Who should we call to get help with a backyard drainage issue?

rhapsdy(z8-9, La.)May 15, 2010

My husband and I bought this house (our first) a little over a year ago. Since then we have realized that the backyard has horrible drainage issues. It literally becomes a pond when it rains. And with us living in southern Louisiana, we frequently get downpours of a few inches an hour. Below is a link to some pictures of our drainage issues.

Obviously we need some help. I know that seeing pictures here isn't really going to be able to let anyone know exactly how to help us. So I guess my question is what kind of professional would I contact that COULD help us? Landscape designer or architect? some kind of engineer? The city to get info on codes for dealing with drainage? (We are outside the city limits by only by a mile or so..so would that apply?) We don't have a lot of money to do this (hardly any) but something desperately needs to be done before it one day floods our house. It would be awesome if we could find someone that would come in and give us a plan to follow that will solve our issues and then we could do all the dirty work to get it implemented.

I hope that I'm asking the right questions and if not, please any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Here is a link that might be useful: Our Yard Drainage Problems in Photographs

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Wow! Did you have this house inspected when you were closing? Sorry I have to ask. The nieghbor to your back has lawn so it looks like it is your yard that is only involved. Curious as to the neighbors on both sides of you, do they have the same problem? Right now you can not sustain a lawn. I'm in Minnesota so the question of what fill material will be dependent on your area. With that said, you will need to fill with maybe a sand and then a good amount of soil. The grade will need to be redone to build the area up. You may have to lose the patio for this but it will be worth it. If you are not getting water in the home and this suprises me, then there must be drain tile there and that is good. If not get that done as well. I would think that there are plenty of contractors that are looking for work at this time. Be careful of this as some will talk a good game but can't back it up. So make sure they are insured and bonded. The city probably can't help unless they supply your area with utilities. The county may be the way to go. Call your county extention office and have someone there get you started. Show them these pictures. You have pipeing exposed witch is a hazard. I don't usually go down this road but I would also involve your insurance company as this could cost them in the long run as well. I feel for you, I'm sure you can't even use your yard. I do see some strip of lawn that seems to be the only thing holding soil so I know this is a higher grade there. You need to get your grade to meet that area. Also there are going to be other issues such as insects, mold ect... A landscaping Architect is a good way to go as well. Good luck and am looking forward to hearing how this all turns out for you. Remember someday you may want to sell and I can't believe someone would have ok'd the sale of this house to you. Just my opinion but this took time to get like this. Someone had to know.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2010 at 11:30PM
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rhapsdy(z8-9, La.)

The house was inspected and passed without problems. There has never been an insurance claim on the house and so far we haven't had water in the house. There is land underneath all of the water in those pictures, I promise! Here is a picture of how it looks when it's not wet like this (and this does go down after it rains...takes a few hours)

Building up the grade in the backyard some needs to be done but I worry that it will just exaggerate the problem of bringing the water faster to the back door as the backyard seems to slope into the back of the house versus away from it. At least right now the lower back yard is keeping the water to the edge of the patio mostly and keeping it from coming into the house.

Hubby and I have been talking and thinking that possibly a rain garden in the back wettest area as well as a dry creak bed to help direct the drain off to the side of the house might help. Here is a mock up of what we are thinking:

another idea would be to dig a ditch at the back of the property and place a drain of some sort there that the water that is draining off of our backyard neighbors yard into ours is diverted before it reaches the middle of our yard....and then maybe planting a bunch of water loving plants in front of that area as well to help soak up the water.

Thanks for your input and ideas.

But we really don't want to do anything until we've talked to a professional who could help guide us so that we don't just make the situation worse and spend unnecessary money on that.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2010 at 11:43PM
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tibs(5/6 OH)

Do you have a Soil and Water conservation District (SWCD)in your county? they have soil experts and can give you advice, ususally at no cost. Talk to your neighbors and see what they did for drainage.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 8:56AM
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rhapsdy(z8-9, La.)

