Exploring drainage systems

Since early 2007, the climate has made a 180 degree change in the nation’s heartland.  Instead of harsh summers producing droughts due to lack of precipitation, now it rains several times a week.  Not only is raining more often, but the atmosphere is dropping larger volumes of rainfall.  For the last two years it has been common place for it to rain up to 4 inches or more in a twenty four hour period. The St. Louis area had an all time record amount of rain in 2008 and is on a fast track to meet or beat that record for 2009. 

What does this mean for the people that reside in these areas?  Simply put, there’s a lot of water to deal with.  Lots of water means lots of problems.  People all over the region are experiencing flooding, leaking basements, erosion, sinkholes, drain backups, undermining, and a host of other drainage related problems.  The level of grief can range from having landscaping washed out all the way to having an entire building get ruined from flash flooding.  University City, a suburb of St. Louis has residents that have been impacted more than once already in the last month by flash floods.

Many residents have been frantically trying to stop water from penetrating their homes or other vital property.  There are many different ways one can go about combating issues caused by extreme rainfall.  The best place to start is with your current drainage systems.  Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clean and free of debris.  Install gutter guards if you have trees that shed lots of organic material.  Move on to any drain pipes that your gutter may connect to.  Drainage pipes should also be clean and free of debris.  To ensure this, you can rent what is called a pipe snake, or have a professional plumber use a pipe snake to clear blockages and debris from drain pipes.  Your yard plays an important role in protecting your home against moisture.  Once the soil is subjected to an abundance of precipitation it becomes saturated; unable to absorb any additional water.  This is where the degree of slope plays an important role.  In heavy rain storms or when the soil is saturated, a yard needs to be graded or sloped away from structures.  The grade should steer or guide water to an area that will remove the water, such as storm sewers, french drains, creeks, streets, swales, or hillsides.  If your yard is not graded properly you will have standing water or drainage that flows towards your home.  This will likely lead to settling, leaky basement or home flooding.  The next item that you may have in your home is a sump pump.  Be sure it is connected to an electrical circuit that doesn’t get shared by items that draw much amperage.  You want to be confident that its operation is uninterupted.  If it is an older unit, you may want to replace it with a newer model.  Having a reliable sump pump is less costly than having to renovate a flooded basement.  You can also install a battery backup or alarms on your pump for added security.

If you need other solutions to your outdoor drainage problems you can install a french drain.  French drains are simply a pipe burried beneath the ground to relieve saturated soils of moisture.  These are typically placed around a structure such as a basement.  The pipe is fitted with holes and a filter fabric.  This will attract moisture and block debris.  Once collected, the water is routed to a nearby storm sewer or area lower than the structure where it can be drained away.  French drains can also be used in asphalt or concrete parking lots where water percolates through the pavement.  The french drain will keep the water below the pavement by collecting and routing the water away before it can reach the surface.

You can also install a catch basin, trough, or grate to collect surface water.  This is basically a basket made of plastic or cast iron.  It’s designed to collect a certain amount of water dependant on volume and flow.  Then the collected water will be routed to drainage lines to rid the water of the area.  Drainage basins are typically arranged in two areas:  The first would be a low area where the majority of the water is to flow to.  The other arrangement would be to place to basin at a high point where water wants to run.  This will prevent the water from rushing.  An example would be on a steep hill or at the approach of a driveway.

If you are faced with replacing or installing a drainage system, you should always do so with smooth PVC pipe.  PVC pipe has a high crush resistance, can be cleaned out with a pipe snake, and has little resistance to water flow; therefore it doesn’t get clogged with debris nearly as easily as other pipe designs.   The lesser alternative is corrogated pipe.  PVC pipe is easy to work with.  It comes in “sticks” usally 10’ in length.  There are different shaped pieces to help design any path you want to make.  They just glue together.  Corrogated pipe is a thin black pipe that is ribbed both internally and externally.  The ribs help keep the pipe from collapsing.  Corrogated pipe does not allow water to flow freely and the ribs actually contribute to the pipes clogging because they trap debris and organic material.  Corrogated pipe can be crushed just by stepping on it.  You want to consider the type of pipe you’ll be using because you probably only want to do this project once.  Many contractors will use corrogated pipe because it is the least expensive of any pipe.

There are many other measures you can take to help alter or eliminate drain problems.  Retaining walls can be erected.  Asphalt curbs or bumps can be installed along side an edge of a driveway or parking lot.  They can also be installed at approaches to divert water.  Bricks or pavers can be used along the edge of concrete driveways to stop unwanted water flow.  These types of diversions also keep debris carried by erosion off your property.  Silt is a mess to try and clean from landscape beds, yards, and driveways.  The above methods should be used to stop erosion from making a mess of your yard.

It’s tough to predict how long this weather pattern will unleash heavy amounts of rain on our region.  So if you are installing some type of drainage system at your home or business.  Be sure not to let cost be the only factor in making your decision.  You should be realistic and design your drainage system to handle large amounts of water.  Too large of an arrangement will not cause you any harm.  Choose a highly competent contractor that has recommendations and references. 

Creve Coeur Paving:
A St. Louis based; family owned paving company focused on delivering the best possible solutions for its clients. Motivated by the company's highly regarded work ethic, it's owners and employees have been striving for perfection in paving for over thirty years. "Our Reputation Rides On Our Service."

Richard Dinkela II, Operations
Creve Coeur Paving


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St. Peters MO 63376
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