Popular Types of Yard Drains: Which One is The Best?

Drenching rain can wreak havoc on your yard, especially if you lack the protection of deep-rooted trees. Without proper drainage, your plants drown in excess water, highlighting the importance of a well-designed system. This guide delves into seven common types of yard drains, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

From catch basins to French drains, you’ll discover the perfect solution based on your soil, landscape, and budget.

So, keep reading and don’t let your garden fall victim to waterlogging – let’s find the drainage system that saves the day!

Key Takeaways

  • Proper drainage prevents waterlogging and protects plants.
  • Various yard drains like catch basins and French drains are available.
  • Drain choice depends on soil, landscape, and budget.
  • Installation involves digging, placing, and covering pipes or channels.
  • French drains are versatile for different soil types.

What is a Drainage System?

The first thing you must understand before installing lawn drainage systems is to know the definition of the drainage system itself and its types. A drainage system is intended to remove excess surface water due to extra water flow from heavy rains or floods to prevent puddles.

Furthermore, the left-standing water will be a big problem because it will reduce the oxygen supply to the roots of your plants, which eventually causes them to rot. Therefore, adequate drainage solutions are needed to prevent these things.

In addition, drainage systems are generally divided into two types, namely traditional drainage systems and modern drainage systems. You can see a brief explanation of the two approaches below.

1. Traditional Drainage System

A conventional or traditional drainage system is a water removal system that focuses on reducing environmental damage due to flooding, severe rain, storm-water, and wastewater.

The general working principle is to discard as much water as possible to prevent excessive water flows, volume, and velocity increases.

types of yard drains
Natural Drainage System of Beautiful Green Steam

One of the methods introduced by this system is subsurface drainage. Basically, it installs pipes underground to collect a high volume of water to drain puddles on the surface.

However, the weakness of this system is the mixing of surface water with sewage which results in uncontrolled water volume and contamination, which can reduce water quality.

Moreover, another approach is the surface drainage system. This method is a ditch that collects wastewater from homes or industrial areas. Generally, the water will be treated first before being released into the environment so as not to cause pollution.

2. Modern Drainage System

Contrary to the conventional drainage system, the modern one focuses more on draining water that is environmentally friendly. Or, let’s say it’s more sustainable.

It is an approach that can reduce water while minimizing the impact of waste contamination and decreasing clean water quality.

types of yard drains
Pebbles for Water Drainage Along House Wall

One scheme widely used in developed countries, such as the United Kingdom, is Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUSD). The working system of SUSD is to imitate the scheme of absorption of rainwater in the absorption area.

There are four stages applied to this system, namely:

  • Slows the flow of water before entering the watercourses.
  • Provide a water catchment area.
  • Absorb water into the soil.
  • Let it evaporate naturally.

This scheme guarantees water quality with little to no pollutants involved, prevents flooding in urban areas since it slows down the flow of water, and provides soil availability directly from the absorption area.

The Benefits of Yard Drains

If you are still wondering whether or not you prepare drainage systems for your yard, you better check out their benefits below. They are not only keeping your lawns from excess water but also maintaining the soil health and, of course, ensuring the plants thrive.

In addition, there are many other advantages of lawn drainage systems. What are those?

  • Prevents soil erosion. Soil erosion is detrimental to plants. The excess water can flush away the nutrient on the surface that is important for the plant’s growth and development. In addition, erosion also reduces the depth of the soil in your garden, making the garden look unattractive.
  • Avoids the formation of puddles. Stagnant water is bad for your plants, primarily the stems and roots, because it can cause rot. Moreover, it is dangerous because pools on lawns are very slippery. Some cases even cause holes that are not visible, making it unsafe for someone to step on them.
  • Lower risks of damage to building structures. Continued erosion and standing water can cause soil structure loss, eventually damaging your building. Therefore, installing proper drainage systems is exceptionally vital for the home landscape.

How Do Yard Drainage Systems Work?

