9 Ways to Stop Water Runoff from Neighbor’s Yard

When it comes to water, there are several elements that might cause damage to your property, yard, or both. As a result, ensuring that your property is secured from any possible water damage is critical. If water floods your yard or the foundation of your home, it can greatly jeopardize everything you hold near and dear.

When you live near the bottom of a hill, one of these issues often arises, especially if you have close neighbors. When water runoff from a neighbor’s yard is a frequent occurrence, it may harm any garden or flower beds, as well as the driveway if the runoff is severe enough.

Even in the tiniest of instances, runoff could be inconvenient for homeowners. It’s never a good time.  It creates a mess in the shape of wood chips, mud, dirt, and trash, which are strewn over the yard and make an awful mess, clean-up project, and often stench.

Worse, it has the potential to poison certain public waterways, rendering them dangerous to consume.

But what are you supposed to do when water is running off into your yard from your neighbor’s? Do you pick a fight and sue? Do you build a wall? Do you rely on them to fix the issue? What is the best course of action to save your home?

What Damages Can Water Runoff Cause to Your Property?

Water is necessary in our lives, but too much of it may be harmful to property owners. It might begin as a little annoyance or a significant financial loss.

There are various implications of runoff water that you should be aware of and sift through before they become a major issue.

Basement Flooding

The number one enemy of any basement is water.

If any standing water around your home’s foundation is not redirected, it will find a way to drain on its own, and if you have a basement, it will drain there. It often enters via wall gaps, motor couplings, staircase walls, or even window wells.

Water in the basement encourages mold and mildew growth, which could cause an allergic reaction in your family. It might also harm the contents kept there, as well as the value of your home if the foundation is harmed.

In addition to regular gutter cleaning, always try to have a slope surrounding your property to redirect such floods.


Stagnant water may easily become a breeding habitat for mosquitoes and other pests. Mosquitoes, for example, are known to transmit diseases and, in general, are a major nuisance.

Furthermore, the stagnant water may provide as a source of water for rats, who may then invent your house.

Damage to the Foundation

The foundation of your home is one of the most important sections, and improper drainage may lead to water pooling near the base.

Even while it mostly affects older homes, your new home might be harmed in the long term.

Because your entire house rests on the foundation, any damage could jeopardize your safety as well as your finances.

How to Stop Water Runoff from Neighbor’s Yard?

1. French Drain

If there is a continuous location in your yard that remains moist after a major storm or irrigation from a neighbor’s yard, or if your basement is usually wet, the French drain will be your answer. The underlying premise behind a French drain is that water should always flow downwards, following the most natural path possible.

The drain provides the most natural path for water to flow down and away from your house. A French drain system consists of a 2-foot-deep gravel trench with a perforated pipe coated with water-permeable landscaping fabric.

The French drain directs water into a perforated gravel-filled pipe at the bottom of the drain, which empties away from the house.

After every 8 feet, the slope should be roughly 1 inch in the direction of water flow. The water might drain into a ditch, the street, or a dry well, depending on the scenario.

2. Excavation

Excavation and grading of the ground may aid in the drainage of water in your yard. It’s critical to level, grade, and guarantee that the land’s surface is in good shape so that water can drain properly.

Grading cannot always be done with the land in its current state. In such circumstances, excavation and landscaping may be required to build slopes in the appropriate regions to facilitate drainage.

Excavation is expensive, but if your property slopes in such a manner that water pools with no route out, it may be your only alternative. Before you hire someone for this pricey task, consult an expert.

3. Construct a Berm

The ponding of surface water runoff away from your property may be encouraged by a berm. Your berm should be at least five to six times longer than it is tall, with a gentle slope towards your yard. Berms are usually little more than 2 feet tall. Within that framework, the height of your berm is entirely up to you, and should be determined by the aesthetic you want for your yard. It should feather 5 to 6 feet into your yard if you build a 1-foot-high berm.

Estimate the berm’s required height. Check and note the elevations if you are familiar with surveying instruments. Hire a surveyor to measure and mark the elevations for you if you don’t have any expertise with surveying.

Then, draw out the design of the berm, dig up any existing grass or plants in the area, and remove the dirt from the area where the berm will be erected.

Then use a shovel or a Bobcat, add the appropriate fill to the mound area and begin packing the earth around it. Sand, plant waste, rubble, asphalt, and soil are all possible fill materials. Before adding the topsoil layer, shape the fill layer’s slope.

As you add fill material to the berm, tamp it down until it reaches the required height. To give a more natural appearance and directed water flow, place the peak toward one end. Because rain water will flow down the slope, place the peak at the end you want precipitation to flow away from.

