isn't cutting it, since its 2% thru grass ... and this area needs to function as an emergency swale or might someday.

08-22-2007, 12:44 AM
Yea, that is a tough situation. I think it goes beyond just a nuisance issue, but is also a health hazard. I know it's not up to you, but I might try removing the soil in that area and put in a gravel or something suitable that will allow the surface water to drain more easily to the subsoils.

08-23-2007, 11:48 PM
If that were my yard, I would downsize and retire. What are those like 6000 sqf?

08-27-2007, 11:46 AM
Those house behind mine are larger and more expensive than mine. I think they are between 4000 and 6500 ft -- and presently unsold.

08-27-2007, 01:46 PM
You know, another option might be to compact that area, or put in some concrete so the water that does collect there will actually flow out the chase drain.

Also, one might question the irrigation program that results in water collecting in that area. :)

09-07-2007, 02:49 PM
Thanks, Yes I did question my irrigation program and only run 6 minutes per zone (PGP rotors), which isn't much at all ... but the main problem is that the swales from my house and my neighbors have been graded to efficiently, that any water in any zone, eventually flows into this swale ... and then you see it.

Kiril, interesting you mentioned concrete. The city, engineering firm and builder that did the original project [ project not yet certified ] came out yesterday and I think they are thinking that perhaps some kind of concrete could be installed for the last 15-20' and they could make it "look nice" but overlaying it with cobbles, maybe a boulder ... and basically apply some lipstip to the pig.

Everyone claims it is a 2% grade (barely) ... but I do think that if its ever gonna drain, then a concrete base would be the way to go, and it would also minimize weed issues that rocks on the ground alone would not.

Now would this look decent? I'm waiting to see their proposal, but the landscaper they used did nice things over by my fence ... so I'm hoping for something kind-of decent.

Dirt Digger2
09-07-2007, 04:50 PM
we did a job like this, only they were in a low lying area near a stream and there yard was just inches above the water table so it was soggy/wet/muddy all the time. What we did was dig trenches 2 feet wide and 3 feet deep about every 8 feet. Filled the trenches with stone, then layed perforated 4" ADS pipe in and then covered the pipe with stone, rosin paper on top of the stone then backfilled...the ADS pipe was run back into the stream. Their yard has never been so dry...then again we were working with about 1 acre and it was all wet...you have alittle smaller situation so it probably isn't worthwhile to do this

09-13-2007, 06:44 PM
The city is waiting for the builder to submit a plan to me, along with the final drainage specs for the city to approve.

It sounds like they would be willing to install a concrete trickle pan in the front yard, but I have a hard time visualizing if I would like that or not.

I think they may be willing to surround it with Rock and generally try to make it look decent somehow.

Should I take the builder offered option or just stay with the grass and see if it gets better over time on its own?

I'm still wondering if a large drywell wouldn't work just as well. I would think I could cover up a dry well with grass, potentially.

An even crazier thought involves having a large capacity dry well, which could be shut off, or only turned on manually somehow.

Has anyone here used the smartdrain product before?

Dirt Digger2
09-13-2007, 08:15 PM
that smart drain is essentially the same as digging a trench and putting stone and pipe in it

09-13-2007, 09:22 PM
Bunkers, here's what a concrete trickle pan looks like. It's the bottom of page 6 in the lower left.

Ask for a sketch or drawing of the plan before you decide.

09-14-2007, 11:30 AM
Thanks Newt --thats about what I thought it would look like.

Doing nothing is looking better and better all the time.

Taking this concrete thing feels like a tattoo on my face that I probably
won't like. The grass is more like a few zits that come and go.

My rational for doing nothing would be:
- the grass, even being soggy this summer ... looks better than the concrete
pan trickle drain ever would
- the grass in the off-season (fall,winter,early spring) may very well root
when its not completely saturated ...
- once the grass roots, its ability to repair itself would be increased
- I could always plant a tree to assist in the ability to soak up more water
... I think the amount of water getting "stuck" is only like 10-20 gallons
- I could still consider rototilling the soil real deep with organic matter, to make this area more porous than it currently is. RIght now its mostly glay on top. I have dug down before and found very extensive porous layers just 10-11" down. Those porous layers smelled like a cattle-yard (stinky).

