How to Landscape to Prevent Basement Flooding

how to landscape to prevent basement floodingProper landscaping techniques can help you prevent a flooded basement. Because spring is here and rain is a sure bet, now is the time to consider your landscaping around your house. Here’s how to landscape to prevent basement flooding: 

  1. Make a drainage swale.

    A swale is a depression, or trench, that’s created at the base of a slope to channel water away. If your yard has high and low points that tend to gather water, creating a sloped swale to guide the water down and away from your home can help you prevent basement flooding and the need for water damage repair. 

How to do it. 

    • Make sure it’s allowed in your area. Before you make a plan to create a swale in your yard, check with your county and state offices to be sure redirecting rainwater is allowable in your area. If you’ve received a go-ahead from them, it’s time to plot out your swale. 
    • Determine the position. Your swale must be at a lower elevation than your yard. If it’s an option, you can direct water toward a nearby waterway such as a ditch, storm sewer, creek or pond. Or, you can simply direct the water away from your home, to a lower area that won’t be damaged by periodic excess groundwater. 
    • Check for underground utilities. Before you determine the path of your swale, call your local utility marking service and ask them to come and mark the location of any underground utilities. 
    • Plan the route and width of your swale. Your swale should travel through the boggiest areas of your yard, in order to move the standing water away from your home. The width of your swale can be as small as one foot, or as wide as your space and aesthetic allows. 
    • Mark the path and width of your swale. You can either pound stakes into the ground along the path, or mark it with spray paint. 
    • Remove the grass or sod from the swale area. Use a shovel or sod remover to carefully lift the sod in the largest chunks possible. Place the sod in a cool, moist spot. 
    • Dig your swale trench. Using a shovel or trencher, dig a six to eight foot, “V”-shaped trench. Smooth and compress the sides and bottom. 
    • Replace the sod. Gently replace the sod along the swale. Ensure that the roots are touching the dirt at the bottom of the swale and water it immediately. Continue to irrigate the sod regularly for at least one month, or until the grass has had a chance to take hold again. 


Heavy clay soil creates particularly challenging drainage issues. If your soil has a high clay content, you may need to install a perforated pipe surrounded by gravel inside your swale to facilitate the movement of water through the swale. 

  1. Create a rain garden.

    If you don’t have an area to divert rainwater off your property or don’t want to create a place for standing water on your property, you could instead create an area inside your yard to put that excess water to good use by creating a rain garden. A rain garden is a garden comprised of water-loving plants, created in a designated area with a lower elevation than the rest of the yard. By drawing water away from the house and towards plants that thrive in a constantly moist environment, you’ll create the same effect as a swale, while also creating a lovely focal point in your yard. 

How to do it. 

    • Determine your location. Choose the lowest part of your yard, as far from your house as is feasible (at least 10 feet.) Mark the perimeter of your rain garden. 
    • Create a swale that leads to the rain garden. Follow the above-outlined steps to create a swale that will direct rainwater to your rain garden area. 
    • Create a transport method for the water. You can aid the water’s movement to the garden area by laying PVC pipe in the swale or filling it with river rock. 
    • Check the grade of your yard. You can easily find the grade of your yard by pounding wooden yardsticks in the ground, one nearest your house and another one away from your house (near your desired rain garden area.) Tie a piece of tautly string between the two and place a line level on the string. Ensure the string is level. Now, note the height of the string farthest from the house to the ground (A) and subtract the height of the string closest to the house (B). Now use this formula: Subtract B from A, then divide by the length of the string. Then multiply that number by 100. This is the grade of your yard. 
    • Create a depression or build a berm. If your garden area is less than a 2% grade lower than the rest of your yard, dig a depression (about two feet deep.) If your yard already has a significant downward slope, build a berm (about two feet tall) around the garden area. Either way, you need to create a basin in the center of the garden area that will trap water inside. 
    • Fill the garden basin with growing matter. Fill the basin with a mixture of growing matter. A ratio of 30% sand, 40% topsoil and 30% organic matter (such as compost) will result in the best drainage conditions. 
    • Plant your garden. 
      • For the center of the garden: Choose plants with the highest moisture requirements. These include: native grasses, foxglove, astilbe, iris, asters, liatris and sedges.
      • For the perimeter of the garden: Choose plants with moderate moisture requirements. These include: cone flowers, sedum, daylilies, artemisia, sage and lavender. 
    • Finish the edges. If desired, finish the edges of your rain garden with larger landscaping stones to define the border and help contain your growing matter. 
  1. Choose permeable paving. 

Permeable paving systems are comprised of porous paver tiles that allow water to infiltrate the pavement and drain into the ground. Asphalt driveways, concrete patios, or patios created with pavers that are tightly nested together can result in water puddling near your home, which can ultimately lead to a flooded basement. 

How to do it. 

    • Consult with a pro. Permeable pavers are available at home improvement centers. However, these systems require more work than simply laying down paving stones in your yard. They must be installed on a bed of crushed stone to function properly. You might be able to do a small-scale project on your own, but for driveways or large patios, you’ll want to hire a pro. 
  1. Use proper mulching methods. 

Homeowners use mulch to create a finished look and help keep weeds at bay. However, many homeowners make the mistake of mulching right up against their house to get an even look. Mulch holds onto water, so heavy rains can cause water to build up along the side of your house. This can result in a flooded basement, and also creates an environment in which termites can thrive. Additionally, if your house has aluminum siding, excess mulch against it can lead to rusting. 

How to do it. 

    • Leave a one-foot gap between your home and the rest of your mulched area. 
    • If heavy rains or winds redistribute the mulch against your house, rake it away. 

To sum it up. 

Flooded basements are a hassle for any homeowner. They can cause structural damage to your foundation, foster mold growth and create other health hazards for your family, and cause water damage to precious personal property. While it’s essential to take the necessary steps inside your home to prevent basement flooding, such as taking care of your pipes in both hot and cold weather and keeping plumbing and other household systems properly maintained, it’s a smart choice to take proactive steps outside of your to reduce the possibility of water damage as well.


About Hays + Sons

For more than 38 years, Hays + Sons has been the property restoration company that families, businesses and schools trust. We’re committed to helping you be prepared when the unexpected strikes, and whether you just want tips for water damage prevention and mitigation or currently have water damage, Hays + Sons has the capacity and expertise to help you get back to normal ASAP. 

The compassionate, experienced, and trusted residential restoration experts at Hays + Sons are just a phone call away, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. 

If you’re in need of water damage restoration, get in touch with us at one of our offices across Indiana or in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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