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How to Install a Simple Driveway Trench Drain

You know what comes with spring, right? Snow melt and frequently heavy rain. Do you want to finally solve that drainage problem next to your driveway? A trench drain may be just the thing you need.

Trench drains are similar to gutters on a roof. A trench drain is usually found at the edge of a driveway, patio or sidewalk and collects water flowing over that surface. It then redirects the water, much like a roof gutter downspout, to another location.

You can access a handy quick start guide for concrete footers with more tips and a full tool list here: Install a Trench Drain Quick Start Guide

Degree of Difficulty: hammer-4-5

Step One: Determine the correct trench drain to purchase. If cars or trucks might drive onto the drain, you need one strong enough to support the weight of the vehicle. Trench drain manufacturers will tell you if a drain is rated for light vehicle traffic.

Step Two: If lots of water will be concentrated in your trench drain, be sure you have a 4-inch drain pipe exiting the trench drain. Smaller outlets can restrict the flow of water.

Step Three: The trench drain needs to be located so when the water leaves the pavement, it enters the drain. This often means the top of the drain needs to be slightly lower than the surface of the pavement so gravity helps put the water in the drain.

Step Four: Some trench drains can be place on compacted gravel. Those drains that receive vehicle traffic often need poured concrete under the drain to support the weight and prevent the drain from cracking.

Step Five: Digging the hole for the trench drain can be done with a round-point shovel, a duckbill shovel and or a long-handled cultivator tool to help loosen the soil.

Step Six: You may have to install separate trench drains to handle lots of water flow. The outlet pipes may lead to the same location, but each pipe needs to handle the flow of just one trench drain.

Step Seven: Some cities or towns may want you to connect this storm water to a municipal storm water system. Check your local regulations. If possible, try to have this water stay on your property as long as possible. Consider designing some way to harvest this water for watering purposes or creating a leach field so the water soaks into the soil.

Step Eight: Water exiting the outlet pipes can cause erosion. You may need to place larger rocks to absorb the energy of the flowing water. Do not dump this water in a location it would not normally drain.

Summary: Trench drains are not new. They’ve been used for thousands of years to control overland water flow. The most basic trench drain is just a low trench lined with rock to minimize erosion. This low-profile landscape feature may be all you need.

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