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Old 07-20-2012, 11:53 AM   #1
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French Drain or some other idea for wet yard


Hello. This is my first post - I hope I'm putting it in the right section.

Ok, First the history. The back section of our property has a 'natural' swale in the landscape. It runs from left to right, about 150 feet. On the left end of the swale, is what used to be, a dry creekbed that comes from the back fields behind my property and then curves into the swale. 15 years ago when we bought the house, the grass ontop of the middle of the swale would look like a small river if it rained a lot in the spring. 2 days later, we could cut the grass again.

Well, as a lot of people have experienced, we had a new development built behind our property. The street had about 100 houses on it, and goes from about a 1/2 mile left behind our property to 1/2 mile to the right. The houses were built on top of a natural spring and many of them have 2 sump pumps running almost continuously. Also, the street water is quite a bit. So as you can guess, all this water ends up going through this natural creekbed and across my property.

The grassy low are is now mud. I've tried feeble attempts at fixing it in the past. I dug a ditch, put 6" corrogated pipe in it, but in the winter, it heaved like a sea serpent. Out of frustration, I pulled it out, and have been maintaining an open ditch back there ever since. The problem is, the grade of the ground from left to right is not very much. The slightest change, like a small branch falling across the ditch, or a group of leaves, is enough to stop the flow and create a mess.

So that's the history. Sorry it was so long.

We're in Buffalo NY and it's been very very dry lately (today it's raining). Yesterday, I rented a 6" wide trencher, and I dug an 18" trench from the left side where the creekbed is, to the right side, where the water empties into my neighbor's culvert pipe - 150'. The ground is almost all shale with baseball sized rocks. The ground is naturally porus - we've never had standing water anywhere on our property except for the ditch debacle that I kind of created.

So I've got the trench dug and I've got local suggestion on what to do next. That's where I'm hoping you can help me.

My local drain pipe supplier said I should make a 'french drain'. He said "line the trench with landscape fabric, then just fill it with stones - #2 gravel".

The guy that rented me the trencher said "put stone in the bottom, put a 4" drain pipe in, then cover it with stones.

Ok, here's the thing. As I understand it, a french drain is used to drain standing water in a low part of the yard. That's not what I've got. What I have, is a water source that comes in one end, and I'm just trying to direct it out the other end. I'm concerned that if I fill the trench with gravel, even if I use the fabric, eventually, it's going to get mucked up with the silt that's coming from the new development during a heavy rain. Also, how would I protect the beginning end of the trench where the creek water is going in?

So here's a few ideas I had that maybe sound crazy. Instead of putting a 4" drain pipe in the trench, what would happen if I simply put a 6" pressure treated deck board on the top of it, maybe 4" down from the top. Then I could cover the board with dirt and lay sod on top of that. In essence, I'd be using the whole, 6" x 15" trench as a 'dirt pipe'. Remember, the dirt is mostly rocks and shale. I highly dought that the water would cave in the sides. Does this idea make any sense?

Ok, finally, here's the other thing I found. It's raining right now so I just went out to see what's happening. By the way, I filled in the old ditch opening and redirected the creek to the new trench. Anyway, the water is flowing into the trench, but after 20 feet, it isn't filling up or moving any further. It seems like the water going into the trench is seeping straight down. Like I said, the ground here is mostly shale and rock. It looks like digging the trench 18" deep has exposed the bottom of the trench to the shale that is allowing water to seep through quite easily. What would happen if I drilled holes in the bottom of the trench - another foot or so, then just fill the whole trench up with stones/gravel? Maybe with gravel in all the drilled holes as well as the trench, the water would drop straight down and only in heavy rain storms or in the spring would it actually move along the whole length.

Ok, that's enough. I've got lots of photos if anyone wants to see.

I'd really appreciate some ideas/help with this. Right now, the trench is dug, the old ditch is already drying up of any standing water, and I'm going to wait to do anything else.

Thanks!!!

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Old 07-20-2012, 12:29 PM   #2
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French Drain or some other idea for wet yard


Ok, just went out to check on the water in the trench. Forget about drilling holes. The water is running nicely in the trench from one end and out the other.

So the only thing, I guess, is how to finish off the project. I've got the trench dug - 6" x 15-18" deep, and unfortunately, it's not dead straight. It's got a pretty good curve in it, so I can't use straight pipe.

I'm wondering if simply filling it with gravel will take care of it. On the normal days when water is a little more than a trickle, it will certainly find it's way through the stones. On heavier days - when its raining hard, it will probably flow over the top and run along the grass - not so bad as long as it's not always running on top of the grass.

Thanks.

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Old 07-21-2012, 12:32 PM   #3
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French Drain or some other idea for wet yard


Filling the trench with 3/4 inch gravel will slow down the flow but the water will still flow from one end to the other.

If most of the water enters at one end, then put a layer of weed control fabric over the rest of the gravel filled trench and back fill with your choice of sand or soil. Leave the gravel exposed for about three square feet where the water enters.

