Johnson's Landscaping logo
Rated 4.6/5.0 on 130+ Google Reviews
Multiflex logo

Call us Today

Common Drainage Issues (and How We Solve Them)

Dec 1, 2022 | Services

Water is considered the most destructive force in nature. Over time, water can carve out canyons, wear down mountains, and reshape the mouths of rivers. Left unchecked on your property, water can damage hardscapes, drown trees, flood basements, or even cause entire hillsides to shift.

Good landscape design takes into account where water flows on a property, and how to redirect that water so that plants get just the right amount of water and homes stay dry. How do you know if you have a water drainage problem on your property? Here are some common signs of drainage issues:

  • Standing water in your yard after a rainstorm
  • Soggy ground, or an area that just doesn’t dry out
  • Water in your basement
  • Soil washing away
  • Silt on pathways or mulch that’s been shaped by running water
  • Clogged yard drains or street grates

For over 60 years, our landscape designers have worked with Maryland area homeowners to identify and fix common drainage issues. Our goal is not simply to protect your property from water damage, but to enhance the beauty of your property while also fixing common water drainage problems.

Common Drainage Issue 1: Blocked Gutters and Downspouts

Climbing up on a ladder every fall to clean out the gutters is an American rite of passage for homeowners. But it’s a great idea to check your gutters more often than once a year. Tennis balls, dirt, pine needles, or even children’s toys can get caught in the gutters throughout the year.

During a rainstorm, if you notice water pouring over the gutters rather than being sent through the downspouts, this may be a sign of a clogged gutter. Besides cleaning out the gutters, installing covers over the gutters may be a more permanent solution for this common drain issue.

If after a rainstorm you see debris splashed up on the side of your house, or puddles of water directly beneath the downspout, this could indicate that your downspouts aren’t truly directing water away from the house. Over time, water could seep down into the foundation of your home, causing your basement to flood, or your foundation to crack.

If this is happening to your home, we can help redesign your downspout so that the water is moved away from your home’s foundation. This can be a simple fix where we regrade your yard so that the water naturally flows down, or it can be more complex by digging and laying underground pipes that preserve the sidewalks in place around your home.

Common Drainage Issue 2: Standing Water In a Yard

In an ideal world, everyone’s yard would be full of beautiful black soil that grows any plant or bush that’s planted in it. In reality, some areas of the country have soil that is too sandy, full of clay, or requires constant management to yield an appealing landscape. Pooling water in a yard may be a sign that your soil is heavy in clay that is preventing water from draining properly.

Additionally, standing water could be a sign that your yard has been improperly graded. The slope of your property could be contributing to your drainage property. New houses frequently have this problem since the builders often aren’t thinking about where they place the dirt when they dig out a foundation. New yards can also have dirt packed so tightly by heavy machinery that they leave nowhere for water to drain.

Purposefully creating a landscape design that identifies your yard’s unique needs is a way to fix this common water drainage problem. Whether you need a French drain to dry out a wet spot, or you choose to embrace a wet spot with water-loving plants, our landscape designers have the degrees and experience to find a solution that is specific to your property.

Common Drainage Issue 3: Improper Landscaping Encourages Erosion

The plants you choose may also add to this common water drainage problem. After a rainstorm, do you notice displaced mulch, soil deposited on sidewalks or walkways, or what looks like rivulets running through your bark? A newly installed driveway, sidewalk, or patio may also be adding to your erosion problem. These flat, solid surfaces can leave nowhere for water to go, except to pour off onto the soil.

Dry rock beds lined with rubber can redirect water to a drain or a part of the yard that can handle a deluge during a storm. Gravel beds or drains can also help absorb water while minimizing the impact of soil erosion. A hill covered in bark that receives a lot of water during a thunderstorm may see all of its bark wash down to the bottom of the hill. Planting low-lying ground cover may be a better choice to keep the soil in place than bark.

A retaining wall, newly installed basketball court, or other landscaping feature may also be causing your water drainage problem. How water moves around a property is often not a consideration in DIY projects or by homebuilders, so permanent structures are erected without thought as to how they’ll impact drainage. It may be necessary to create catch basins or drains to pipe the water away from trouble spots without damaging existing structures.

Common Drainage Issue 4: Poor Yard Grading

Water flows to the lowest point on a property, and if the slope of a property is off, that can mean that water flows to the wrong spot. A yard should not be perfectly flat, but should have a pitch between 1-3% between the house and the street. This slope helps channel the water out to the street and into city storm drains.

If your neighbor has recently landscaped their yard, this may have some impact on your own yard, especially if they’ve shifted some soil around and redirected its path onto your own property. You may need to create a berm or a channel, depending on where you want the water to go. Berms can be especially helpful to slow down or direct runoff on steep slopes.

While drains can sometimes help move water away from damp spots in the yard, they can also clog and sometimes need to be cleaned out. In this case, it may be wiser to create a swale through a yard. A swale is a channel with gently sloping sides that can divert the water naturally throughout your yard, and can be a beautiful addition to your landscaping while also adding the practical benefit of fixing your drainage problem.

Common Drainage Issues Are Easily Fixed

Our landscape designers have decades of experience fixing common water drainage problems. Standing water, soil erosion, ineffective downspouts, or water-damaged patios are all problems we’ve seen before, and we can confidently help you solve your drainage dilemma.

Claim a Free Consultation

About the Author

Matt Johnson grew up in a family of landscapers and gardeners as the grandson of Raymond Johnson (Founder, 1933, Johnson's Florist and Garden Center) and son of James and Carol Johnson (Founders, 1960, Johnson's Landscaping Service, Inc.). Since 2007, he has led Johnson's Landscaping Service with his brother, Charlie.  Matt and his wife Jaime live in Petworth in Northwest DC with their 3 sons and 2 big dogs.

20% OFF September SALE!
20% OFF All Landscaping Projects that Start in September 2023

Offer is valid for all new planting and new construction projects over $2,500 that start by 9/30/23.
Cannot be combined with other offers.


50% Off Your First Month of Landscape Maintenance

50% OFF your first month landscape maintenance 


Offer is only valid on new landscape maintenance contracts that run through December 31, 2023.
Cannot be combined with other offers.


Save 100% with your FREE Landscape Consultation!

We answer phones Monday-Friday 8-5. If you have questions, please call (301) 656-6414.

Get in Touch


Social Media

Mailing Address

PO Box 459 Olney-Laytonsville Road
Olney, MD 20832

Johnson's Landscaping logo

Our Locations

7201 Brookville Road
Chevy Chase, MD 20815


5011 Olney-Laytonsville Road
Olney, MD 20832