Despite having its own working principle, each common drainage system has a similar operating principle: collect water and drain it to the termination point. So how do the yard drains work?

Basically, the system consists of a water storage container, metal bars, and water pipes. When heavy rain falls, the catch basin or well in the ground will accommodate the water flow through the metal grate.

From there, branch pipes will carry the water to the city center water reservoir, which may also be channeled into tributaries to the sea.

Another scheme that is commonly used is the installation of perforated pipes that are planted underground. When water flows in the tube, it will seep into the ground, allowing it to collect the water. The rest will go to the termination point, where the water is accommodated.

Types of Drainage Systems (Pros and Cons)

1. Catch Basin

It is one of the most popular types of yard drains because they are cost-effective and easy to install. Catch basins or storm basins are a drainage method that uses the principle of collecting excess surface water that flows when heavy rain or snow begins to melt.

Furthermore, the water collection will be transferred to the water storage facility for reprocessing.

Pebbles for Water Drainage Along House Wall
Catch Basin Grate On Lawn With Green Grass and Bushes

In addition to garden drainage, catch basins are widely adapted to drainage public spaces and private properties, such as houses and apartments. You only need a day to two days with the material in the form of sturdy PVC pipes. Another advantage is that this installment is cheap but can help add decoration to your landscape.

However, you may have to deal with unwanted pests because of the metal holes in the bars that allow them to crawl from the pipes underground.


  • Affordable.
  • Relatively easy to install.
  • Add an accent to the landscape.
  • Common drainage solutions for yards.


2. Channel Drain

Despite being a costly drainage system, a channel drain is still an option for those who prioritize durability and efficiency. As people say, there is a price to pay for good quality, right? Channel drains (or trench drains) are long, linear drainage systems capable of accommodating high water discharges using the principle of gravity. So, the water can flow to a lower surface.

types of yard drains
Maintenance of The Channel Drain On The Street

Talking about the structure, the depth of this yard drain is 4 feet or about 1.2 meters, with a width of about 25 mm. Furthermore, several locations often use this system: parking lots, parks, driveways, porches, golf courses, pool decks, and more. But again, this one is expensive and takes a long time to install.

Hence, ensure you have prepared a budget, and there is no other alternative to replace this system for your area.


  • Efficient for yard drainage.
  • Good durability.
  • Sturdy material and design.


  • Costly.
  • Tricky maintenance.

3. Dry Creek Bed

If you have a rock garden, you shouldn’t look further than a dry creek bed to serve as a drainage method for your yard. The design resembles a dry river in the desert and will effortlessly match the surrounding landscape.

In addition to looking attractive, the stream-like arrangement functions as a rainwater drainage area so that it can flow and be accommodated in the ditches around your house.

types of yard drains
Dry Creek With Stones Summer

Moreover, it can be quickly built in just 2-3 days, or a maximum of a week if you are willing to give extra time and effort. Just dig the soil and create a river flow design.

Add river rocks and mortar to maintain the structure when heavy rains come. Unfortunately, this affordable setting cannot withstand heavy rainstorms.


  • Adjustable design.
  • Long-term solution.
  • Easy to maintain.
  • Beautifully blend in with the landscape.


  • Heavy rain may flush away the rocks.
  • Must be able to arrange the rocks properly to get the benefits.

4. Dry Well System

Dry wells look similar to a French drain. However, the working principle is slightly different. The dry well is a conventional method, while the French drain is somewhat modern.

It collects surface water several feet underground before finally being channeled back into the surrounding soil for absorption.

Dry Well System
Source: Pinterest (@hometalk.com)

This scheme benefits those who cannot find water reservoirs around their homes. Besides, it also conserves water better!

In addition, you only need landscape fabric and rivets to make this versatile arrangement. With its sturdy design that is easy to install (and, of course, affordable!), dry wells are one of the best choices for garden drainage.


  • Easy to install.
  • Versatile design.
  • Can reserve water.
  • Keeping the soil around installments healthy.