Ahhh thanks for that information. I've never even heard of that group. It looks like we in fact do have those. ( link to our SWCD's website ) I will have to contact them tomorrow to see if this is something they might be able to give us some advice on.

As to the neighbors, it looks like over the years they have just built up their yards and put in fences, which has created the situation we are in where everything is now draining into our yard and making it a fish bowl,instead of flowing down the back of the yards (servitude area) into the drainage canal that is two lots down from us. If there was a ditch running down the back of the backyards like I'm guessing there was when the neighborhood was planned, the water would be no issue and have somewhere to run off.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 10:10AM
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rhapsdy(z8-9, La.)

Btw: to the comment about the being piping exposed, I'm not exactly sure what you are seeing in the pictures. There is no piping exposed in the yard. Just wanted to clarify that.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 10:14AM
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Hello, Rhapsdy-
Tough that you and your husband are facing all this with your first home. I think you have a great approach and attitude. I hope you can begin to feel as though you are making progress.

I suggest you find the search function on this forum and put in the word "drainage". I'm no expert, but I've read many of the threads on water issues because of wanting to understand my own situation (very minor compared to what you are dealing with). But there have been other posts here with "ponds" and "lakes" that shouldn't have been in people's yards.

One thing that I recall as pretty consistent from other threads is that most states and/or cities have laws preventing other homeowners dumping their runoff on a neighbor in a way that damages property. These laws vary state to state, and I don't recall exactly where to start to get clear about local codes, but if a ditch used to be there and it isn't any more I'd say there's a good chance that's a "No no".

Anyway, maybe one of the people who has responded before will chime in. In the meantime, exploring the search function might help you add to the list of leads to follow. It may take some persistence on your part to get to the right person to help you understand and then rectify your problem in the most effective and least costly way.

Good luck and keep that positive thing going ... Keep us posted, too!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 7:42PM
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Hi, in the original post pictures there is a orange or red colored cap of some kind that was exposed. It is the second to last photo. It looks intact but it proposes a problem if triped or steped on. The yard pics after the drainage looks much better but still you have no lawn. So the lawn is being washed out. The drainage two lots from you is interesting. Build the soil like the neighbors did and establish a lawn. Do your homework and have the site checked out. Get a few opinons from some experts. Also do check out the drainage forum. Post before and after pictures there. These are the people who have delt with this kind of issue. Just tell them what you have posted here. Good luck! Looking forward to you all enjoying your yard!!! Looking forward to your future posts.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 10:56PM
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Oh, by the way I checked out the second pic of what you would like the area to look like. Yes very elegant. Make sure the people inspecting or helping you are well aware of the potential of the area you see. Very nice. I can see this as well. You should know that I also saw the cut of the patio and it is nice. You can also do some low planting beds along the patio.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 11:08PM
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rhapsdy(z8-9, La.)

AHhh...the thing you think is a pipe is actually a plastic water collection tray that goes on the bottom of a potted plant. :) I just recently was able to get to planting a bunch of potted plants I've been keeping alive over on the side of the house into a garden I planted in the front of the house. :) That's just a remnant of the work I did last weekend that I haven't picked up yet. No exposed piping for us. :)

And thanks for all of the input and suggestions. I know that it has potential but we just have to figure out how to get the place to drain faster (and not into the house hahaha) when we have torrential downpours of 2+ inches of rain an hour - like are pretty common in this area specifically during the summers.

I'll let ya'll know what we end up doing. I didn't even know there was a drainage forum. I looked for it before I posted in here...hmmm off to search! Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 12:19AM
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Hey, Stormz4, I don't think there's a drainage forum. I meant that drainage comes up on this forum quite often. It's part of the job of a good LA or LD to insure that the site drainage works well.

And, there have also been a number of threads describing situations where something over time has changed, creating a drainage issue later on or for a different owner. Sometimes the neighbor's play a part. Knowing how your property and the properties around you are supposed to drain can be helpful, particularly in a location where circumstances, like annual periods of very heavy rain, are a reality.