Mix the topsoil and the fill material together for the top 2 to 3 inches. Then, using the shovel, tamp the dirt and the rake, soften the berm edges.

Finally, to help keep the dirt in place and to beautify the area, plant grass, bushes, or other plants on the berm. You may also use rocks or tiny pebbles to create a border.

4. Direct Water Into a Dry Well

A dry well, as the name implies, is a gravel-filled subterranean hole that stays dry for the most part until it is needed. The water is collected in the dry well and kept in the empty areas within the gravel.

The water eventually seeps into the earth or drains out via an underdrain.

Flooding in your yard may be avoided by using swales or pipes to send runoff water into a dry well. Dry wells are more handy than barrels since the water is kept below in a container. Nonetheless, they are a little pricey.

5. Build a Dry Creek

a dry creek bed garden

If you are looking to save money, you should pay attention to this choice! This might be a cost-effective way to deal with drainage difficulties. It’s also not very complicated. A stream may be created in a particular location in your yard with a little digging and planting. When it rains, the stream fills up, the water flows, and the water naturally exits the yard.

Before you create the stream, it’s critical to locate and choose an appropriate departure point. This allows the water to flow freely out of the yard. The creek will seem to be a genuine stream running through your yard, albeit a temporary one. You must also ensure that the watercourse is of sufficient size. Of course, as previously said, it should go to a proper departure point rather than into the neighbor’s garden.

6. Install a Trench Drain

What is a trench drain? Trench drains, also known as channel drains, are categorized as an above-ground drainage system despite the fact that the materials themselves are immersed in the ground. This drainage technique entails excavating a long, narrow trench and covering it with a grated covering to simulate a giant piece of guttering in the ground.

Trench drains, like gutters, move water away from locations where it might cause injury by posing a slipping hazard, causing soil surface erosion, or posing other hazards. To divert water away from the site without harming the ecology, the trench drain must be linked to a municipal storm sewer or ecologically responsible canal once it has been built and constructed.

To enable water to flow freely through the grate, the area around the drain must be clean and devoid of any impediments. Trench drains may be installed on a moderate slope to help with runoff, and they can also be used in conjunction with a sump pump to better drain low-lying regions.

Trench drains may be made out of a variety of materials, such as plastic, galvanized steel, and cast iron grates, polymer and HDPE trenches, and a variety of aesthetic alternatives to fit almost any location or environment. The kind you choose will be heavily influenced by the final usage. A trench drain on a highway will need a considerably stronger grate and substructure than one diverting water away from a park’s delicate ecosystems.

A trench drain, regardless of the style you choose, is an excellent method to redirect water runoff away from your yard before it causes harm.

7. Build a Swale Drainage System Around Your House

Swales follow the contours of a natural or man-made slope’s base, channeling storm water and purifying runoff as it sinks into the soil rather of collecting it in one area, as a rain garden does. Plants absorb water from the gently sloping sides of a swale, as well as from the channel’s middle. Drainage effectiveness is improved by fast-draining soil, and a perforated pipe under the gravel may aid with high water flow.

Small swales may redirect rainwater to a dry well, while larger ones can be built at the foot of a hill to divert water away from a low-lying residence.

You may make a tiny swale yourself, but for a long, broad one, you need engage a professional with earth-moving equipment. If you live on a bluff, have a septic tank nearby, or are on a slope that descends more than 1 foot over a horizontal distance of 20 feet, see a landscape contractor or civil engineer.

A swale should convey water to a safe release point, such as a well-drained garden bed or a buried dry well; enabling water to be absorbed on-site rather than flowing into a storm drain is critical for safeguarding natural waterways. The swale’s sides should flare out three to four times as wide as it is tall, and the top eight inches of soil should drain properly. Your soil may simply be loosened if it drains swiftly. If the water sinks in half as quickly, add 40% compost to the mix. Replace soil with 60 percent screened sand and 40 percent compost if drainage is still sluggish.

If the swale can’t handle all of the water, try digging further 6 to 8 inches, lining the trench with filter cloth, placing perforated pipe, and then topping it with round 34-inch gravel. Add at least 8 inches of compost-rich soil mix on top of the gravel.

8. Install a Catch Basin and Redirect the Water

a catch basin

A catch basin is a substantial subterranean reservoir where runoff water is collected and dispersed. They’re a flexible drainage solution that may work on their own or as part of a bigger system.

Catch basins are often seen in situations where water collects in a yard or immediately under a downspout. They’re then linked to a drain pipe, which directs the water to a ditch or another safe location.

