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  • Property-a-holics

    Advice requested - ground water drainage

    Hi members,
    I am seeking advice about ground water drainage and where to start. My father (an ex-clerk of works for MCC) suggested calling the council drainage department, and I shall do that.
    We own two adjoined 3 storey terraced houses built in 2006. The lawns are saturated with ground water. Yesterday on a visit (could not have picked a worse day with the winds), we drove a hollow rod into the ground in several places in the lawn. We were able to push the rod about 50cm by hand and a further 25 cm by hammering it. I examined the soil from the end of the rod (say 70cm below surface) and it appeared to be heavy clay all the way down. I had been hoping that just creating a few holes in the lawn would have assisted with drainage, but it appears the clay is pretty deep.

    Any suggestions as to how we may mitigate this situation? The lawn area is a real asset to these properties, but it's like walking in a marsh right now. In the summer, the lawn is acceptable, but it is still wet under foot.
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    Hi Gerry,

    Unusual situation!

    Our house, where we live, is in a new build development of town houses.

    They were built on "marshy" ground and there was a pond near by.

    Our development has a pump that apparently drains the land.

    You may need to call out a ground expert to advise on this.

    Hopefully other PT members can be more helpful but it seems that you do need to do something.
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    Hi Gerry,

    We had to deal with this situation several years ago but it was a country property. We got in a local agricultural contractor to dig channels, lay drainage and pipework and chanel the excess off into a stream on the boundary.

    I have no experience of this in more densely populated areas, but for city/town property, you might be able to get a suitable small drainage contractor or builder to do the work - the latter would need to have some experience of draining land though. Talk to the contractor/specialist first, then try contacting both council and local water board if you might have to tap into storm drains or the waste water drainage. It might be possible to drain into the houses' own waste water system, but I'm not 100% sure on this.
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    Jayne Owen @jayneowen

    Editor and Writer: Your Property Network magazine

    Investor: Mozaique Property, South & West Wales and South West England

    Occasional reviewer at The Property Bookshop (@Property_Books)

    Get a contractor to dig channels, lay land drainage and pipework and chanel the excess into a drain pit which is a one metre cube soak away hole filled with small stone that allows the water to drain away naturally. I have actually done this at my own home. Like this https://www.diydoctor.org.uk/projects/landdrain.htm
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    [Image: New-logo2.png] Manchester based investor. I buy, sell, renovate and rent investment property in East/North Manchester Wink email: mike@brentwoodinvestments.co.uk Call: 0161 681 3724

    I was asked to deal with a problem like this during the extensive national flooding time a year or two ago. There was saturation and ponding in the back garden of a 'Millionnaire's Row' (Bishops Avenue) house in North London. In this particular case detailed investigation showed that it was clay particles within the turf itself that were the main problem. The imported turf had come from a clay area. Saturation caused the very fine clay particles to ooze up to the surface, and there cause a waterproof surface skin.

    Clearly you have found a deeper underlying cause than that in your case, Gerry. Just by way of a long-shot: I wonder whether the current NHBC certificate (which is probably still valid) would be of any use (though that is unlikely):

    https://www.nhbc.co.uk/Portal

    Failing that - the surplus water has to discharge to somewhere lower than where it is now. Obvious, I know - but it is worth investigating where all those 'lower points' are located (and then work out how to access them). Old maps can help - on a large scale, they show contours in the locality. In the case I mentioned, two (out of three) neighbouring gardens were lower than this one. Therefore, I proposed contacting each neighbour and offering them a purpose-made pond or attractive planted bog-garden, to be fed by a buried overlow pipe from a specially made sump carefully excavated in the lowest corner of the flooding lawn, and covered over with removable paving stones (as part of the lawn's perimeter path). In the end, however, a contractor was brought in to perforate the clay turf skin and fill the perforations with carbonised plant stem material (i.e. soil conditioner).

    The conventional fix for draining in clay soil is to construct a 'herring-bone' underground trench system (often then filled with course sand or gravel - or even perforated pipe). The backbone of the herring bone is a wide trench (maybe 4") from highest point to lowest. The feeder arms (all sloping downhill) connect to that at 45 degrees. This can all end in a sump or pond of some sort - or even automatically water a special planting bed, by way of a soakaway

    I am a qualifed gardener, garden designer, and landscape designer, by the way - so have dealt with this kind of problem in the past in numerous situations, large and small. I hope that there are some tips here that you can apply to your particular situation. My first thought would always be to make positive use of the surplus water if at all possible.

    You could also, in theory, approach this by way of raising the lawn. The simplest way to do so is to literally lay a fresh turf layer on top of the existing. The existing will die, of course - but nevertheless decay as nutrient material for the new lawns' roots. If you cover the old lawn with a layer of soil conditioner an inch or two thick first, that would pay dividends.

    That course material of the soil conditioner provides surface drainage anyway, and keeps the decaying lawn material 'sweet' (the carbon absorbs decomposition gases and neutralises bacterial and fungal growth). It also provides a layer that is easy and quick to rake level, and is easy to walk on (and put walk-boards down on) for laying the new turf. It then (being carbonised organic material) provides nutrients from itself.

    Best of luck.
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    07 42 777 88 79  Property researcher & collaborative sourcing assistant - consultancy & mentorship at times, by request First Finders (residential & commercial land & property: UK, & abroad) Wessex Property Management Services (facilitation & advisory service for property owners) Golden Gate Gardens (specialist garden and landscape design service)

    Big a hole as deep as you can and fill it with 30cm of water, see if the water soaks into the subsoil over a few days. If it does then a soak away may work.

    If it is clay going down a long way there may be nothing you can do until you can find somewhere to drain the water to.

    Also check that all your drains are working, it it may be rain water from the roof leaking from a blocked drain.

    If it is an issue when there has not been much rain, it could be a problem with the mains water pipe.
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    Thanks for all the suggestions. I will try each in logical sequence. Much appreciated.
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