How to Maintain a Yard Drain

Drain cover
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Yard drains, also called area drains or landscape drains, are increasingly popular in yards with expensive landscaping or swimming pools. They work much the same way as a floor drain in a garage or basement floor, collecting standing water and channeling it to the street or storm drain. And like any home drain, a yard drain can back up and cause flooding. You can identify the yard drain by the telltale grate installed at ground level, usually in a low-lying area of the yard.

The structure of a yard drain is very simple: an underground catch basin covered by a metal or plastic grate catches run-off water, and one or more branch drain pipes carry this collected water to some termination point--often near a street or into a storm drain.

Fall is the key time for servicing a yard drain, as this is when falling leaves are most likely to clog the pipes. And because roof gutters often drain into yard drains, cleaning out gutters is also an important step to keeping water flowing to the right places.

Easy Yard Drain Maintenance

  1. Remove the cover grate of each yard drain and clean out any debris you can reach. A shop vacuum can help, because it can reach further to remove more debris. Sometimes the area drains are multi-directional, so make sure to clean each branch pipe, as well as the catch basin. Clean out anything that does not belong including rock, dirt, leaves, and trash. Any foreign material can collect inside the pipes and cause water to back up just when you most need the drain to be operating properly. 
  1. Check the termination area. This can be in the street, emerging at the curb, or somewhere else in your yard where a slope can safely channel water away. Find this termination point and clean it out.
  2. Flush the lines with water after cleaning. Run water down each yard drain to make sure it is working properly. If necessary, you may be able to insert a garden hose into the pipes to help push out any remaining debris. Even better is using multiple hoses to force even more water through the drain. 

    Dealing with Yard Drain Clogs

    • A​ rubber drain bladder is a rubber bag that attaches to a garden hose and fits tightly into the drain. When the water is turned on, the bag becomes pressurized to seal the pipe, then shoots water out at pressure to dislodge clogs. This is a helpful technique if the water is stopped up or moving very slowly in the area drain.
    • A motorized drain auger can work well if you have a tough blockage in the yard drain. Often it is not just debris causing the stoppage, but roots that have grown into the drain. Drain augers with the right cutters can cut the roots from the inside of the pipe and get everything running freely again. Most area drains are 3" or larger, so make sure to rent a machine suitable for that pipe size. Running the auger from multiple directions, including the termination point, is a good idea.Another option is to call a local plumber and have them snake out the area drain.
    • Jetting: Hydro, or water-jetting, is the use of high-pressure water to clean out a drain line. This works well when there is a large build-up of dirt, grease or sludge. While a drain snake will bore right through the stoppage, the jetter actually disperses and cleans out the area with the high-pressure water. To have your line jetted, you will have to call a local plumber.