  • It may cause clogging.
  • It must provide a deep and wide area.

5. French Drains

As mentioned before, the French drain is a modern version of the dry well system. Although the appearance is not as beautiful as the traditional one. Another difference from the dry well is how the French drain system manages water.

Instead of collecting the water in the underground storage, it distributes the runoff to existing water reservoirs around the area where you live.

French Water Drainage
French Water Drainage Pipe Going Aroud House and Go Away

In addition, this scheme is very suitable for building drainage because it can be designed under the basement and on public highways to prevent flooding.

Additionally, the advantage of a french drain over a dry well is that it is less likely to clog.


  • Pocket friendly.
  • Long-term system (30-40 years).
  • Prevent water damage to the buildings.
  • Adds aesthetic value to the yard.


  • Prone to clog and overflow.
  • Need to remove some garden features while installing the drainage.

6. Grassy Swale

Many DIY drainage projects use grassy swale to make easy and inexpensive drainage tutorials. The principle of grassy wale is to drain puddles of water on the ground surface to lower areas by utilizing the sloping natural contours of the land.

It works best, particularly for those living in wet areas with high rainfall and prone to flooding.

types of yard drains
Source: Pinterest (@landscapedesign)

Well, how to make it? First, dig the soil 6-12 inches deep and 4-5 feet wide. Then, make a design of a river flowing downwards.

Ensure the water reservoir area has plants that can absorb and hold the water to prevent soil erosion. Next, prepare river stones to pour into the stream setting. It only takes 1-2 days at max to work all the steps.


  • Recommended for DIY projects.
  • Prevent waterlogging.
  • Serves as water filtration.
  • Landscape drainage.


  • Not reliable for the long term.
  • It does not have a sturdy system against storm weather.

Best Way to Install a Drainage System

After knowing the yard drain types, we are coming to the question: how to install the system in our yard?

Since each scheme has a different installment method, here we will provide a general one (and perhaps, the best way) to build the yard drains. The underground setting will not bother your garden appeal while functioning well as drainage.

  • Prepare an area where you can ditch the excess water. It is better if the site has many plants with deep roots that can absorb water.
  • If you have determined the area, now dig the soil. Make sure the depth and length match the system you want to build. Also, adjust the distance to the terminal point.
  • Insert the pipe into the soil position. If you use perforated pipe, add gravel. However, if you use regular PVC, leave the rock.
  • Finally, cover the pipe again with soil. Make sure there are no bumps.

Best Drainage System for Yard

Determining which drainage is best for your yard can be a difficult task. However, you can divide them based on your garden’s soil type. Let’s find out!

1. Drainage for Clay Soil Yard

Clay soil is a real issue because they cannot let the water escape the soil. Luckily, the French Drain works great to solve this problem. You can install the pipe along the sloping area of your garden until it ends on the lawns.

However, it is better to prepare a rain garden at the end of the drainage pipe to collect water, so it does not stand on the grass.

2. Drainage for Sandy Soil Yard

The French drain is indeed a popular solution to solve drainage problems in your yard, especially for those living in a constantly flooding area. The system is the same as for clay soil.

Only the depth of the excavation area where you discard the water is slightly different. The clay needs 1/4 inch per foot at minimum, while the sandy is around 1/8 inch per foot.

3. Drainage for Silty Soil Yard

Silt soil has a wider surface area, so its ability to hold water is much better than clay. So, actually, they don’t need complicated water drainage. However, the french drain is the best option if you want to install drainage.

As with clay, the depth of the excavation site should be at least 1/4 inch per foot.

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Final Thought

To sum up, the best drainage system that can work on all soil types, climate, and geographical conditions are French drains. They are relatively easy to install, and the cost of manufacture is quite affordable. And most importantly, you don’t need to give extra time to build one (only 2-3 days).

Another alternative that you can try is catch basins. The arrangement is suitable to offer additional features in your garden. We hope that this information is helpful for you!

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