This is definitely shaping up to be the summer about the backyard. After tackling the fence, the carport etc... we have now turned our attention to drainage issues. It's exciting, I know. However, more than exciting, it's a rather important aspect to tackle, and now we're finally getting to it.
Our backyard is located a few inches lower than our street. Which unfortunately means that it floods when it rains a lot in the winter. We were not exactly aware of this when we bought the house, but we sure got to experience it this past year, which also happened to be a very wet year. It rained and rained and rained. And at times, our backyard resembled a wet swamp way more than a backyard should (even in rainy conditions) and way more than we were comfortable with. So, to bring our backyard back to a normal state during the winter, we now have decided to do something about it.
A dreary and rainy (!) winter day. As can be seen from this picture, getting a higher fence was a necessity!
And to tackle a drainage issue basically means digging trenches. It means making a map of the elevation of the land, digging appropriately and putting in drains leading up to a sump pump.
The first thing we did was to map out where the water tended to pool and where we needed to dig. It basically follows the fence more or less...
Once we had mapped out the area, we called up the city so they could come out and mark out any places on our property where there are any lines, such as gas, electricity, water. You don't want to start digging if you have no idea what's underneath! After a few days they came out and made their marks. Luckily, we have no pipes or lines hidden in the backyard which was a relief.
Next up was making an elevation map of our backyard. At first we bought an elevation kit from Home Depot, but after realizing it didn't work very well, we decided to make our own version: a flashlight with a laser pointer which we managed to lay level on some boards that we moved to point in different directions around the property.
Wherever we pointed the laser, we also had a wooden board in the ground and we marked the height of the laser. This gave us a good perception of how much deeper some areas of the yard were than others.
Overall, some places in the backyard are one feet below some other areas. This basically means we need to move water uphill. How do you move water uphill? You gradually dig trenches deeper and deeper so that the water will flow down with gravity, despite the fact that it's going uphill. When you come to the highest point on the property, the hole needs to be at its deepest point, and that's where the sump pump goes which pumps the water out to the street.
In other words; there was quite a lot of digging to do!
The hole doesn't have to be super wide, just wide enough to fit the drain. What really matters here is the depth. The trenches need to start out rather shallow, and then get deeper and deeper to make up for the higher land.
Once we felt relatively satisfied with the overall depth, we decided to do a test and pour water down the trench.
Any areas where the water "got stuck" we marked it so we could dig a little further.
It was kind of fun watching the water move. We poured a few buckets to see the flow of the water and it worked! Gravity worked, which shouldn't be that surprising, I guess. We were saying, too bad we don't have any plastic toys or we could have had game going here down the trench!
So once the water was poured we still needed to do a bit more digging. To dig the trenches we used a combination pick axe, shovel and hole post digger. Oh, and garden shears too because there were a whole bunch of roots growing in the ground that needed to be removed!
Trench is more or less complete!
Next up we had gravel delivered. The gravel will be used at the bottom of the trenches and then on top of the drains before filling the holes up with dirt. The gravel should allow water to penetrate easier. This time we bought quite a bit of gravel (we bought some when we put the fence in too) so we had it delivered. It's kind of funny, two cubic yards of gravel doesn't really look like that much once it's on the ground in a pile!
So we have come pretty far here. However we still have several things left to do: installing the drains, digging another trench closer to the house and then digging a large hole for the sump pump which will be stored inside a submerged basin with a lid you can walk on.
So, while other people are taking vacations and relaxing we're digging trenches... Which actually isn't so bad, it's kind of fun seeing our backyard take shape, plus having flooding in the winter really is no fun at all, so hopefully we can fix that now.