Dirt Digger2
09-14-2007, 12:28 PM
Those porous layers smelled like a cattle-yard (stinky).

If it smelled that bad, and Iím guessing it probably had a very dark or black color to it then it is not really porous at all. The smell is either caused by water sitting there for extended periods of time and becoming stagnant or a lot of times it will smell because it may have been buried topsoil at one point and it is now decomposing underground. You get a lot of stink out of clays and impenetrable soil, this is probably why you have water in the first place, because the water gets down to the supersaturated soil underneath and has no where else to go. That "stinky" layer is basically acting as a cork and preventing the water from going down any further so it has no where else to go but up into your grass

thatís why the idea of a stone trench comes in handy, the water goes down and rather then hitting a solid layer of sh*t it is hitting very permeable stone where it can either go through the stone and down into a more porous layer underneath or it can flow into a pipe and run to a inlet box or drywell.

09-14-2007, 06:45 PM
My worry is that any drywell will become filled and become unusable.

My problem is that in trying to drain 10-20 gallons (simple), I also have
this thing in a swale which will get overrun regularly, so the drywell would almost always be full.

That made me think of maybe a drywell type thing, which could have a manually operated inlet in it, which I could perhaps operate from above only as needed. The good part of that kind of thing, is it would keep the drywell empty for when I need it and it wouldnt get filled from other normal drainage situations.

Is there a type of grass which would do better in a soggy environment?

09-15-2007, 01:37 PM
- once the grass roots, its ability to repair itself would be increased
- I could always plant a tree to assist in the ability to soak up more water
... I think the amount of water getting "stuck" is only like 10-20 gallons

If the roots are suffocated by the standing water and die, they won't repair. They'll just be dead. Trees don't soak up water, they survive in it. Willows might help, but you would probably need a row of willow shrubs there. Even then, they will colonize.

- I could still consider rototilling the soil real deep with organic matter, to make this area more porous than it currently is. RIght now its mostly glay on top. I have dug down before and found very extensive porous layers just 10-11" down. Those porous layers smelled like a cattle-yard (stinky).

I agree with Dirt Digger. The smell is probably the lack of oxygen to the soil.

My worry is that any drywell will become filled and become unusable.
Not if it's done properly and covered with landscape cloth that will keep the soil from penetrating and allow for the water to accumulate and then dissipate slowly. Also consider a soakaway trench or a rain garden.

Be sure to click on the picture here.


09-20-2007, 06:41 PM
dirt digger, I like your ideas -- and esp. the one with digging trenches and filling it with ADS pipe and rocks, covered with rosen paper.

My problem is that there is nowhere for the water (in the buried pipes) to drain "into". The problem spot is the lowest spot around. I still suspect that something like what you mentioned would help the water drain pretty significantly.

Here is an excerpt from the town:
"<the builder> has expressed a willingness to install alternative landscaping in the immediate area behind the sidewalk. This will generally include a concrete trickle pan extended from the sidewalk approximately 20 feet and will be surrounded by a landscaping stone to match that of adjacent properties. This material tends to hold up better in moist conditions than the turf would."

"Ultimately, unless the as-builts demonstrate otherwise, the Town considers this project acceptable and sufficient to meet the plan requirements at this location. To your benefit, it sounds like <the builder> is in a position to assist you with this situation"

So I feel like they are going to give me one last chance for (paid) help ... and then thats it (no more help from the town).

I haven't seen the final proposal(s) from the builder, but I am more of the mindset that I'd prefer to keep grass here, but try some kind of enhanced drainage instead (something like what dirt digger mentioned), which just gives the water somewhere to go besides pooling on the surface, just under the sod. I believe that there are porous or semi-porous layers which could greatly assist the overall drainage if penetrated to some depth. Something like a soakaway trench seems reasonable and of comparable cost to doing a concrete trickle pan, right?

Dirt Digger2
09-20-2007, 09:21 PM
as far as cost goes the trenches should definetely be cheaper then any type of poured or precast concrete...heres another option...say the heck with the township, get a few triaxles of topsoil in there, put a wall on the backside of your property to hold the dirt and regrade your yard to the street..haha, that would torque the township off...it's there water problem, not yours...they are in charge of the roads and therefore they are responsible for any water/snow that may hit them...its just a shame you have to go through all this hassle when a simpler method could have probably been designed in the first place.

