When water is involved, there are plenty of factors involved that can lead to damage to either your home, your yard, or both. That makes it of the utmost importance to ensure that your home is protected from any potential water damage.

One such issue tends to take place when you live at the bottom of a slope, particularly with neighbors in the immediate vicinity. When runoff from the neighbor’s yard is a regular issue, it can lead to damage to any garden or flower beds and can even do damage to the driveway if the water runoff is severe enough.

Even in the most minor of cases, runoff can be frustrating for homeowners. It leaves a mess in the form of wood chips, grass clippings, dirt, and debris that gets scattered throughout the yard. Even worse, it can actually pollute some of the public waters, making them unsafe for consumption.

There are complications, however, with stopping the runoff. The most particular issue is if the hill is not on your property. If you can’t stop the runoff at the source, that leaves stopping it when it reaches your yard. Instead of repairing damage year in and year out, use these steps and you can stop the damage before it becomes an issue.

Build a Berm

A berm is a small hill that is covered with grass or maybe some other type of plant. The goal of the berm is to divert any water runoff around the things that you want to protect. It is akin to a ditch in that way, only not quite so comprehensive in scope and time consumed.

You will need to think ahead about where you want the diverted water to flow and then consider what you will want to plant as well. Grass is the easiest but keep in mind that it will have to be mowed at some point and that little hill can make it difficult to mow.

Using a greater variety of plantings could be better in order to help maintain the berm and it can also help the berm to better blend into the surrounding landscape. Berms provide a reasonably quick fix that protect both structures and plantings so they may be the best option, particularly in a jam.

There are a few basic rules that you want to consider, particularly if you are a newbie to building berms. These guidelines will ensure that the berm is constructed properly and works to adequately remove the runoff from the danger areas of the property.

The first is to plan carefully and keep drainage issues in mind. You may have the best of intentions in mind when diverting the water from a neighbor but could end up diverting that water into areas that you didn’t want it to.

If this is your first berm, try a small berm first. Make sure to slope the land gradually as well. By doing this, the berm will look more natural and won’t stand out as starkly against the landscape. Not only that, but gradual sloping is also the best way to prevent soil erosion. When the soil erodes, it can make the berm less effective.

Try to go for a berm that is in a crescent shape instead of one that is completely circular. This will make for a more effective path for the water runoff. Lastly, make sure to layer the berm carefully. During heavy rainfalls, debris and dirt can erode. Use topsoil for your top layering with a layer of clay soil underneath. The layer underneath of the clay should be fill materials that are meant to bulk the berm up to withstand longer periods.

When it comes to designing the berm, make sure that you use edge materials such as stones or something heavier. This is meant to help trap the soil in place so that it won’t easily wash away during heavier rains. Mulch in particular can not only help to reduce erosion and runoff but also help to keep weeds away.

Finally, plant your plants carefully. Make sure that you use plants that will thrive in drier conditions at the very top of the berm since this area will dry out far quicker than the bottom of the berm. On the flip side, make sure to go with plants that do well with a lot of moisture at the bottom of the berm.

Use Grade Board Surfaces

This kind of deterrent is made to direct runoff away from structures in particular. This includes houses, barns, sheds, and even patios. This is a bit more complicated to pull off, especially for those who like to implement do-it-yourself fixes.

Most of the time, implementing grade board surfaces will require a professional excavator. In the very best situation, it will require the rental of expensive equipment. Still, if you are looking for a permanent solution to water runoff, there may be no better solution. This is especially true if you are looking to keep crawlspaces and basements from flooding in the future.

Route the Water

Routing the water into a dry well means diverting the water into a hole in the ground that remains dry for the majority of the time. The only difference is that when water starts flowing downhill, it can be properly routed into the dry well by either a roof downspout or swale.

Dry wells are great where there are downspouts that flood into larger paved areas. They are also pretty good at dealing with runoff as the result of a large roof. Most importantly, you can dig a dry well in any lower area where big puddles tend to form on a regular basis.

Best of all, this can be achieved without the need for heavy excavation equipment or a professional service. Digging a proper well on your property and diverting water flow can keep the areas of your property that are in jeopardy well protected.