Catch basins, like channel drains, take a significant amount of effort to build. You’ll need to excavate a hole large enough to house the basin as well as some gravel. For the drain pipe, a trench must also be excavated.

You may find that the catch basin may not be as efficient at collecting water with time. Debris may enter your catch basin, as it can many other subsurface drainage systems. It is essential to preserve it in order to keep the water flowing smoothly.

Large material, such as leaves or stones, may be caught using a debris trap installed underneath the grate. This is the simplest method to maintain the catch basin clean, but you should still peek within the pit to ensure that the drainpipes are clear.

9. Build a Retaining Wall with Proper Drainage

Most retaining walls are designed and built with the goal of keeping the region behind them reasonably dry. The soils utilized in the project must not get saturated during building, and the final design must channel water away from the rear of the wall.

Develop a detailed grasp of the site throughout the planning phase and establish where water will come from and how it will be correctly handled.

Drains must be vented to the outside or linked to a storm sewer system, and they must be protected against fine material movement.

Organize your supplies throughout the construction process so that surface runoff isn’t diverted in the wrong direction. If rain is expected, it’s also a good idea to cover the infill soils and the complete wall project at the end of each day to avoid water saturation.

A toe drain is required for any reinforced wall or wall exceeding 4 feet in height, as well as any wall having slopes or other surcharges above the wall. Wall rock is always found inside the block’s cores and a minimum of 12 inches beyond the block.

Who is Responsible for Rainwater Runoff? (The Legalities)

In most cases, a neighbor will not be held liable for damage to your property caused by natural rain and soil conditions. If, on the other hand, your neighbor has landscaped his land or changed his property in any other manner that causes more water to spill into your land than would otherwise occur naturally, you may be able to seek compensation. In general, there are three sorts of legislation that may enable you to hold your neighbor responsible for surface water damage to your property.

Read more in our Can My Neighbor Drain their Pool in My Yard article here

Reasonable Use Rule

The Reasonable Use Rule is used by the majority of states. With it, you’ll need evidence that your neighbor did anything to his land or property, that the modification was unreasonable, and that the adjustment disrupted the normal flow of water into your property in order to bring a case against him.

Common Enemy Rule

Rainwater and other natural sources of water are treated as a common enemy by all landowners under the Common Enemy Rule, which was adopted from English Common Law. Many states adopt this law, which requires each landowner to safeguard his or her own property from surface and runoff water. Landowners are free to take whatever measures they choose, such as erecting dikes or digging drainage canals. If surface water flows from your neighbor’s property onto yours, inflicting greater damage than is natural, you must still defend your property.

However, many governments that still adhere to the common enemy criterion have changed it to make it less stringent. You may still be able to hold your neighbor accountable for harm to your property under these updated guidelines if the alteration of your neighbor’s property was careless.

Civil Law Rule

The civil law rule is the polar opposite of the common enemy rule. Any landowner who alters his or her property in a manner that alters the normal flow of surface water over the land is liable under the civil law rule.

The civil law rule, like the common enemy rule, has been amended in most governments that adopt it. States that adopt the civil law norm, like the reasonable use rule, allow land alterations as long as they are reasonable. However, under the amended civil law norm, a landowner who notices an increase in harm may be required to take reasonable steps to safeguard his or her property from damage caused by the increased surface water.

Does House Insurance Cover Water Runoff Damage?

Typically, house insurance doesn’t cover water runoff damage. Although all plans are different and particular, generally speaking water runoff damage isn’t considered an accident or sudden, unexpected occurrence. Therefore, many insurance plans will not cover the damage from it unless you can prove that it was part of a rain or snow storm.

How Can You Find Out How Yours and Your Neighbor’s Properties are Supposed to Drain?

You may easily find out where water from your yard and your neighbor’s yard is intended to drain.

You may get a copy of your subdivision’s grading plan to see how your yard and the yards of your neighbors are meant to drain. The constructor was intended to stick to this blueprint. Obtaining a grading plan from the city is usually free, although there may be a modest administrative cost. If the design demonstrates that the drainage system for your neighbor is meant to be away from your property, you may speak with a lawyer about the next steps in filing a lawsuit.

The Verdict: What Should You Do?

The truth is that solving water runoff from a neighbor’s yard isn’t always easy. It usually takes a pretty big DIY project to make your yard and your home’s foundation safe.

There are other options, of course. You can do some research, speak with a lawyer, and even create a lawsuit if you feel the neighbor is to blame.

However, it’s almost always smarter to take it upon yourself to build a wall or a well or something along those lines to keep your grass dry and your home safe. There are plenty of options, some easier than others, that will help you in your quest to fight back rainwater runoff.