09-21-2007, 11:06 AM
Unfortunately, most of the lingering water problems are just coming from my own lot or my neighbors lot. Its just that I entered this project and left it ... with small-scale drainage problems. The project prevents the major flood from ever occuring or affecting me too much.

I woke up this morning thinking how easy it was to dig huge holes with a mini-skid mounted 30" auger. And then I was thinking ... hmm, what if I dug a series of really deep holes (down the center), then filled it in with fabric and rocks? Wouldn't this create somewhere for the water to go on the cheap?
How does the rsoen paper compare to landscaping fabric? ANything better or longer lasting for permenant burial?

Dirt Digger2
09-21-2007, 02:29 PM
that sounds like it might work..the rosin paper is just used to keep dirt from leaking down into the stone...we use it to cover all of our septic trenches before backfillg as per PA requirements...i like your idea...its cheap and affective.

09-24-2007, 01:30 PM
How does the rosin paper compare to using landscape fabric or a geotextile of some sort? Will it last for 10,20 years?

Dirt Digger2
09-24-2007, 02:16 PM
well to be honest i couldnt tell you...heres what we do. In PA for all of our septic systems (tenches and beds) we put down rosin paper on top of stone then cover with dirt. For our drywells and "non sewage" water type ditches we use geotextile fabric. For septic systems we just put paper on top of the stone, for drywells we line the sides and do the top (we only ever put fabric on the bottom when some engineer that doesnt realize its impossible to keep all the stone clean when putting it in the hole tells us to)...personally i think they do the same job. I have dug up old systems that have been there for 5+ years and the rosin paper was still intact.

09-27-2007, 08:40 AM
One problem I presume is that the longer this happens the worse the soils will get and then nothing will grow. Is it possible to cut the area down a few feet and install a french drain (57 stone and wrap geo-mat)? If cut down you should have a surveyor come out (If you are not good with a level) and check grades to make sure it has enough fall to make it into storm drain.I think I would ask the developer of the subdivision to fix. I assume that this is a drainage easement and is noted on the development plans and final plat.

10-12-2007, 07:48 PM
Yeah, its a drainage easement now. It was only a utility easement when I bought it. It was a huge mistage on the part of the enginerring firm and the land developer. The land developer then sold the various builders "ready to build" lots, supposedly with sewer and all in the ground. On the high-level plans, its showed water going through my property. On the details for the lots, no details whatsoever. So 4 parties chipped in and shared the costs and the city planned and supervised.

Now the city is saying they are going to approve it and the builder has a plan (haven't reviewed it yet) that I can either take or leave. The city is going to explain the proposal to me soon. Then I'll need to decide whether to take it or go on my own. My wife prefers doing nothing, as the grass is actually looking pretty good now the the irrigation has tapered off ... and it might be better once the grass actually gets rooted. I need to upload a picture for you guys to look at.

The city is saying it is within acceptable (construction) tolerances of what we put into their plan. Part of the problem is that they designed a grass swale with only a 2% grade (fine for concrete, not really enough for grass) instead of a 3% grade. They'd literally have to redo the whole swale to gain enough grade back to do it right. My lot is virtually flat, not much drop in it. Or they would have to put a drain to the underground sewer pipes -- again, not in their plans. So the city kind of blew it (for me) with a flawed plan.

10-13-2007, 06:38 AM
I did not read all the posts so I dont know if this was addressed or not. If it was my yard I would be on the phone with the town telling them to get over and correct the problem they created. even if the swales are on a town easement they cannot modify the area to create a problem for you they need to fix it.

Ever think of a french drain connected to the swale?

10-13-2007, 07:13 PM
I have 2 percent or less in my rear yard and is is not enough grade. I like you would have tried to increase the grade, but it would have put the swale for the rear yard about halfway down the front yard. I have standing water for a few minutes after a heavy rain, but its not too bad. Rather then regrading I will leave it alone.

