Waterlogged Lawn Drainage Solutions – DIY To Professional Ideas

waterlogged lawn drainage system

A waterlogged lawn is so much more than just a drainage issue it’s an eyesore! The puddles inevitably prove enticing to children and pets, so the sticky mud quickly makes its way into your home. And if the ungainly mud tracking is not bad enough, water left standing for too long will do more than just bring down the curb appeal.

  • The biggest problem is that the combination of decayed plant water and stagnant water is the perfect breeding ground for the nasties. From critters that cause skin infections to malaria-causing mosquitoes, those puddles are hotbeds for them all and more.
  • And then, there is the stench of all that rotting matter to deal with. Even if your neighbors don’t complain about it, the odor will sure bring down your mood.
  • But the nightmare does not end there. Waterlogging in your lawn can damage the siding of your home and lead to water accumulation under the structure, compromising the foundation.

Options are available for waterlogged lawn drainage, some are more costly and labor-intensive than others. The only way to find a permanent solution is to understand what is causing the puddles. If you want a drainage solution that will get rid of a soggy lawn you first have to understand what’s creating the problem.

No wonder waterlogged lawns send property prices plunging! Needless to say, leaving those puddles to their own devices is simply not an option for any homeowner. So, continue reading to know more about waterlogged lawn drainage.

Check out my article on lawn care for dummies.

What’s Causing Those Pools In Your Yard?

Waterlogging can result from a myriad of factors. Some of these you can tackle on your own while others mandate professional help. So, before you try to figure out a solution to this problem, it is vital to understand what is causing those puddles to appear. Among the most common causes are:

1. Heavy and sustained rainfall – Of course the lawn will be soggy after an intense downpour. But, the water should drain away within a few hours once it stops raining. If it takes longer than that, you have a problem.

2. Compacted Soil – Foot traffic, heavy furniture, machinery can all press down the soil layers, destroying the tiny cavities and channels found in healthy soil that are responsible for carrying water, nutrients, and air into the deeper layers of your lawn. Once this happens, water has no place to go and hence stays on top.

3. Clay rich soil – Too much clay in the soil interferes with the permeability of the top layers as it sticks together and forms a mass that water cannot seep through.

4. Impervious subsoil – Of course your lawn needs enough water to thrive. However, the moisture has to go through the soil layers and get to the roots to make a difference. But, a crusty hardpan will prevent your lawn from absorbing the moisture even if you have healthy topsoil. So the water will either run off too quickly or will pool on top.

5. Improper grading and uneven surface – Even minor elevation and sloping errors can cause depth variation across the surface and create low spots that will hold water.

6. The natural flow of water – Because water runs down, if your lawn is at the bottom of a hill or is placed lower than your neighbor’s yard, you will have a downstream problem that leads to lingering puddles.

7. Shaded areas – The lack of direct sunlight will slow down the evaporation rate and the wet areas will stay soggy for longer.

8. Design elements that divert water to your lawn – Gutter pipes that pour onto the lawn and clogged French drains can deposit massive amounts of water into your lawn.

9. Thatch – An extra thick layer of biomass can stop water on the surface, leading to a soggy yard with and without rain.

10. High water table – If the level of groundwater in your area is too high, it can create a drainage problem for water on your lawn as the surface water may have nowhere to drain to.

11. New structural changes – Any additions with a deep footing, such as a swimming pool or home extension on your property or the neighboring property can divert water to your lawn and even interfere with the natural flow of underground water.

12. The drainage system in your neighboring lawn – If the drainage system in the neighbor’s lawn is designed to dump water in the boundary area between the two properties, your yard will inevitably end up with too much water.

13. Landscaping features and problems – An improperly graded lawn will create slopes where they may not be needed, leading to flooded areas. Similarly, landscaping features that are impermeable or change the elevation of certain areas can cause waterlogging in the low spots.

drainage system for waterlogged lawn

Check out my article on fun solar lawn decoration ideas.

A Few Things To Remember Before Dealing With A Soggy Lawn!

  • Don’t aggravate the soil problems – Walking on a wet lawn is a sure-fire way to exacerbate the soil compaction problem. So, keep off the grass and don’t work on wet soil.
  • Minimize the risk of soil compaction – If you must walk on the grass, use paving blocks and narrow wooden boards to create a temporary pathway that will limit the areas of soil compaction. Also, remove all heavy furniture and yard accessories away from the soggy areas.
  • Remove the water – Natural drainage and evaporation can take days to work in the case of significant water accumulation. So, instead of waiting for the puddle to resolve on its own, use a broom to remove and divert the standing water to the side of the lawn or towards the drain or a down-slope.
  • Deal with dead plant matter – Remove damaged plants and grass shoots and biological debris to prevent drain clogging and insect problems.

Last but not the least, wait to start work on your lawn till the soil goes from soggy to moist.

