Is a Dry Well the Answer to Your Flooding Problems?

by Jane VanOsdol on September 29, 2011

Water pooling constantly over your front walkway due to an improperly placed downspout is more than just a nuisance; it contributes to frost heaves that can break apart pavement. Also, if the water runs back to your foundation, this can cause your home to flood. In the winter, this problem becomes more dangerous due to the formation of ice.

It would seem that fixing the problem would be as simple as relocating the downspout. Sometimes that’s possible, but at other times it is not. In that case, you may want to have a plumber install a dry well in your yard. The first thing to check when considering installing a dry well is your water table. If your area has a high water table, then a dry well may not solve the problem for you because the water table will be too high for the dry well to drain properly. If your water table is not high, then installing a dry well may help solve your flooding problem.

What Is a Dry Well?

Basically, a dry well is installed by digging a hole in the ground into which is inserted a well that your plumber can build using PVC pipe, rounded stones, landscaping fabric, an overflow emitter and other materials (see This Old House June 2011). Or you can also purchase a pre-cast concrete well to bury in the pit, surrounding it with gravel. The dry well can then receive gray water from sources such as sinks, showers, or as in this case, runoff from the roof.

Dry wells are also used to help relieve the liquid load on a septic system leach field that may be nearing the end of its life. In addition, they are often used to receive gray water from a laundry room or sink inside a home that is located too far away from the main house drain that feeds into the septic system. It’s simply easier to construct a separate outside dry well to receive this gray water, rather than construct the plumbing necessary to route the water to the septic system.

Have your plumber figure out how many dry wells you need to handle your flooding problem. Once you have figured out what is needed for your property, your plumbing contractor is ready to begin installation.

If water from the laundry will be routed to the dry well, be sure to ask your plumbing professional if you should install a lint filter between the washer and the dry well to catch any lint before it enters the system. It will help reduce any clogging problems and extend the life of the dry well.

Either way, be sure you choose a professional plumbing contractor who will properly slope the trench, use the correct amount of gravel, and generally do a top-notch construction of the dry well so that it functions as intended.

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