How to Remove Standing Water in Your Yard

By Julie Thompson | Advertiser Disclosure

Finding a growing puddle of water around the perimeter of your home can be frustrating, especially when you have standing water in your yard and no rain to attribute it to. Leaving standing water in your yard can facilitate mold growth, lead to foundation issues, create a breeding ground for mosquitoes, cause lawn and landscaping problems such as grass and plant death, and prompt you to unintentionally track mud into the house.

The best thing you can do when you find your yard saturated with water is to take immediate action. Most fixes are fairly simple and can be completed in a day or over a weekend. Larger jobs may require a professional landscaper or specialized contractor.

Causes of standing water in your yard

Below are some of the most common causes of standing water in your yard:

Overwatering

If your home is equipped with an irrigation system and it’s used on a regular basis, you shouldn’t see standing water in your yard. If pools of water are present, you probably have a drainage problem and should consider watering your lawn less often or for shorter periods.

Improper grading

Yard leveling, also known as lawn grading, drains water away from your home and toward the street or a storm sewer. If the slope of your landscaping is at an improper angle, water can collect faster than it can drain. Improper drainage can also cause water to accumulate in natural low spots of your yard and could eventually seep into your basement.

Thatch

Thatch is a layer of organic matter that builds up around the base of plants. If your lawn is covered in thatch and other excess debris, like grass clippings, leaves, and roots, it may be more difficult for water to drain. Remove all debris from the surface of your property to ensure proper water drainage. 

Non-porous soils

Hard soil and sticky clay soils don’t allow water to soak into the ground past the surface, which causes excess water to accumulate. In particular, hard subsoil, also known as hardpan, is a thick layer of soil that doesn’t allow any water through. You may have this soil on your lawn from natural causes or as a result of construction equipment densely compacting the yard.

Heavy rain

If a storm produces a large amount of rain over a short period, soggy conditions can arise as the yard becomes saturated with groundwater.

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9 ways to get rid of standing water in yard

Once you know what’s causing the standing water in your garden or yard, take a look at these strategies to help you get rid of the excess water.

1. Re-grade

Professional landscapers can provide you with a survey of your lawn’s trouble spots, natural drains, and channels. After a survey is complete, they can address the areas that need re-grading. Re-grading your property around your home should be completed before addressing pooling water in other parts of your yard.

2. De-thatch

Clear your yard of any blanket debris that may be causing water not to drain properly. You can get rid of excess debris with a dethatcher or a simple lawn rake. You can also use a bag or mulch feature when you mow to decrease the chance of heavy debris patches.

3. Aerate your lawn

Once you’ve removed debris, use a lawn aerator to place small holes in the surface of your lawn. This will break up compacted soil to allow nutrients, air, and water to reach the roots of your grass. The holes should be four inches deep and spaced two inches apart. If you don’t have an aerator, your local landscaping company should be able to provide this service.

4. Give your soil a boost

If you have hard or sticky soil in your yard that pools standing water, try breaking up the soil with a rake or shovel. Add compost, mulch, or manure to the top of the soil to help give it a boost.

5. Find the hardpan

If the hardpan is less than a couple of feet thick, you should be able to break up the soil with a garden shovel after it’s had time to dry out. This may be harder if the soil is covered with grass, in which case you may need to replace patches of your yard with new grass seed. If you can’t break up the hardpan completely, hire a professional contractor to drill through the soil for you.

6. Extend downspouts

If you have a plant bed around your house and landscape it with rocks or a raised artificial border, water from your home’s gutters can become trapped. To divert this water away from your house, simply extend your downspouts or sump pump drain pipe farther away from your home’s exterior—this should remediate the drainage issue.

7. Raise the soil

If you have a hard time landscaping because of a high water table, you can create raised beds for your plants. Choose plants and flowers that are shallow-rooted—these have a higher chance of surviving standing water.

8. Install a French drain

The purpose of a French drain is to direct water away from your home. It can be made inexpensively without a lot of materials or tools. Simply dig a trench to direct the water toward the perimeter of your property, preferably near a storm drain or dry well, a shallow trench that has deep holes with rocks for drainage.

When water is diverted to a dry well, the water can gradually drain into the surrounding soil. To increase the longevity of the dry well, insert a perforated plastic tub to hold the rocks (the plastic tub keeps out soil to maintain the drainage system efficiency).

Fill the trench with gravel and place a plastic perforated pipe at the trench’s base and let gravity do the rest.

9. Create a dry creek

If you need a French drain for your yard but don’t like how it looks, you can create a dry creek. A dry creek is a path of rock or gravel that diverts excess water into a storm drain or dry well. Don’t channel water toward your neighbor’s property or toward a public sidewalk—doing so could get you in legal trouble. Always divert your water toward a storm drain or dry well.

How to divert water from your foundation

Problems with standing water in the yard can cause water to pool near your home’s foundation. It can cause cracks and remove the soil that supports the foundation, leading to fissures in your walls. Excess water from this seepage can also permeate through the concrete walls in your basement, leading to water damage.

There are several ways to divert water from your foundation:

  • Extend your gutters’ downspouts.
  • Add a French drain system or dry creek.
  • Regrade your yard—Measure from where your foundation meets the soil and go 10 feet straight out from that mark. At the 10-foot mark, your yard should be six inches lower than your starting point at the home’s foundation.
  • Reroute water that’s not draining properly near your sidewalk.
  • Prevent water from seeping into your basement by installing a creek bed to divert water to a dry well.
  • Use a catch basin or storm drain to drain excess water from around your foundation.
  • Add a rain garden. Choose water-loving plants with deep fibrous roots that grow well in your local area. This will help conceal standing water in your garden and give the water time to drain.

If you see standing water in your yard, don’t ignore it. The longer you wait, the more expensive the repairs will be. Do your best to identify the cause and if you’re not sure what’s causing the standing water, call a local landscaper or contractor who specializes in removing standing water.

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