A dry well is one of the most effective ways to block water that drains from the neighbor’s yard. Keep in mind that you will need to connect a pipe from the downspout all the way down into the tank (which should be made of either plastic or concrete).

The way that dry wells are constructed means that they are built to last for years on end and require very little maintenance. Even better, they have a great water-holding capacity and will comply with regulations in just about any municipality.

The only thing to be aware of is that there can be sediments and debris that wash off alongside the runoff. This could end up clogging up the well walls and reduce the overall ability of the tank to properly drain water.

Intercept the Water

Having a swale, which is a shallow ditch that has a slight slope on each side, can be a great way to intercept the water before it becomes a problem on your property. In a similar vein, a French drain will work just as well. This is a trench that is filled with gravel and may also have a perforated pipe that rests at the bottom of the trench.

Some newer products include things such as EZ-Drain. This product is made up of a perforated pipe and some plastic beads that come encased in a tub made up of landscape fabric. The fabric acts similarly to a sock, surrounding the pipe and preventing dirt from getting in. This keeps the pipe from filling up and keeps air spaces between the beads open too.

French drains are probably the best way to intercept the water because they handle water that moves through the soil, not just over it. For keeping water out of a basement in particular, French drains are the best option.

Here are a few things that you want to keep in mind when installing French drains to ensure that they are optimally functioning. The first is to plan out your dig the same as if you were building a berm. French drains require comprehensive excavation and the need to replace the dirt with the proper drainage gravel.

Digging can certainly be done by hand and it will involve quite a bit less cost than renting excavation equipment. Keep in mind that it is very labor intensive, so bring a friend who can help to both shorten the dig time and lighten the physical load if at all possible.

You will also need to figure out what to do with the excavated dirt. You can store it outside of a garage or shed or have a service come take it away. Keep in mind that if you go with the latter, it will require additional costs to have the dirt removed.

When building a French drain, consider using raised beds or building a few slopes. This will help to further protect the areas that are the most impacted by runoff collection. Taking a few extra measures to protect those high-risk areas may seem like more work in the short term but they will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

If digging is not something that you’re interested in doing, there are gas-powered trenching tools that are available for rental, particularly if you don’t want to make the substantial investment in buying one. If manual labor is something that you want to avoid altogether, consider bringing in a professional to do the job for you. It costs far more but it requires no work on your part and you can ensure that water runoff won’t continue damaging your property.

Before you take any steps towards installing the French drain, the first and most important thing to do is to call your local utility companies. They will mark off the underground utilities in the area so that you don’t accidentally hit them when digging. Doing so can not only be damaging to the lines but can disrupt service in the area and be quite dangerous as well. Always call ahead to find out where the utility lines are located.

Digging the trench is the next step. Remember that it’s not a race; if you have the patience to dig the trench by hand, that is going to be the most cost-effective route. Having a friend or family member help is never a bad idea either.

When the trench has been properly dug out, you will need to use landscaping fabric to line the trench. The fabric should be properly sized, making sure that a foot of fabric extends past the top of the trench walls. The brand is up to you but Dewitt makes a fine landscaping fabric to use.

Make sure that you secure the excess landscaping fabric using fabric pins. This will prevent the edges of the fabric from falling back into the trench, requiring you to reposition them once again. Make sure that the fabric is evenly placed throughout the trench.

After the trench has been properly dug out, you can fill the bottom of your trench using a couple of inches (two to three or so) of gravel. Place the drain pipe over the gravel with the holes of the pipe facing downward.

Cover the drain pipe with gravel. You will want to have at least two or three inches of gravel covering the top of the trench to ensure proper coverage. Take the excess fabric and fold it over so that it covers the top of the gravel, creating an effectively protected seal.

Once the fabric has been folded over the top of the gravel, it is time to cover with soil. You should have a healthy pile from the digging of the trench but you can cover the area with whatever kind of soil that you want. Make sure the ground is as flat as you can get it and then reseed the area with grass. Eventually, the grass will fill in and it will look relatively seamless.

If you are looking to go with an eco-friendly option, French drains are great for this. All of the materials can be made of eco-friendly construction. Best of all, these eco-friendly options can fit into just about any budget.