And while you are waiting, take a close look at the waterlogged areas. Notice if the water tends to stagnate in certain spots or areas of the lawn or if it is an overall drainage issue across the yard.

Also, think of likely sources of water if the puddles haven’t resulted from a downpour. Once you have clarity on the direction and source of water flow, it will be easier to redirect it.

DIY French Drain | Cheap Yard Drainage Solution | pt. 1

How Do You Tackle A Drenched Turf On Your Own?

It will take quite a bit of effort if you go on a mission to sort the drainage issues on your waterlogged lawn, you should be prepared for putting in a lot of effort if you want to sort the issues. Here are some ideas to improve your lawn drainage problems and hopefully prevent a future waterlogged lawn.

Get Rid Of The Thatch

This should be the very first thing you do once the standing water has evaporated or drained and you can work on the lawn. While an inch of thatch layer can actually prove beneficial for your yard, anything above that will starve the grassroots of nutrients and significantly decrease the permeability of the soil.

For trouble spots, you can use a simple garden rake but for thatch buildup across the lawn, you may need to use a vertical mower or a dethatcher.

Thatch is seldom a problem for clump-forming grass varieties like perennial ryegrass and tall fescue. But if you have a vigorous growing species like Kentucky bluegrass, creeping fescue or Bermuda grass, you will find a layer of thatch on the soil surface.

Aerate The Soil

While dethatching removes the dead and decaying plant matter from the surface, it does little to sort soil compactness. Once you are done tackling the problems on the surface, you will have to go in deeper and that’s exactly what you do with aeration.

Spiking the lawn to create small holes in the topsoil helps to rapidly drain out the water and creates room for top dressing. If your water logging woes are not particularly serious or are confined to a small part of the yard, a garden fork will get the job done.

However, if the standing water does not seem to budge and is spread all over the yard, you will need a powered hollow tine aerator. As the name suggests, the hollow tines literally pull out soil plugs from the ground, leaving small holes in their wake.

These holes can then be filled with sand or top dressing soil to remove the excess moisture and improve lawn drainage. Don’t forget to remove the soil plugs pulled out by the tines, and when top dressing, don’t bury the existing grass.

aerate a waterlogged lawn for drainage

Check out my article on the best string trimmers for your yard.

Dig Into The Hardpan

If your lawn has been rendered impermeable by the hardpan underneath, top dressing and aeration won’t help much. Waterlogging problems that are attributed to compact subsoil occur even without rainfall.

The only solution to deal with dense subsoil is to dig through the topsoil and the hardpan. Start by digging a ditch that gets you past the topsoil and to the hardpan. As you hit the compacted subsoil, the texture, appearance, hardness, and soil mixture will all change.

In fact, you may not be able to work the hardpan (depending on its type) with a shovel and will need a crowbar, mattock or pick to dig holes in it. You will have to call in the professionals if you are dealing with a compacted subsoil layer of more than 12-18 inches.

Work On Soil Composition

While compaction is usually attributed to anything that exerts downward pressure on the soil, the composition also plays a role in creating the dense-packed layer.

Clay rich soil is particularly susceptible to compaction when wet. Similarly, soil that is low in organic matter and carbon also tends to stick together to form a dense layer. You can also have a problem with fine sandy soil.

In fact, all soil types are vulnerable to compaction once the soil-water content is above capacity but below saturation. Although adding sand and gravel can provide required coarseness to the soil and help to prevent compaction, they do little to improve soil quality.

In contrast, organic matter like mulch, composted bark garden compost, and farmyard manure will improve soil structure. These also supply a wholesome amount of nutrients to the grass and the other plants. But, be warned that soil cultivation methods like top dressing and others take years to yield results against water logging.

Check out my full article on the best mulching mowers.

drain water from yard

Will You Need Professional Help To Rid Your Lawn Of Drainage Issues?

The answer to that depends on just how bad the drainage problem is in your lawn. Typically puddles that form after a downpour and take time to dissipate can be remedied with the methods listed above.

However, if you are dealing with design and landscaping flaws, a high water table, or significant downstream, the interventions above will only prove to be temporary measures that will stop helping at some point.

So, if you frequently find standing water in the garden even hours after watering and when the weather is dry, you may have to enlist the help of a professional landscaping service. Typically, the solutions they offer include:

Re Grading The Lawn

This offers excellent results against uneven surfaces and low spots that hold water. Re-grading the lawn basically involves filling out the depressions and leveling the elevations to create an even surface that tilts towards natural drainage channels or garden drainage outlets.

Although you can re-grade on your own, this is a labor-intensive task that may require permission from the city council.

Using Raised Beds To Make Up For High Water Tables


If the level of groundwater is very close to the surface, the water that rain adds to the lawn will have no place to go, and hence it will linger on the surface.

Unfortunately, this is a problem that you cannot correct.

However, you can work around it by creating raised beds, creating lawn borders with a depth that will cause the water to run down to the periphery and by using plants and grasses that thrive in wet conditions.

