'Dr. Drainage' Ryan Larsen shared the insider scoop on landscaping drainage problems (and how to avoid them!).

By Jenny Krane

You make sure that all your indoor drains are clear, clean, and working properly. So why wouldn’t you give the same amount of thought to outdoor drainage? It’s easy to forget that your yard doesn’t take care of rainwater and snowmelt on its own. With a little pre-planning, you can avoid thousands of dollars worth of water damage to your foundation, siding, and landscaping.

We talked to Ryan Larsen, a civil engineer at NDS, Inc. NDS manufactures drainage products that can be used in residential or commercial settings. Nicknamed 'Dr. Drainage,' Ryan is also the host of NDS’s instructional YouTube videos on drainage and stormwater management. He’s been with NDS since 2012 and worked as a land development civil engineer for 10 years before. Through his experience, Ryan has picked up a few valuable tips and tricks when it comes to drainage.

Ryan was instrumental in developing NDS’s Home Drainage Center, an interactive online tool that will help you identify your drainage problems, the cause, and the best solution for your situation. The team that created this tool found the eight most common drainage problems. Ryan stands by the phrase, “Prepare for April showers to enjoy your May flowers.” By planning ahead and identifying drainage issues early, you’ll have fewer issues with water in and around your home.

Signs of Poor Drainage

If you take the time to look, it’s easy to determine whether or not you have areas of poor drainage. Low spots in your yard can collect water from rain and sprinklers, which will drown the grass and other plants growing in those areas. In some places, you can actually see standing water. Other signs to look for include a chronically wet home exterior and water staining.

Poor Drainage Problems

Of the eight most common drainage problems, the most common is from downspout runoff. Having all the water from your roof filter into one, focused spot next to your home is going to cause sitting water—where it can seep into your home’s foundation, no less. The worst-case scenario of poor drainage is that your foundation cracks. This can cause uneven home settling, mold and mildew, and flooding in the basement. Fixing a cracked foundation can cost you tens of thousands of dollars, depending on how extensive the damage is.

The Ideal Drainage System

The number one rule that Ryan advises every homeowner should stick by is the 10-foot rule: with any drainage system, redirect water at least 10 feet away from your house. A few feet aren’t enough, especially when the snow melts quickly or if there is a big rain storm. Ryan also recommends angling drainage pipes downward and away from the home.

Related: This Garden Does Drainage Right

When it comes to drainage systems, Ryan finds that passive or gravity-driven systems are best. "Your pump is going to fail eventually, and I can almost guarantee that it is going to fail during the storm, not when it's bright and sunny out," Ryan says. One simple task you can do to help a system work to its full potential is to fill in low spots in the yard and around the home. So instead of collecting in divots in the grass, a majority of the runoff will be taken care of by the drainage system.

One of the best things about drainage solutions is that homeowners can do a lot of the work on their own—you just need to be willing to do a little digging. If you’re installing a large system in your yard, rent a larger tool for efficiency and ease. "Anything that involves a concrete saw I would leave up to a contractor," Ryan says. Whether you’re needing to get under a walkway or into the foundation, it’s best to leave the heavy-duty structural jobs to the professionals.

Making sure your property is outfitted for efficient water drainage should be a priority for homeowners. You will save money, improve your landscape’s chance of success, and prevent irreparable damage to the structure of your home. Taking the time to identify and solve issues will make it so you don’t need to give Dr. Drainage a call.

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