10-15-2007, 11:49 AM
I noticed this weekend that the sod has actually rooted in this problem area. It was originally too wet to root in Jun/Jul/Aug -- so I could lift up the sod easily. But I (and my neighbor) were watering it to keep it alive in the hottest months. So this is a good sign to me. I was also able to drive my JD tractor over it without tearing it up.

I may try to get a raincheck from the builder on the repairs and tell him I don't contact them by aug 20, 2007 -- then I'll stay on my own with this.

I'm hoping that this area just self-repairs itself over time and only stays wet a little during the summer months. I think my current problem is limited in that it might not ever get too bad. I clearly drains but just not entirely. If our ground was just a little pourous, it would drain in a matter of hours, as cgaengineer said is true with his.

It could potentially be fixed by adding a catch basin like porous layer under it, if necessary. My current though it to live with it and see how it fares over time. Currently, its a lot better but certinalty not perfect.

During the re-landscaping, I was going to get a french drain installed under the swale, but we rejected it because they were going to surface the drain in the front of the yard before the curb and then we would end up with rocks ... and my wife vetoed it.

10-15-2007, 03:18 PM
If the area is getting soggy in summer months with no rain, I would suggest everyone contributing to that swale take a hard look at their irrigation schedules.

10-16-2007, 05:35 PM
Kiril, I agree that there was some over-watering going on. But that said, there were drainage problem both due to over-watering and due to rain events. The two together were just a little worse, since most was does actually drain. So more water doesnt really equal more of a problem here.
I still get stuck with (x) gallons that doesn't quite drain or takes a very long time to drain ... and only in the final 20' near the sidewalk.

I have discussed the irrigation schedules and timing with my neighbor and we did seem to improve it by reducing our watering times and timing it better between us, since 30% of the shared yard area is his and the other 70% is mine and we don't share a common controller. He has pop-ups and I have hunter rotors. Most of the time, he generates more runoff than I do. Plus my sprinkler heads apply the time in a round-robin fashion, with only 6 minutes at a time, so very light irrigation on my part.

His sprinkler controll is a traditional (timer) and mine is computer-controlled and runs using ET control, except when I manually run it.

Changing topics a bit --

Well, here is the proposal from my builder (via the town). It's basically a concrete tricle drain with some landscaping around it to make it look more pleasing/natural? My main concern is asthetics and that it actually would work. I want the solution which retains the most value for my home in the long run. Currently, this entire area is sodded and has (recently) taken root.



I'd like opinions from the members here on whether I should accept this proposal (on the builders dime), do nothing or ask for a modification/change in this plan. I might not be able to change it without a lot of hassle. I'm not really thinking a prolonged fight/protest is an option.

10-16-2007, 11:52 PM
Maybe put the proposal on the back burner until spring, assuming that is an option. Then perhaps you could auger a bunch of small holes (say 1-2" diameter) in the problem area and fill them up with gravel, sand, or anything else that will drain better. Let it sit over winter and observe the effectiveness of your simple fix until you have determined if it worked or not. If it works, no need for the apron, but you may need to auger new holes from time to time to keep it draining properly, which also means it is not a permanent fix. It is a pretty small area, no problem doing it with a hand auger.

BTW, suggest to your neighbor that he split up his total run times of the spray zones using multiple starts with a soak time in between, or if his controller supports it, use the cycle/soak feature.

10-17-2007, 03:10 PM
Thanks for the good advise Kiril. I haven't thought of filling holes with sand or gravel ... but with my clay soil, that would be a possibility and might allow water to infiltrate the porous layers (if there are any). Would a rental outfit rent a small diameter auger? My only worry is determining the exact location of a water line, but the plans show the water line off to the side of bottom of the swale by at least 5'.

I forgot to include a detail of the 1' wide concrete trickle pan. It would be 6" deep (the concrete) and would drop down 1" in the middle. So the 12" wide concrete section (the skinny section) would be slighty "V shaped".

The stormwater engineer from the town indicated that the actual grade would probably be lessened with the installation of this pan ... from 2% to more like 1%. I'm not sure that sounded any good to me.

I'm kind of tempted to see if I can get a rain check on the improvements, just because I'm not sure doing nothing (or on my own) would be worse.