Water damage can happen from a variety of sources, including pooling rainwater. Depending on the grade surrounding your foundation, your home may be susceptible to damage from these occasional ponds. Rain gardens are an attractive and environmentally friendly way to help prevent water from causing damage to your home.
What are Rain Gardens?
You might be wondering what rain gardens are in the first place. A rain garden is a strategically placed depression that is filled with plants and grasses that have deep-reaching roots, and its main purpose is to catch and absorb water runoff. Rain gardens are usually placed in areas where water easily pools such as at the bottom of downspouts, near driveways, or beneath rain chains.
Rain gardens help prevent rainwater from flooding your yard or running directly into the sewer system which can cause flooding, water pollution, or reduce the groundwater level. Maintaining the groundwater level helps keep a supply available for local plants.
In addition to helping control runoff, rain gardens can provide a natural habitat for many species of birds, bees, and butterflies. On top of that, rain gardens naturally absorb pools of water that might otherwise be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Rain gardens can be constructed on residential properties in order to keep water from causing damage to foundations and seeping into basements. They are generally planted with a combination of grasses, shrubs, and flowering plants, which makes them both a useful and attractive feature in any yard.
Drainage in Yards
Proper yard drainage is essential to preventing water damage to house foundations and basements. House foundations are designed to direct water away from the home, but erosion, settling, and weather can all shift the original grade.
Regrading around foundations can help direct water away from the home. Some homes, however, may have problems with yard drainage that cannot be solved with regrading alone.
Some homeowners opt for natural, stone-lined, or concrete drainage ditches that drain water to the street and sewer. For other homeowners, a rain garden may be a useful addition to their yard.
How to Build a Rain Garden
Before you start digging, it’s important to note that building a rain garden takes research and planning. A rain garden that is effective in one region may not work in another reason. This is because the plants used in a rain garden vary depending what is native to the growing region.
First, research what rain garden plants are native to your area. The EPA offers this plant finding tool to help you narrow down your options. In addition, the EPA website features plenty of other resources to help you design your perfect rain garden.
When it comes to rain garden ideas, you’ll want to choose plants that you actually like! They’ll be living with you for a while. Many plants provide habitats for butterflies and bees, so if you’re a fan of wildlife in your yard, make these plants a priority.
Next is the placement of your rain garden. The goal of a rain garden is to capture rain runoff from your home, so be sure to study where water pools and where it runs when it rains. You’ll generally have two options when it comes to choosing a site for your rain garden:
- You can place the rain garden near the side of your home and situate it directly below a downspout or water chain. If you have a basement, your rain garden will need to be at least 10 feet away from the side of the home.
You can create an artificial streambed by using the natural slope of your yard and stones and direct it to your rain garden in another area of your yard.
- Most rain gardens are about 6 inches below the level of the rest of the yard, so take into consideration what parts of the yard you use most when deciding on a site. Everyone’s ideal rain garden placement will vary depending on the unique setup of their home.
You’ll want to carefully consider the design of your rain garden. Take these tips into consideration while you are planning a design:
- Some rain gardens are fringed with decorative stone or other border material, but this feature is not necessary and depends entirely on your preference.
- Your rain garden does not have an infinite capacity, so be sure to plan for an overflow path during heavy storms.
- Do not install a rain garden over a septic system or a drinking water well.
- Do not install a rain garden in an area of the yard that is always wet, as this can lead to unwanted ponding.
- Choose an area of the yard that has low or moderate slope, as steep slopes can affect the efficiency of a rain garden.
Planning and building a rain garden will take some research and plenty of thought, but the long-term benefits to the environment as well as preventing water damage to your home are well worth the effort.