how to install a land drain

How To Install A Land Drain

If you own a property, you probably have one or more areas that seem to stay soggy or damp. While this may seem like nothing more than an annoyance, it can quickly become a serious problem. Overly saturated soil could spell disaster for your home’s foundation, basement, and garden. The good news is, however, that you can take control of the problem by learning how to install a land drain. 

What is a land drain?

As the name suggests, a land drain is essentially a drain installed in the ground. Its purpose is to rapidly drain water from overly damp or swampy areas. When installed in waterlogged areas, the land drain allows water to quickly flow into the drain pipe. That pipe then carries the excess water away from the soggy area. 

Land drains are perforated plastic pipes laid in trenches. Small stones cover the drainpipe, filling the trench. Instead of the water soaking the ground, it drains into the pipe, which then carries it away to another location. Land drains are used on commercial, residential, and agricultural properties to help direct groundwater to appropriate areas. 

Why would I need a land drain?

Areas without adequate drainage quickly become waterlogged, which results in a whole world of issues. Soggy soil inhibits the growth of most plants and isn’t the ideal growing medium for gardens. In fact, soil that doesn’t drain properly has fewer nutrients than healthy, well-drained soil. Without those much-needed nutrients, plants experience stunted growth and pest problems. Furthermore, overly saturated soil will begin to erode the land, damage foundations, or seep into your basement.

Materials needed to install a land drain

The materials required for land drain installations can vary, but the most common ones you need include:

  • Shovel / mini digger (dependent on how long the land drain is)
  • Weed barrier or landscape fabric (optional – depending on how much of a problem roots are)
  • Small stones (drainage stones – should be washed stone to aid drainage)
  • Perforated drainage pipe

Keep in mind, however, that you may want other tools to help in the installation process. A wheelbarrow, for example, could help you move the soil you dig up from the trench to another location – or to carry stones to the drain.

How to install a land drain

  • Step 1: Dig the trench for the drain pipe. Select a location that has a natural slope, or create your own slope with a 1% grade. Make sure the width of the trench is a little wider than that of the pipe. Dig the trench at least 2 feet (600mm) deep.
  • Step 2: Cover the bottom of the trench with a weed barrier or landscape fabric. The barrier or fabric should run the entire length of the trench’s bottom. Leave enough fabric so that it comes up on both sides of the trench an inch or two (50mm).
  • Step 3: Fill 2″ (50mm) of the trench’s bottom with small stones. These stones are bedding gravel and will help to smoothen the base for the pipe ensuring the water will flow freely and quickly.
  • Step 4: Place the perforated drain pipe in the trench on top of the bedding gravel. When you lay the drain pipe in the trench, make sure the holes in the pipe are facing upwards. This lets the water run into the pipe as it filters down through the soil and stones. Ensure your drainage pipe is at least 4″ (100mm) in diameter – fitting smaller diameter pipes are prone to blocking.
  • Step 5: Add more gravel or small stones on top of the drain pipe. Continue adding more gravel until it is about 5-inches from the top of the trench or until there is at least 1 foot (300mm) of stones covering the pipe.
  • Step 6: Fill in the trench. Use the remainder of the soil you dug out to fill in the rest of the trench. Fill in an extra 2 inches above current ground level as the soil and stones will settle over time. This avoids a dip forming where you dug the drain.
diagram showing how to install a land drain

Tips for installing a land drain

When digging the trench, try to make it as straight as possible, but don’t worry too much if it isn’t perfect. However, try to make the bottom of the trench flat and even. The bedding material does go a long way to hiding minor ups and downs avoiding creating low or high spots. Both of which cause various issues. Low spots, for example, hold water, while high spots may compromise the drainage.

Benefits of a working land drain

A working land drain will convert your soggy yard into a well-drained and healthy landscape. When the drain is working properly, it prevents water from overly saturating the ground. This in itself is a major benefit of land drains, since water-logged soils can damage the foundation of your home. A land drain will also help ensure the soil has the right amount of aeration, which is vital for the health and wellness of plant roots. This is extremely important if you plan to have a garden.

Another benefit of a working land drain is that it increases your property’s value. A property with water-logged soil is not attractive to buyers. While this may not seem like such a big deal at the moment, it will come into play if you ever decide to sell your home. The simple fact is that land with well-drained soil is much more desirable than land with poor drainage. 


Land drains are useful tools that help protect your property, garden, farm, and home from excessive water. A properly installed land drain will last years. While the land drain installation process isn’t difficult, it does require an abundance of manual labor. This leaves you with two options: install it yourself or hire someone to install it for you. Both of these options have their own positive and negative aspects to consider. 

Installing the land drain yourself is typically cheaper but does require you to do all the work. Hiring a professional takes the back-breaking work off your shoulders, but does come with a higher price tag. There is nothing wrong with either of the two options, and it purely comes down to your physical ability and budget.

No matter what installation option you choose, the benefits of installing a land drain far surpass any negative aspects that you may run into. 

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