Stop The Water From Flowing Into Your Yard

If your home is downhill from your neighbor’s property, the torrent from the yard next door will inevitably end up in your lawn.

The only way to stop the flooding, in this case, is to build retaining walls that will stop the downward flow from your neighbor’s yard and prevent erosion of the soil from your yard.

Redirecting Water That Flows From Your Home And Its Extension

If choked gutters are not a problem, downpipes that dump water into the lawn may be likely culprits. The only option, in this case, is to ensure that these pipes are diverted away from the lawn and into a surface drainage network.

Using A Rain Garden To Capture The Runoff Water

These nifty landscaping features help to drain the water naturally. A rain garden is a strategically placed low lying area in the garden that collects the downflow from the yard.

Because these functional features also have plants, they add to the aesthetic appeal of the lawn.

Building A Lawn Drainage System

This is the most radical of all measures and should only be considered when standing water is a frequent problem in your lawn or seasonal downpour leads to water stagnation for days on end.

Multiple options are available, some are simple and don’t call for professional assistance, while others do (more on this coming up)

Lawn Drainage Solutions: From The Simple To The Complex!

drainage system pipes buried

Check out my article on the best compost bins for a small yard.

1. The Basic Ditch

Although this is the easiest and most affordable of all garden drainage solutions, it works remarkably well when the water logging problem is frequent but not extensive.

Basically, you will be digging a 3 feet ditch at the lower end of the natural slope of your garden. You may need trenching equipment to dig the ditch and gravel to fill it. This simple remedy is usually enough to divert standing water away from the surface of the lawn.

2. French Drains

This is basically a downhill trench that drives water away from the area of accumulation and towards a more suitable spot for dispersion. The trench is typically lined with landscape fabric, with gravels filling the space below and above.

The trench is dug at a gradient, gaining 1% depth over every 100 feet. French drains are typically 8 inches to 3 feet deep and work well for lawns that have one or a few trouble spots.

3. Herringbone Trenches

Think of these as a network of trenches that empty out the water from the surface and divert it to a soakaway or a surface drainage system. The network comprises a central trench flanked by side trenches that are connected to the main trench at a 45-degree angle.

As with French drains, landscape fabric and gravels are used to fill the trenches. Herringbone trenches are particularly well suited if the whole yard has a water logging problem. However, French drains and Herringbone trenches don’t work in areas with clay-rich soil.

4. Soak Away Trench

In terms of design, a soakaway trench is no different from a French drain. However, the ditch is wider at almost 2 feet and has a depth of 2-3 feet.

Also, instead of being filled with just gravel, clean brick rubble is also used in a soak away trench. A gradient helps but is not required because this type of drainage is used in level yards with surface water problems.

5. Piped/ Land Drains

This could be a single trench (French drain) or a series of trenches placed in a herringbone pattern or other patterns. Gravel is used to fill the trench but a perforated pipe is placed underneath the gravel layer. The water percolates through the pebbles and is captured by the perforations in the pipe.

Pipe drains should be considered only if you are dealing with an uneven turf with several problem areas. Because several trenches have to be dug and these need to be deep enough to accommodate the pipe and the layer of gravel on top, this is a job best left to the professionals.

6. Sump And Pump Drainage System

This is usually the last resort because it involves the use of electricity to remove the accumulated water. Also, this would require professional services, so it will put a dent in your wallet.

But the sump and pump system works when all else fails! If you are dealing with a yard that slopes towards the house or is significantly downhill from the neighboring yard or if you are dealing with clay-rich soil, this type of drainage system can save the lawn for you.

The sump is basically a pit dug at the lowest point in the yard. Typically, it is at least 4-foot deep and is lined with concrete. The pit has perforated pipes from a French drain or a herringbone drainage system opening into it.

Because the sump is placed at a low point, the accumulated water naturally gets channeled into the pit as it flows down the pipes and trenches. A submersible pump in the sump is used to divert or remove the water into a surface drain or another suitable area.


So, there you have it; all the options available to get rid of the unwanted standing water from your lawn. As you can see, it is possible to get rid of the puddles in the yard without burning a hole in your pocket.

But, it is imperative that you clearly understand the cause of the problem before choosing the best drainage solution for your lawn. Halfhearted measures or those that are solely chosen to cut costs can leave you with a bigger mess than you started with.

For instance, spreading loomy sand/mud to soak up the excess moisture will clear up the yard immediately.

But if you have a hardpan underneath, your problem will continue to persist and will even come to a head when it rains again. Because the loomy sand works like a sponge, it will quickly soak up the rainwater, turning your yard into a muddy, slimy mess.

So, take a good look at your lawn and carefully analyze and understand what ails your turf before choosing a remedy. With the right waterlogged lawn Drainage solution, soon enough your lawn will get back to being the jewel of the neighborhood and even its envy!


Similar Posts