5 Types of Landscape Drainage Systems and How to Install Them

Landscape drainage is essential for maintaining a healthy and beautiful lawn or garden. Without proper drainage, excess water can accumulate and cause damage to plants, hardscapes, and other structures.

From taking steps to guard against damage to property from flooding to preventing erosion and preserving soil, landscape drainage is an important part of land planning. There are several types of drainage systems that suit different kinds of situations; in this article, we’ll discuss five of them and their functions.

1. French Drain

A French Drain system is a popular drainage system used to manage excess water. It essentially consists of a trench lined with gravel or rock, covered by a perforated pipe. When the trench is dug, it sloped away from the property to ensure the water flows naturally towards it.

The perforated pipe is then placed in the trench and covered with more gravel or rock. Once completed, water is able to enter the perforated pipe and enter the trenches, where it is led away from the property into a designated area or drainage system. This system is commonly used in areas where the soil is dense and does not allow water to soak through, creating standing water or flooding.

To install a French drain, you will need to dig a trench that is at least 12 inches deep and 6 inches wide. The trench should be sloped at a 1% grade to ensure proper drainage. Next, line the trench with landscaping fabric to prevent soil from entering the gravel. Place the perforated pipe in the trench and cover it with gravel. Finally, cover the gravel with soil and grass.

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2. Dry Well

A dry well drainage system is a system designed to collect excess water on a property and store it in a well or basin. This system is ideal for waterlogged areas or areas where the soil is incapable of absorbing water. The dry well is essentially a hole that is carefully lined with gravel and permeable membranes that allow water to seep into the ground.

When the well is full, the water is then directed to an underground drainage system or emptied manually. A dry well drainage system is a convenient and effective solution for urban and suburban properties as it offers an underground solution. 

To install a dry well, you will need to dig a large hole that is at least 3 feet deep and 3 feet wide. Line the hole with landscaping fabric and fill it with gravel. Next, install a perforated pipe that is connected to the surrounding drainage system. Finally, cover the dry well with landscaping fabric and soil.

3. Surface Drain

A surface drainage system is designed to remove standing water or excess moisture from the surface of a property. This type of drainage system involves the installation of a network of pipes that capture water and move it away from the property. The pipes are typically placed directly below the surface of the property at a slight grade or angle, which allows water to flow easily toward the exit point.

The system is then covered with gravel, sand, or other permeable material to prevent water from settling on the surface. This system is best suited for properties with shallow or low-lying areas that are susceptible to pooling water, and it can be integrated with other drainage systems like the French Drain system..

Installing a surface drain is a relatively simple process, but there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind. First, you’ll need to choose a location for your drain. It’s important to choose an area that is free of trees, shrubs, and other obstacles that could block the flow of water.

Once you’ve selected a location, you’ll need to excavate a trench that is at least six inches deep and six inches wide. After the trench is excavated, you’ll need to prepare the area by making sure that the bottom of the trench is level and compacted.

Next, you’ll need to install the drain itself. This typically involves laying down a layer of gravel or another porous material, then placing the drain on top of it.

The drain should be level with the surrounding ground and secured in place using stakes or other anchors. Once the drain is in place, it’s time to connect it to your downspouts or other water sources. This may involve installing additional piping or other connections to ensure that water flows smoothly into the drain.

4. Swale Drainage System

A swale drainage system is a type of drainage system that is constructed by creating shallow ditches or depressions on a property. It can be a temporary or permanent solution depending on the amount of water that requires disposal.

When creating a swale, the ditch is shaped in a way that directs water flow toward a designated point or drain. The sides of the swale are then graded to allow water to flow smoothly to the drain. Swale drainage systems are commonly used in sloped areas, where they allow for more efficient water flow and avoid soil erosion.

To install a swale, you will need to dig a shallow, sloped ditch that is at least 12 inches deep and 3 feet wide. Line the ditch with landscaping fabric and fill it with gravel. Next, plant vegetation in the swale that is able to absorb excess water. Finally, cover the swale with soil and grass.

5. Rain Garden Drainage

A rain garden drainage system is a type of drainage system that is designed to manage water runoff by creating a natural filtration system. This system involves creating a depression in the ground, which is then filled with vegetation and soil.

Rainwater runoff is directed towards the depression, where it soaks into the ground and is filtered by vegetation and soil. The water is then absorbed into the earth or directed to a designated drainage spot. The rain garden system has the dual benefit of reducing soil erosion while also providing habitat for local wildlife.

To install a rain garden, you will need to dig a shallow depression that is at least 6 inches deep and 3 feet wide. Line the depression with landscaping fabric and fill it with gravel. Next, plant vegetation in the rain garden that is able to absorb excess water and filter pollutants.


Overall, managing excess water is an essential part of landscaping. The type of drainage system used depends on the site’s topography and soil quality, the amount of water anticipated, and personal preference.In order to figure out which drainage system is best for you, it’s recommended that a professional be consulted. Each of these systems has been shown to be effective in controlling water levels in various ways. Rest assured that there are plenty of reliable resources to explore when getting started with your project.

Joxan Williams
Home Maintenance Expert | joxanwilliams@gmail.com | Website

I'm a licensed home maintenance contractor with over a decade of experience, dedicated to preserving your home's value. My expertise includes roofing, gutter installation and repair, fencing, pool maintenance, deck and patio construction, plumbing, appliance repair, lawn care, painting, garage doors, windows, sump pumps, and steam heating systems.