Rhapsdy- Hope you didn't look too long for the drainage forum. I just don't think there is one ... I will have to go look just to be sure, but what I meant were links like the one below found on this forum.

Oh, and I decided I should "test" the search I recommended for you. "Drainage" brings up more than 300 threads, but many of those are not related. Then I tried "runoff" and +neighbor" and found the recent thread that was in my mind.

Again, the point is to help generate good leads for researching your problem, so that you can find the right help to get it rectified appropriately.

Hope the link helps!

Here is a link that might be useful: Neighbor's Water In Yard

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 11:15AM
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rhapsdy(z8-9, La.)

ahh thanks for that link! And I didn't think I saw a drainage forum on here!

So, news as of this morning. I was able to call our local 311 number - which is for local government information. After a confusing round robin of being passed on to all kinds of different departments that couldn't help, they finally got me to the right people. They put in a investigation work order to the local Bridges and Canals engineering maintenance office in our area. They will be coming out to check on why everything is draining into our yard instead of out into the drainage canal two lots away from our yard. They will then decide if something needs to be done and if it's something that they can do or not. So, we are supposed to hear from them within the week, and if not get back with them by phone to check on the status of this investigation. I'm praying that they will be able to come out and help us with this situation. It's pretty obvious to me that over the years all the other neighbors have just taken care of their drainage issues themselves and this has lead to our backyard being the runoff point, as the drainage out to the canal has been blocked by fences and plantings. So....fingers crossed!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 12:35PM
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The problem looks to be a lot more about what is happenning off site than what you can do on your site.You should contact a civil engineer who can assess the cause and then follow through with a solution. Is it possible that someone made some site alterations elsewhere in the neighborhood that caused this problem more recently than the age of your house?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 7:15AM
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queerbychoice(USDA 9a/Sunset 8 (CA))

On the bright side, it could be worse. Our house (which we only rent, thankfully) has a back yard that looks just like that, but the water here doesn't go down after a few hours. The majority of the back yard remains underwater continuously from mid-December through mid-March, and returns to being underwater for a few days or a week periodically from March through May.

(See my GardenWeb user profile if you want pictures.)

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 12:28AM
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Any progress on this issue?

Do not add any soil to you property until you have a full drainage plan! ÃÂ Getting an engineer involved is advisable, but expensive, I know, I am one. :-) ÃÂ Consider these issues:

1. Drainage should take water away from the house, as quickly as possible, w/o flooding or causing erosion to you or others. Water near the house can cause many problems: ÃÂ movement near the foundation can move soil, which could cause the house to move. More immediately is the dry rot the moisture will cause to the wood of the house. Mold can form ÃÂ Maintaining any vegetation is a problem. Mosquitos will love it.ÃÂ

2. Adding fill material improperly could make matters worse.ÃÂ

3. Water always flows downhill. So, where is the water going. Try to follow it. The best way is to get the elevations of your property surveyed. I love the ability of a contour map to communicate slope of the ground. And water will follow the slope.ÃÂ

4. Decide on the outlets for water from your property. ÃÂ Drain water to the street, if possible. ÃÂ If not, build dry wells, but check percolation rates carefully. ÃÂ Be very careful about draining water on to neighboring property.ÃÂ

5. Find the sources of the water.ÃÂ

6. ÃÂ Create drain paths from (or near) sources to the outlets: There are several options to do this: (a) ditch, which needs a slope of at least 1%, 3 % is recommended; (b) Underground drain, such as a French Drain, which needs no slope, or a mini-storm drain pipe, which only it needs at least 0.1% slope, or combine French Drain and pipe; (c) pressure pipe,collect the water at a central spot and then pump the water.

There are a lot of pages about all of these issues on the Web. This can be a big job.ÃÂ

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 2:49PM
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