Understanding Legal Responsibility

In the event that water runoff from a neighbor’s yard causes damage to your property, there may be the question of who is held accountable for any of the damage. The unfortunate reality is that the homeowner is responsible for providing proper drainage to the property.

This can depend on a number of factors, though, such as how the flooding was caused to begin with. It is essential to know who should be responsible in situations where runoff has caused damage to portions of the property.

In the case where the neighbor made some changes to their property through landscaping and the result was more than usual runoff, the neighbor should be legally responsible for paying for any damages caused by the excessive runoff.

Similarly speaking, if the neighbor has also been negligent or careless and that action has resulted in property damage, you may be entitled to ask for compensation from the neighbor. Negligence would be something such as broken water hoses, clogged gutters, and broken water pipes that the neighbor intentionally ignored, leading to runoff damage on your property.

It is always best to talk to the neighbor first if you notice runoff becoming a problem. More often than not, talking to them reasonably should be enough for them to work with you. It is only when they make things difficult that legal action may be required.

Landscaping Tips

While digging out a dry well or installing a French drain are great ways to deter water runoff coming from a neighbor, there are some standard landscaping tips that can be implemented not only to stop the runoff but to improve the overall aesthetic of the yard.

Try using some plants to help with the water runoff issue. When there is vegetation in the areas of the runoff, it will usually collect there. The water will drain down into the soil and the roots will absorb them. Just make sure to use plants that thrive with a lot of water. What’s even better is that the plants can filter out any of the pollutants that may be in the water, keeping it from polluting the groundwater in the area.

If you have a slope on your property, try leveling your yard out. There’s not much you can do if the slope starts in the neighbor’s yard and ends in yours; however, if the slope continues into your yard, you can try leveling it out.

The key here is to ensure that the slope is leveled away from your home. Use extra dirt to build a slope that will direct the water away from your property and into a safe drainage spot. If you have any questions about the grading process, call a professional to get an idea of what needs to be done.

Should you have any trees on your property, they can make for a valuable asset in staving off that heavy water runoff. As with the vegetation above, the trees will absorb and filter all of the water runoff. The bigger the trees, the better they will do and the longer they will be able to hold up against excess water. Just make sure to properly prune and care for the tree to ensure that it is strong enough to hold up to the excess water that runs into your yard.

If you have a concrete patio slab, consider replacing it with pavers or bricks. When water gets under a concrete patio slab, it can cause a number of issues that can ultimately damage the concrete block over time. By switching, you will have a material that allows for the water to seep in between them. Having a strip of grass or a turf block in the middle of your driveway is an excellent way to slow down additional runoff as well.

A rain garden can be planted in low areas and be used as catch basins. These rain gardens are specifically designed not only to slow down the runoff but to catch it as well. This can help to solve any flooding issues that plague your property while adding a pleasing aesthetic to the entire property. Make sure to choose a fast-draining soil, though. This will allow the water to sink in and properly drain away, getting rid of the excess water runoff and making the garden look lusher and fuller.

Keep in mind that depending on the soil that you use, it can act similarly to concrete in terms of water absorption. If you have soil in the areas of runoff collection, consider using some mulch. Mulch is not only great at helping to absorb and distribute water runoff but it can help to kill problem plants such as weeds that pop up in a garden space.

Lastly, make sure to choose a permeable material when thinking about the driveway, patio, or a path. These are affordable if you think that concrete or asphalt is too costly, and you can also opt for crushed shells, gravel, or mulch to be even more cost-effective.

Final Thoughts

All of these methods have their own benefits. Whatever you choose to do about the runoff problem, be sure to check on your landscaping from time to time, particularly during the rainy season. Even with proper runoff protection, natural conditions such as snow and rain can have a major impact on your landscape over a long period of time.

If one of the methods above doesn’t work out quite as well as you’d hoped, implement one of the others. The point is that there are so many different methods that can be used to keep runoff from building up and collecting in your yard. It is up to you to decide how much time and money go into keeping that runoff water from collecting in your yard.

Author

I have a bachelor's degree in construction engineering. When I’m not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies...I’m at home with my wife, two daughters and a dog. Outside of family, I love grilling and barbequing on my Big Green Egg and working on projects around the house.

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