Learn More About French Drains, Dry Creek Beds and Retaining Walls

Whether due to erosion or dramatic weather patterns, standing water and flooding are challenges often faced by homeowners. The good news is, we have some solutions! Some of these projects can be done over the weekend but others may require a professional.

How to use a French drain to help with standing water

Install a French drain.

A French drain is an effective way to reduce standing water on your property. French drains are comprised of filter fabric, slotted pipes and gravel.

To create a French drain:

  • Dig a trench in the area where water tends to collect. Depending on your project, the trench should be about 18 inches deep and 9 to 12 inches wide. The drain must slope downward by at least 1%.
  • When your channel is prepared, line with permeable landscaping fabric with several inches of excess along the sides (this will be used later).
  • Afterwards, cover your fabric with a few inches of gravel to aid drainage.
    The next step is to insert the slotted pipe, cover with washed gravel and use excess landscaping fabric to wrap over the gravel.
  • Finally, add several inches of topsoil to level the area.
Build a dry creek bed to help with flooding
Add a dry creek bed.

A low-maintenance form of hardscaping, a dry creek bed is a shallow channel that is lined with landscape fabric and filled with varying sizes of stone and gravel. Also called an arroyo, it is designed to channel water away from low-lying areas in your yard and help prevent flooding. 

To create a dry creek bed:

  • First, mark out the area where you want the channel to go.
  • Then, dig a shallow trench and fill it with river rock, stone and gravel.
  • When you are finished, add plants and other landscaping features for a beautiful finishing touch and to make the creek bed look more natural.
Retaining walls can help with proper drainage in your yard.

A retaining wall can help decrease erosion and keep soil in place during heavy rain or flooding. It can divert water from your home, eliminating damage caused by freeze and thaw cycles that may occur during winter months. Moreover, retaining walls can add visual interest and provide more functional space in your yard. 

Before beginning your retaining wall project, talk to local garden and landscape experts. An expert DIY project, larger retaining walls need to hold their shape while supporting the pressure of the land behind it. With every additional foot of height, the pressure of the soil increases substantially. A shorter wall is an easier DIY project.

If a retaining wall isn’t built properly, it can break down. The keys to a well-built wall include 1) structure 2) materials and 3) drainage.

To help you decide on the best course of action, consider: 

  • Location 
  • Size
  • Material you’d like to use such as wood, bricks, natural stones or concrete blocks
  • Drainage needs
  • Consultant needs

There are many ways to improve the landscape drainage and flood prevention. Which one you select will depend on yard conditions, local and neighborhood building codes and regulations, location of utility lines and more. 

If you are not certain, we recommend hiring a reputable landscape architect. 

Remember, always call 811 before you dig.