Building a Drainage Ditch

Building a Drainage Ditch


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What you’ll need:

  • Shovel or trench digging machine (the larger the better)


Build your own drainage ditch as a quick economic solution to combat water build-up on your property. While a ditch won’t stop the water from attempting to collect, it will allow it to quickly drain away, flowing downhill to a stream, street drain, storm sewer or pond. You can plant flowers or other vegetation along the edges of your ditch to conceal it and make it more appealing.


Before You Dig a Ditch


  • Before investing the time and effort in digging your ditch, ask yourself these questions. You may save some time, effort and money.


  • Where is the water on your property coming from? Is it standing rain water? Is the water flowing onto the property from a stream or uphill construction or a neighbour’s property? Is there an underground stream or new road or building that has changed the configuration of the land above your property? If so, the owner of that property is responsible for correcting the flooding.


  • Since water flows downhill, if the flooding is a recent event check to see if something is preventing the water from draining. Are existing drains clogged or backed up with debris?


  • If existing drainage isn’t a problem and a ditch is necessary, determine how much water must be controlled and how wide a ditch you’ll need to dig. Look at the slope and see what kind of ditch you’ll need. A steep slope will need to have small breaks or diversions to slow down the rush of water and prevent erosion of the ditch. A gentler slope won’t need the breaks, but may need to have a deeper drop along the slope to ensure the water does drain.


Step 1:

Determine where the downhill edge of your water problem is. Determine the lay of your land and where to put your drainage ditch so the water flows downhill. Try to plot a ditch that follows the natural downhill flow of water.


Step 2:

Clear away the rocks, stumps, and vegetation in the path of the ditch. If you’re removing topsoil, save it for plants you may plant along the ditch afterward, or put it in your garden.


Step 3:

Dig your ditch. The depth depends on how much water you need to funnel away. However deep you dig, remember the width of the trench should be greater than the depth. You want a gentle slope from the edges of the trench to the center. You don’t want a deep, steep ditch, but a shallow, sloping one.


Step 4:

Fill the bottom of the trench with large crushed rock, setting field stones or larger flat stones into the side of the ditch to help shape it.

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