What to look for with a drainage contractor

By Eric Schaffer

When installing a drainage system it is important to be thorough in your planning or choosing of a contractor. I’ll go through some basic design steps to give you an idea of what a working solution requires.


A working drainage solution has to have three functions: collection, conduction, and discharge. There are two types of drainage systems: subsurface and surface solutions. The unique needs of you property will determine which, if not both, to use. If your drainage problem is best characterized by standing water or pools, then most likely your solution will be a surface system. This problem occurs when the precipitation rate is greater than your soils absorption rate. If the problem is soaked ground and depressions, then your solution will involve subsurface systems. This is typically caused by the water table being higher than it is supposed to be.


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The first step in any design is an analysis of the property. These are the things that should be noted:

  • The total surface area of the property and surrounding properties from where run-off is collecting
    • It’s very important to calculate the entire property/ properties and not just the ground bordering the wet spots
    • This ensures we’re designing a system that addresses all run off
  • The elevation and grade of the property
    • This could be a major cause of poor drainage
    • Most designs will follow the contour and design of the pre-existing landscape
  • The absorption rate of your property’s soil
    • Conduct a soil analysis in order to better determine how quickly and how much run off is being collected
  • The discharge options
    • Consider where the water will be directed and discharged
    • Many designers will start at the point of discharge and work towards the house

Once proper analysis is conducted you can begin planning the system. Based upon the total area of the land effecting the wet spot, the coefficient of run-off (based on the soil analysis) and your areas average rainfall per hour, you can determine the proper pipe, grate, and catch basin sizes for your property. Good designs will only use what is necessary and still effectively move water to the discharge locations.

The final step in the design process is determining the discharge location. This decision needs to take in to account water conservation and pollution prevention. Many options are available such as pop-up emitters, flo-wells, rain beds, and water harvesting. Based upon your property’s yield and your need, you can design a system that effectively collects run off and responsibility re-routes the water.

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