Armchair Builder

Swale: What is it and How to Prevent Flooding in Your Yard.

What is a Swale?

Swale: What is it and why is it important to your property?

Spring is here which means the forecast calls for rain.  If you maintain your the swale and other drainage vehicles on your property you can prevent flooding and the possible damage it can bring.  Let’s discuss what a swale is and why it is so important to keeping your property dry.  Be sure to check out our latest video at our main site on swales as well.

Swale Definition

A swale is a depression created in the ground that carries rainwater by gravity away from your home and property.  How does the water get into the swale?  A swale is designed to collect rainwater on your property and the only way to do this without a pump is by gravity flow.  Therefore, a swale collects the water by being the lowest point in a given area and then is pitched to wherever you want the water to go.  When we say pitched, we mean the ground is sloped to allow the water to roll downhill within the swale.

Swale Design

So how do we know where the swale should go and how wide it is?  A civil engineer typically designs the overall drainage of each lot in a modern subdivision.  The engineer places the lot elevations and drainage onto a plot plan.  This plot plan shows swales, yard drains, key elevations, and the house location and elevation (among other things).  This plot plan design will incorporate the overall design of the community into each lot.  So, each lot will work together to drain the entire site by tying the swales together.  Where do swales terminate?  Typically they are designed and installed to deliver surface ground water to a tributary, catch basin, street or storm drain.

Swale Install and Maintenance

As a homeowner, how do you make certain the swale works properly?  If you are building a new home, the grading contractor will install the swales per the plot plan.  This is typically achieved with a bull dozer and a laser level to ensure proper pitch is obtained.  Be sure to give a copy of the plot plan to the landscaper as well.  This company will need to clean up the swales that may have washed in during rains since the final grading was done.  Also make sure you do not place any obstruction in the swales that could impede the flow.  This would include landscape beds, fences, and patios.  If you must put something in the swale, you will need to make other arrangements to carry the water around the obstruction. (i.e. regrading or install a french drain).  I have seen swales clog up in early spring before the snow has been able to thaw.  Be sure to clear out snow dams from swales on your property before heavy rains to prevent possible flooding.

Well that’s just swale!  Sorry, had to say it.  Stay tuned for our upcoming posts on how to fix a yard that is  holding water.  Be sure to check out our new video titled Swale: What is it and How Does a Homeowner Keep it Functioning Properly in Their Yard?

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2 Comments for Swale: What is it and How to Prevent Flooding in Your Yard.

Water Drainage and Your Home...How to Fix Standing Water Problems- Armchair Builder :: Blog :: Build, renovate, & repair your own home. Save money as an owner-builder. | April 9, 2012 at 7:13 am

[…] you added landscaping or other structures, make sure these don’t block the path of rainwater.  Swales are depressions that are created in your yard that are pitched to remove excess water off the […]

Robert Ayscue | April 15, 2012 at 5:10 am

These type of problems are easily fixed if you have do it yourself mentality. Place a yard drain at the bottom of the swale and connect it to a french drain pipe running away from the low area. Dig a trench and make sure your french drain pipe is sloping at least 2 inches per foot. A few dollars at the local hardware store and a little sweat equity you can accomplish your goal in a few hours.