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Design Dilemma with Carson Arthur: Drainage Issues

Spring may seem far off, but it’ll come here faster than we know it. This homeowner is getting a head start on her drainage issues by asking the right questions today in order to plan for her tomorrow. Read on to find out what drainage issue she’s experiencing and what can be done to solve the problem.

The problem

Joanne from Bedford, NS has a common problem of being one of the lower homes in her neighbourhood. All of the water from everyone’s yard runs into her space, and then down to the one neighbour below her. Just to make the situation a little worse, when the homes were constructed, the builder decided to fill in an existing stream with soil and a series of ineffective berms (mounds of soil and grass) in an attempt to reroute the rainwater.

The challenge

Joanne wants to dry out the back of her yard, remove a row of cedars and add a vegetable garden to the space.


Carson’s opinion

Well Joanne, I have bad news for you on this one. Either you spend a lot of money and rip out the whole space to add new drains (with the help of a waterproofing expert), or forget about your dreams to have healthy grass in your backyard.

Unfortunately, the builder didn’t do you any favours by filling in Nature’s method of moving water through your neighbourhood. Even with a few drains, the water is trapped and is turning your lawn into a septic mess. The roots of the grass can’t handle being constantly wet which is why they are going from green and healthy one minute, to rotting the next. Trying to have a lawn in a space like this isn’t going to work…so why try?

Carson’s solution

It’s time to give up on the grass. Instead, consider adding a trench full of stone. By creating a decorative dry riverbed along the back of your property, you give all of that excess water a spot to stay until it either evaporates or is absorbed. This technique employs some of the logic behind dry well systems; holes filled with gravel or rock to allow rain to drain into the water table below. Either way, you don’t have to look at it or deal with the moisture problem.

Also consider planting flowers, perennials, and shrubs that are suited for a rain garden along the edges of the riverbed. These plants can handle wet and then dry conditions and still flourish. As for the cedar hedge, I’d leave it alone. The roots of the trees help control (and use) the standing water. The hedge is also a perfect backdrop and starting point for your dry riverbed. so that it looks like your stream is coming straight out of the forest. Add a bridge and a bench as a visual focal point and your problem is beautifully solved!

As for the vegetable garden…I’d do some great planters on the existing deck. You can grow almost every kind of veggie on a pot and they’ll love all that sun!


Is your home experiencing drainage issues? Might be time to call in a waterproofing expert to examine the problem. Use our directory to find your next home service professional. We give you all the tools you need to make an educated decision, including image galleries, reviews and more!

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