4 Ways to Fix a Driveway Drainage Problem

Bry'Ana Arvie
Written by Bry'Ana Arvie
Updated January 31, 2022
A house with concrete driveway
Photo: tab62 / Adobe Stock

Flush out annoying drainage problems with these methods

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Rain can be beautiful and soothing—and it’s always a welcome relief after a scorching hot day. But rainfall is also a constant source of frustration for homeowners who deal with puddles of standing water in their driveway.

Unfortunately, drainage is just one of many driveway problems homeowners often face. This guide covers specific steps for fixing driveway drainage problems so you can enjoy a properly drained driveway that lasts for years.

Difficulty: 5/5 Don't DIY if you don't know what you're doing.

Time to complete: Six hours to four days; Depending on method and skill level.

Material needed: Depends on the type of drain; see lists below:

Channel drain

  • Circular saw with diamond-impregnated blade

  • Shovel

  • Wheelbarrow

  • Level

  • Trowel

  • Pipe glue

  • PVC pipe and elbows

  • Channel drain

  • Asphalt cold patch

  • Concrete mix

French drain

  • French drain

  • Land markers

  • PVC pipe

  • Pipe glue

  • Shovel

  • Gravel

  • Fabric liner

  • Topsoil

  • Sand

Swale

  • Swale

  • Land markers

  • Shovel

  • Gravel

  • Topsoil

  • Sod

Permeable paving

  • Backhoe

  • Crushed stone

  • Permeable paving

  • Level

  • Plate compactor

  • Two by four

Fix Driveway Drainage Problems With These Methods

1. Channel Drain

A close up of a block paving drain
Photo: Hugh O'Neill / stock.adobe.com

Channel drains are a perfect drainage solution for sloped driveways since they’re installed inside the driveway, capturing water and channeling it to your designated location. Follow these steps to build a channel drain:

  1. Plan out your channel drain’s route along your driveway; make a line showing the drain’s location. The drain needs to be lower than the pavement to help water flow. 

  2. Use a circular saw with a diamond-impregnated blade to cut through the driveway. 

  3. Remove loose pieces of your driveway with a shovel. 

  4. Dig a trench approximately six inches deep along the driveway.

  5. Fit, connect, and glue drain pipes together on the side of the channel drain you want to direct water. 

  6. Mix concrete in a wheelbarrow and fill the trench with it. 

  7. Smooth the concrete and place the channel drain into it, leveling it at a gentle downward slope. 

  8. On the opposite side of the channel drain, angle the concrete with a trowel. 

  9. Dig a trench in your yard where you want the channel drain and the water runoff to go. 

  10. Cover the drainpipe in the trench with soil. 

  11. Use flat stone around the exit end of the drain pipe to prevent erosion. 

  12. Patch up and compact the gap between channel drain and driveway with an asphalt cold patch. 

2. French Drain

French drain pipes collect water alongside a driveway away from your home using pipes with small holes on the top. Follow these steps to build a French drain:

  1. Locate an area alongside your driveway with the best drainage potential and a slight downward slope. 

  2. Mark the drainage route, placing land markers at every 50 feet, ensuring the grade slopes six inches per 50 feet.

  3. Use a shovel to dig the trench deep and wide enough for the drain to be level.

  4. Layer the bottom of your trench with gravel.

  5. Add fabric lining on top of gravel inside the entire length of your trench.

  6. If more than one drainpipe is needed, glue the joints together.

  7. Place your pipe in the trench with drain holes facing up. 

  8. Completely cover the drain pipe with gravel, only leaving a small portion at the top exposed. 

  9. Use additional fabric lining to cover the pipe, serving as protection.  

  10. Fill the trench with sand, then cover with topsoil to grade. 

3. Swale

Swales are subtle depressions in a landscape where water can collect. They're a good solution for driveways with drainage problems since the landscape on either side slopes toward it; they simply offer proper driveway drainage for most homeowners.

The bottom of the swales needs to be at a lower elevation than the surface of your driveway. It’ll collect water during storms, allowing it to enter the ground instead of flowing onto the driveway slowly.

Plus, subtle swales are barely noticeable once the grass fills in, and you can hide deeper ones with rocks or plants, creating a custom landscape while you solve your drainage problem. Win-win, anyone? Here’s how to create a swale:

  1. Plan your swale by analyzing the slope and water runoff pattern in relation to where you want to direct the water flow. 

  2. Use land markers to lay out its path (e.g., your driveway’s entrance to your designated location.) 

  3. Use a shovel to dig a U-shaped ditch with a slight slope of around three inches per ten feet that the water can flow down while preventing erosions. 

  4. Line the swale with at least three inches of gravel.

  5. Cover gravel with topsoil and sod. 

  6. Add your desired landscape. 

4. Permeable Paving

Grey concrete flooring blocks
Photo: Francesco Scatena / stock.adobe.com

Often, drainage issues near a driveway are simply a result of the pavement preventing water from entering the ground. You can fix these drainage problems by getting a driveway repair company near you to install a driveway that allows water to pass through it.

Permeable paver driveways are built from materials that allow water to pass through, like concrete or recycled glass. Porous driveways use plastic, concrete, or stone in a grid pattern with space in between where water can pass through and grass can grow. Either solution will fix drainage problems caused by poor driveway placement.

While this method might not work for everyone, if your driveway has reached the point of no return, replacing it with a permeable one can work out in your favor. Here’s what to do:

  1. Get the soil tested to check its absorption rate.

  2. Start the excavation process based on the soil results. 

  3. Cover the freshly excavated driveway with a six-inch layer of crushed stone, compacting it twice.

  4. Add a four-inch layer of crushed stone over the existing one, compacting it twice.

  5. Level the bedding layer with a two-by-four.

  6. Set the pavers on top of the bedding, double-checking that the pavers are close together.

  7. Fill in paver joints with bedding stone. 

  8. Clean off the excess stone of the driveway’s surface. 

  9. Use a plate compactor on the entire driveway, locking the paving and bedding layers together. 

  10. Repeat steps seven through nine if some joints settle deeper than intended. 

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