Toolbox Essentials: Q1 2022 Catalog
Dry Wells: What You Need to Know

Dry Wells: What You Need to Know

Heavy rains can cause issues for homeowners that range from minor yard flooding to more severe flooding, soil erosion, and a generally ruined-looking yard. To help fix this issue, you can invest in a dry well to collect and add control to your yard’s stormwater runoff situation. However, dry wells may not be the best option for every household, which is why we’ve compiled this article to give you the most information.

Below, we discuss how exactly a dry well works and how it can improve your yard’s water runoff situation. We’ll also be giving you tips on choosing the best dry well for your property and installing a dry well, so you’ll be completely informed about this drainage solution.

What Is a Dry Well and How Does It Help?

When it rains, the water falls onto your roof, drains into the gutters, and pours out of the downspouts into your yard. As it falls into your yard, it should drain into the soil. However, if the rain is too heavy or has too much force when it leaves the downspouts, it is prone to pooling up and not being absorbed into the soil properly. This, in turn, creates issues with flooding and erosion as the water constantly runs over the soil and washes it away.

To fix this problem, you can invest in a dry well. All you need to do is bury the well into the ground at the lowest point of your yard and gravity will work to pull the water runoff into the well. There, it can collect and gradually be absorbed by the soil instead of pooling up in random areas around your yard and eroding the soil through constant water movement through your yard.

Most individuals use dry wells to collect rain runoff from roof gutters, but you may also use your dry well to relocate grey water, used by sinks, baths, washing machines, and dishwashers. More information about this can be found here.

Who Can Install a Dry Well?

Depending on where you live, you may be required to install a dry well into your yard. If you are not required to install a dry well, you may be able to use soil testing and advice from the building authority where you live to determine whether a dry well is viable in your property.

One of the major factors that determines if you can install a dry well is your soil’s infiltration rate (this is how quickly water can be absorbed into the soil of your yard). To determine this rate, you need to conduct a percolation test. This test involves digging several holes in your yard, filling them with water, and then measuring the rate that soil is absorbed into the ground. You can find more information and instructions on conducting your own percolation test here.

In general, you need to select a spot in your yard where water drains quickly to install your dry well. The faster the soil absorbs water from your yard and the dry well, the fewer problems you are likely to have with runoff. It must be noted, however, that individuals with clay soil in their yards may experience slower drainage and difficulty installing a dry well onto the property.

Installing Your Own Dry Well

If you have decided that a dry well is the best drainage solution for your yard, you can install one onto your property by yourself. It is not too hard to install, but there are several things you will need to consider before, during, and after the installation process.

Choosing a Dry Well

Occasionally, local guidance from your area’s building authority will regulate the number and size of dry wells that you are allowed to have on your property. If this is not the case, general practice involves installing one for each downspout of your gutters. In the event that you have a landscape aspect creating further drainage problems, like a driveway or large patio that causes water to pool up, you may need to install extra dry wells.

Any dry well you choose should be large enough to collect water runoff from your yard without overflowing in an average rainstorm. Use your knowledge of average rain amounts in your area and choose a dry well of an appropriate size – you can select one that is as small as a couple of feet in depth or one that is fairly large in both depth and diameter.

Dry wells also have different interiors. Less expensive ones may feature a permeable fabric lining and rocks, but higher-end dry wells can feature perforated concrete. You may also choose to cover your dry well with turf in order to hide it in your yard, or you may install an open grate so that monitoring and performing maintenance on your dry well is easy.

Installation Tips

As we mentioned above, your soil will first need to pass a percolation test before dry well installation. The dry well should be positioned on the water runoff’s natural drainage path through your yard, but you should not be placing it within 12 feet of your home’s foundation.

Also, during your dry well’s installation, you may want to install extra provisions for removing the excess water in the case of extreme water runoff that fills the well. This could be an overflow pipe that leads to a nearby storm sewer.

Installation Steps

Below, we list the basic installation steps involved in DIYing a dry well for your yard. Check with your local authority before digging in your yard and test your soil before installation to ensure there are no future issues. If you have concerns at any point during the installation process, don’t hesitate to contact a professional for advice or help in completing the project.

You should also keep in mind that these installation steps are for an inexpensive basic dry well. Other brands and models of dry wells may have different installation instructions or requirements. Be sure to check the information of anything you purchase before starting dry well installation.

  1. Select a spot near the end of one of your gutter’s downspouts and ensure it is at least 12 feet from your home’s foundation. Dig a hole here that is deep and wide enough to fit your dry well. On average, this will be about 4 feet deep and wide. You will also need to dig a trench that is approximately 1 foot deep and 6 inches wide that slopes toward the hole from the downspout. Make sure to save the soil dug for later.
  2. Use permeable landscape fabric to line the hole. You should leave additional fabric outside the hole to help you cover part of the dry well once installed.
  3. Use PVC that is 4 inches in diameter to reach from the end of the downspout into a point that falls 14 to 16 inches into the hole. Fit one end to an elbow and a downspout adaptor, then glue the pieces together with PVC cement.
  4. Install your dry well into the dug hole. Make sure the PVC pipe filters into the dry well and then place a 6-inch deep layer of rocks into the dry well and then fill around the outside to the top with stones.
  5. Add any overflow provisions you may have to the top of your dry well and then cover the dug areas up with the saved soil or more stones. You can then camouflage the dry well with turf or something similar.

This video can help you better understand the dry well installation process, while this video can help you learn how to build a simple dry well in your yard.

Dry Well Maintenance

It is important that you keep up with regular maintenance of your dry well. While most dry wells function without issues for a long time, occasionally sediment and debris will clog the dry well as it gets washed into it along with water runoff. To fix this problem, you will need to dig up the dry well, clean it out, and then bury it again.

It may be helpful to keep your gutters and downspouts clean to eliminate this problem before it begins. You can also install a filter onto your drain line to remove any other type of lint or small debris that might clog the dry well.

Keeping Your Yard in Top Shape

Water runoff from storms can cause a major issue in some yards and may even result in severe flooding or soil erosion in your yard. To prevent these issues, you can install a dry well to collect water runoff and better control areas of pooling or flooding. Just make sure before installing a dry well that you check with local ordinances and test your soil to ensure that a dry well is the best drainage solution to keep your yard in top shape.