The Do’s & Don’ts of Digging an Underground Drain

Underground drains can be a valuable addition to your guttering system. They can prevent water from pooling around your foundation – which leads to foundation damage, soil erosion and basement flooding. Last month’s article discussed what an underground drain is and how it can help with water problems.

Ready to stop playing in the puddles and have a healthy landscape? Then you’d probably like to know how to install an underground drain.

Installing an Underground Drain: Must-Do’s

1. Call Dig Rite

Your most important To-Do is Call 1-800-Dig-RITE before you dig.  It’s pretty risky/illegal to dig otherwise – especially for the amount of digging you’ll need to do for an underground drain. It may take a couple of days for them to get out there, so get the ball rolling on this ASAP.

2. Make Some Decisions

Next you have some decisions to make: Where does the water need to go? 

You need the underground drain to empty as far away from your house as possible. Ideally find an area in the yard that the excess water can drain away from your home. The exit point of the water needs to be at least 10 feet away from your foundation.

What if there isn’t a good location found in the yard for directing the water?

A dry well might be helpful. A dry well collects the water and then slowly releases it to the soil. This prevents the soil from being over-watered and creating a muddy/swampy area. However, in the majority of cases a dry well is not necessary. If you feel that it is in your case, consider contacting a water management expert to help you determine what is best for you yard.

3. Collect Materials. 

Most of the supplies you need you likely already have: shovel, tape measure, wheel barrow, cordless drill, utility knife for cutting the tubing and a 4′ level for making sure your underground drain is sloped properly. However, there’s a few things that you’ll likely need to put in your shopping list that we need to discuss:

Underground Drain Pop-Up Emitter when at rest
Pop-Up Emitter at Rest
Underground drain pop-up emitter expelling water
Pop-Up Emitter in Action

Corrugated tubing. This is by far the easiest to work with over PVC pipe. It adjusts much easer. Be sure to get solid tubing, not perforated, this will ensure all the water is directed away from your home.

Tools For Making Sure Your Drain is sloped: Stakes and twine, line-level.

Gravel. You will also use a little of it around the Pop-Up Drain.

Pop-Up Drain Emitter. This is a simple emitter that “pops up” once the water pressure builds enough, allowing it to disperse over a larger surface area, reducing soil erosion.

4. Clean Your Gutters & Downspouts – Keep Them Clean

If your gutters or downspouts contain debris, this will get washed into your underground drain – clogging it. Since the underground drain is buried, it’s pretty much impossible to get the debris out. Eventually the underground drain will fill up and back up the water flow until your gutters are overflowing. We highly recommend getting a gutter guard that guarantees to keep your gutters clean before installing underground drains.

The digging process of an underground drain5. Get Digging!

Be sure to dig a channel that is at least 10 feet away from the home’s foundation. You want to dig 8” deep and create a slight slope away from the home. For more information on how to do this, check out Family Handyman’s advice.

If you are using a dry well dig a hole at least 4 feet wide and 3 feet deep.

6. Place the Tubing

As you do so, check the slope again. You want the tubing to sink 1/4” for every 4’.

For the dry well, make sure the drainage holes are on the side away from the house.Completed underground drain with pop-pop emitter

7. Finishing touches

Connect it to your downspout, cover the tubing with 3 inches or more of the left-over top-soil. Plant grass seed or place sod. If you’re doing this in the summer, be sure to water at least twice a day to keep that new grass alive.

Installing an Underground Drain: Don’ts

1. Don’t Forget to Call Dig-Rite

2. Don’t Direct the Drain Towards the Street 

If you can’t find any low ground, this might be tempting! It seems logical, but this large amount of rain water can contribute to polluting rivers, lakes and streams. It’s much better if the water can be used in your landscape.  In fact, many cities have a minimum ten foot easement from the street and do not allow drains to run any closer than 10 feet from the curb. Some cities may require even more distance than that – call you city office to find out the local requirements. Here is a link to KC Water Services and their expectation for KC MO residents. 

3. Don’t Get Perforated Tubing

Perforated tubing may work in some areas of the U.S., but Kansas City’s clay soil does not drain well and even small amounts of water seeping out as you direct it away from your home can still cause foundation problems. 

Additionally, roots will grow into these perforations and clog your underground drain – resulting in you digging up the system a few years from now. Nobody should do double work – so avoid the perforations.

Clogged gutters4. Don’t Allow Your Gutters to Collect Debris

Installing an underground drain with debris in the gutters will only result in headache. As you dig, you will realize that you never want to dig this much again! But if debris washes down the guttering system into you underground drain – you will be hiring Roto-Rooter to clean out this underground drain. No one has time for that!

So before digging an underground drain, get a reputable gutter cover for your home.

Digging Under Ground Drains Can Be A Big Project

If all of this sounds like a bigger project than expected, Gutter Cover Kansas City® can install underground drains for you. Since you need a gutter guard before installing underground drains anyway, this could be a great way to get your cake and eat it too! If you’d like to save a bit of the headache, give the Gutter Cover KC® team and a call and schedule your free estimate today.