If the water is already muddy (laden with silt) when it enteres, then nothing will keep the silt from clogging the trench sooner or later and you have to dredge the trench (back to original dimensions, remove the gravel first).
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Last edited by AllanJ; 07-21-2012 at 12:39 PM.
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Old 07-21-2012, 12:34 PM   #4
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French Drain or some other idea for wet yard


You have an all to common problem on your hands with regard to developments changing the lay of the land and especially its drainage. Do note that as you seek to adjust from development near you and fix drainage of your own property and problems you did not have before? You put yourself at risk if problems of others---especially ones they did not have before---are traced back to your solutions. Tempers and situations turn into giant snowballs in a hurry!

I have mediated many situations where the only viable long term solution was to call in a civil engineer for the whole neighborhood to fix grading and drainage once and for all in a planned---not bandaided---manner. More often than you might believe, the developers (if still able to be located) had to kick in their share to make things right. In all cases having a comprehensive approach calmed everybody down and provided a much more cost effective solution than piece meal.
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Old 07-24-2012, 03:43 PM   #5
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French Drain or some other idea for wet yard


I don't have a solution for you per se, but a French drain will absolutely NOT help in this situation. It would help to relieve some percolation issues but not if the water is basically running through your yard. It will fill up the same as your existing soil. You need to physically move the water off the property by drain tile or some other method.
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Old 07-24-2012, 04:19 PM   #6
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French Drain or some other idea for wet yard


You could collect the water in a pit with or without using a French drain, and use a sump pump.
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Old 07-24-2012, 05:14 PM   #7
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If it were me I'd be fussing down at the mayors office pretty quick.

Too late now, but as soon as the notice of application to build was posted you should have been going to any public meetings before they even had their approvals.
Town hall approved this. Go see if you can get them involved in forcing the builder to recify this.

In my area a sub division developer is forced to pay developmental fees, as well as have the township hold in trust afterward, a sum of money to be used for exactly this sort of thing.
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Old 07-25-2012, 05:13 AM   #8
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French Drain or some other idea for wet yard


ton of videos on YOUTUBE... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UfIg...eature=related
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Old 07-25-2012, 09:56 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the replies.

To the people who said I should go to town hall, I did - 12 years ago. The mayor and 'town engineer' both came and looked at the situation. They said there's nothing they could do. They said the 'DEC' approved the new development layout, they opened up a topographical map and showed me the the dry creek-bed that enters the back of my property is a 'natural' water-way. All crap if you ask me. I argued the best I could, but in the end, they almost laughed at me and said they had much worse water issues than this one. I'm embarrassed to say, I gave up trying to reason with the town.

So now, I think I've got it fixed the right way. I was able to use 6" corrugated pipe - one complete 100 foot piece, so there's no joints in it. I was glad I could get the 6" in the trench, it's much larger than the 4".

At the end where the water enters the trench, I took a 6" 'T-fitting' and laid it down so one end fit on the end of my pipe, the middle sticks straight up 90 degrees, and the other end I capped. If I ever need to try and clean the pipe, I can take the cap off and run water or a snake straight through the pipe. At the top fitting, I put a 6" form fitted grate. I dug out the ground all around the verticle grate opening about 3 feet, and filled the creek bed with #2 round gravel, up to the level of the grate. When I get a heavy rain, this area will now fill up, and the water will travel down the grate, and into the pipe. My thought is that this setup will do 2 important things. First, it will stop any leaves, twigs, etc., from clogging the open end of the pipe. Second, I'm thinking that if the water has to rise a few inches during a rain before it enters the grate, it should be a little cleaner, with less silt/dirt going into the pipe.

So I set the pipe in today, put the T fitting with grate on the end, filled the area around the grate with stones, and then backfilled on top of the pipe with about 3 or 4 inches of the gravel along the whole length of the 100 foot pipe. The other end of the pipe is connected to the next section of old 6" pipe that continues straight on to the edge of my property where my neighbor's 12" culvert receives the water.

I guess before I back fill with dirt on top of the gravel in the trench, I'll lay the landscape fabric on top of the gravel to stop the dirt from filtering through.

Hey, for an amateur, I think I did ok. I'm really happy I was able to use the 6" instead of 4". That should help a lot. Here's some photos...
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French Drain or some other idea for wet yard-img_0411.jpg   French Drain or some other idea for wet yard-img_0408.jpg   French Drain or some other idea for wet yard-img_0406.jpg  
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Old 07-26-2012, 07:02 AM   #10
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French Drain or some other idea for wet yard


just a suggestion but where the grate is to drain the water has to get to it,might consider running a true french drain as in that video on my post. T'd off the end of the grating left and right with holes in the piping so when the water rises in that "swale" it will enter the T section and run out that long lenght.
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Old 07-26-2012, 08:33 AM   #11
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It's probably too late for you, but here's how I got the county engineer to take notice. "Upstream" from us went in a similar development, however our's was a man made drainage ditch next to the county road, and maintained by the county, this made it easier. Any time we'd have a heavy rain, the ditch would overflow onto our properties along this county road, mainly 3 residences, one would get the well flooded each time & have to shock treat. We never had a problem before that development went in (my family's owned this house since 1972).

We (the three residences' owners) tried contacting the county engineer and pretty much got the cold shoulder, I got no response at all, pretty much ignored. This didn't sit well with me. So, the next heavy rain, I went out in my car and took pictures and video of the river running through our properties starting at the new subdivision, all the way to the end of the county road (a couple miles). I sent all the photos to the county engineer with detailed descriptions of the location of each photo, and to my amazement they were out fixing the issue the following week and we've not had it flood since.

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