How to Stop Water From Pooling in Your Yard

Lawrence Bonk
Written by Lawrence Bonk
Reviewed by Tara Dudley
Updated January 3, 2022
Beautifully landscaped backyard living space
Photo: irina88w/iStock/Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Remove unsightly and potentially dangerous stagnant pools of water from your yard by following these seven steps

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

If you’ve ever woken up after a rainstorm and discovered pools of stagnant water throughout your lawn, you know how frustrating excess yard water can be. It can be difficult to figure out what causes water to pool up in a yard and even more frustrating to handle the issue. Hiring a landscaper or drainage expert can be a good choice for some homeowners, as this could ensure professional results. If you want to save money, however, you can figure out the root cause yourself and act accordingly. 

We have broken the process to diagnose and eliminate pools of stagnant water from your lawn. Follow these seven tips to keep your lawn from getting waterlogged.

1. Diagnose the Problem

There are a number of reasons stagnant pools of water form in a yard. To better handle the problem, take some time to diagnose the root cause. Here are some of the most common causes of yard-related water pools and how to determine if each is your culprit.

Overwatering

If you water your lawn too much, the soil will not be able to absorb all of the moisture, leading to pools of stagnant water. Cut back on irrigation to see if you’re loving your yard a little too much. If the problem persists, overwatering is likely not the problem.

Improper Lawn Grading

If the grade or slope of your lawn is too steep or faces the wrong way, the yard’s drainage capabilities could suffer. The slope of your lawn should be gentle and trend downwards towards the street to meet up with the drainage lines.

You can measure the grade of your lawn by hammering a stake next to your foundation and another ten feet away from the foundation. Tie a string around both stakes and place a line level in the center. Make the string taut and measure the distance from the string and the ground near the second stake. If the string is more than six inches from the ground, improper lawn grading is likely not the issue.

Lawn Thatching

Debris, such as grass clippings and errant leaves, can accumulate on a lawn over time. This layer of thatch can seriously reduce your yard’s ability to absorb moisture. 

“Dethatching your lawn and aerating can help not only with drainage but also will improve the health of your lawn,” says Tara Dudley, Angi Expert Review Board member and owner of Plant Life Designs.

How to tell if lawn thatching has become a problem in your yard? Feel the lawn. If it’s spongy or bouncy, the thatch layer is likely overgrown. 

You can also measure the thatch by excavating a soil sample. Grab a trowel or spade and remove a wedge-shaped layer of grass and soil about three inches deep. Measure the thickness of the layer directly on top of the soil. If it is thicker than ½ inch, this could be the cause of your stagnant water problem.

Hard Soil

Harder-than-average soil can stop drainage cold in its tracks. If you suspect hard soil is to blame for your yard pooling, test a sample. Dig out a chunk and give it a feel. If it is hard, sticky, and overly compacted, the soil could be preventing water from seeping under the ground.

“Many new construction properties are faced with compact, clay soils, which makes it really hard to drain water,” says Dudley. “Adding a natural fertilizer specialized in breaking up clay material could help with this issue.”

High Water Table

If you are in the midst of a particularly active storm reason, your home’s water table could be higher than average. When this happens, the yard could become waterlogged. If you have access to a dry well, you can easily measure the water table by using a standard measuring tape. There are also federal and state databases that keep track of information regarding water tables.

2. Divert the Water Underground

No matter the root cause of water pools, diverting any excess water underground can usually help. Think about hiring a professional to install a French drain or a perforated underground drain pipe. These drains involve the use of a graded trench to direct the flow of water away from your home. Keep a close eye on where the water ends up, however, as your neighbors may not appreciate the additional moisture. 

Drain boxes connected to drain tile underground can also be very helpful when installed in lower points of the yard.

Beautiful green yard
Akabei/iStock/Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

3. Grade the Lawn

Grading the lawn, otherwise known as leveling the lawn, can solve pooling water as well as other landscaping woes. A lawn has the right amount of grading if the land is highest at the base of your home and continues to slope downward away from your property. Grading a lawn requires plenty of know-how and the correct tools, so you should hire a pro for the job. You can, however, perform an amateur grade by spreading topsoil around the foundation of your property, paying special attention to the low areas. This will help water to drain freely.

4. Dethatch and Aerate

As previously mentioned, thick layers of thatch can prevent soil from absorbing water properly, leading to stagnant pools around your lawn. Fortunately, dethatching the ground is a relatively simple process. Grab a rake or a purpose-built dethatching tool and get to work eliminating the entire layer of thatch. Once the thatch has been disposed of, properly aerate the soil. If layers of thatch were the problem, the water pools should evaporate on their own.

5. Install a Storm Drain

If water pools on your sidewalk or patio, you should take action before paved areas become unusable. The best option here is to hire a contractor to install a storm drain channel. A pro can install a storm drain along the sidewalk or near a patio, where it will eventually connect with a buried French drain, carrying any excess water to the main sewer system. Without a storm drain, it could take a week or longer for the water on your paved area to evaporate.

6. Change Soil Composition

If your soil is too hard and compact, it will not allow water to seep through. This is often a problem for homeowners with heavy clay soil. To combat hard soil, you will have to change the composition of your dirt. Complete this process by digging up the soil and adding compost, manure, or leaf mold. These materials will help to make your soil softer and more absorbent. As an added bonus, the process of digging to change the soil composition will naturally create new drainage channels for water.

7. Add a Dry Well

If all else fails, add a dry well to your yard. A dry well, or seepage pit, is an underground structure typically installed in a low-lying part of the yard to collect excess water. Dry wells can be simple, such as a deep hole filled with gravel, or more complex, made from pre-fabricated concrete.

The cost of hiring a specialist to install a dry well will be $1,500 to $4,400. You can do it yourself, but there will likely be building permits and other hurdles involved, so we recommend you sit out the DIY on this one.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.