9 Ways to Stop Water Runoff from Neighbor’s Yard

You are feeling kind of annoyed, but you don’t want to start a feud with your neighbour. Water is running off into your yard from your neighbour’s property, but what can you do? After a heavy rainfall or a bad storm the water levels can get pretty bad, causing physical damage to your lawn, foundation, and more! The damages may not even be visible, so thats why its important to find a solution now and not when it’s too late.

As a former realtor I know these sorts of damages can lower the value of your home. Imagine this, you are selling your home in the future and a home inspector comes in and does their job. All of a sudden you may need to spend tens of thousands of dollars fixing the damages caused by the water, it happens and it is NOT fun for anybody involved. 

What Damages Can Water Runoff Cause to Your Property?

Water can be the bearer of bad news for many homeowners, it can cause damages quickly or its something that slowly breaks down over a longer duration. You may notice water damages, but many times water is under the ground surface and once you realize it’s there it is often too late. Let’s go over a few common damages water runoff into your property can cause.

  1. Foundation damage: If water runoff flows towards a house, it can slowly accumulate and sit beside or underneath the foundation. When water sits around the foundation, it can exert hydrostatic pressure on the walls and also the floor. Such pressure can physically cause the foundation to shift, crack, or bow inward, leading to an unsafe and unstable structure. Other common foundation damages come from soil erosion, when the pooling water washes away soil it can cause the foundation to collapse or settle unevenly. Pooling water near the foundation is even more worrisome if you live in a cold climate, when water freezes it expands (frost heaving), causing the foundation to crack. 
  2. Basement Floods: This one I am familiar with. My family house growing up had water runoff from the neighbour’s house behind us. We lived down a hill from them, all their water was flowing under our house. I lived in Newfoundland so our winters were cold, the water froze and cracked the foundation. During the spring as the snow melted water seeped through cracks in our basement, cracks were on the walls and on the floors. Basement floods can damage severe damages to flooring, furniture, electrical, and more. You also need to dry out the area as mold and mildew is a serious concern. 
  3. Landscape Damages: Water runoff can really cause damages to your backyard. Whatever landscaping you have completed can get ruined, and in the past couple of years landscaping costs have risen to astronomical numbers. Watching the water wash away all your hard landscaping work is heartbreaking. Extreme cases you can see vegetation loss, trees loss, and severe lawn damages requiring excavation.

These are the main 3 damages I have either personally experienced or noticed when I was a Realtor. You may see other damages such as:

  • Driveway/pavement damages
  • Deck/patio damages
  • Pool foundation damages
  • Contamination from the runoff water
  • Various erosion causing damages

How to Stop Water Runoff from Neighbor’s Yard?

1. French Drain

build a french drain

A French drain is an effective drainage solution that can help manage or fix runoff issues from a neighbor’s yard. It is a trench filled with gravel or rock and contains a perforated pipe designed to redirect water away from your property.

It is a simple yet efficient underground drainage system that collects and then redirects any excess water away from an area prone to water accumulation. It consists of three main components: a trench, a perforated pipe, and gravel or rock.

9 Simple Steps to Install a French Drain:

  1. Determine the drainage route: Identify the ideal path to redirect the water away from the property. Consider the natural slope of the land and ensure the drain outlet is positioned at a suitable location, such as a downhill area or a designated drainage point.
  2. Mark the trench: Use stakes and string to mark the path of the trench. Ensure a consistent slope along the entire length of the drain to facilitate water flow.
  3. Dig the trench: Begin digging the trench along the marked path. Make sure the trench slopes downward at a rate of at least 1 inch for every 8 feet to maintain proper drainage. Remove any obstructions like roots, rocks, or debris.
  4. Add a layer of gravel: Place a layer of gravel or small rocks at the bottom of the trench. This will help with water filtration and prevent the perforated pipe from getting clogged.
  5. Lay the perforated pipe: Position the perforated pipe in the center of the trench on top of the layer of gravel. Ensure the holes or slits in the pipe are facing downward to allow water entry.
  6. Cover with more gravel: Fill the trench with additional gravel or rock, ensuring that the perforated pipe is completely covered. Leave a few inches of space at the top of the trench to accommodate topsoil and vegetation later.
  7. Backfill the trench: Carefully backfill the remaining trench with soil, packing it firmly to provide stability and support to the French drain. Make sure the soil slope away from the property to direct water flow.
  8. Restore the surface: Replace the topsoil and vegetation, blending it with the surrounding landscape. Consider adding erosion-control measures, such as grass or mulch, to help stabilize the soil and prevent erosion around the drain.
  9. Regular maintenance: Periodically inspect and clean the French drain to prevent debris accumulation and ensure its proper functioning. Check that the pipe is free of clogs and that water flows smoothly through the system.

Installing a French drain can be the best fix for runoff issues coming from your neighbor’s yard. However, you might have to consider local regulations, soil conditions, and potential underground utilities before digging up the ground. You can DIY a french drain, as this is what my dad and I did to fix our neighbor’s water runoff into our backyard. You can always hire a professional from a landscaping company to do it all for you, but it will cost some money.

2. Excavation

excavation water damages

Excavation is a method that involves digging trenches strategically to redirect the flow of water away from your property. Here’s how you can go about it:

First, identify the problem areas where the runoff water is pooling. Look for low points or spots where the water flows towards your property. Once you found these areas, begin planning the route for the trenches. Make sure they are positioned to capture the water flow and guide it away from your house and off of your property. Don’t forget to consider the slope and elevation, as the trenches should gradually slope downward to be successful.

Next, start digging the trenches along the chosen planned route. The depth and width of the trenches will depend on the volume of water and the severity of the runoff. This is where the excavation is required if you have major amounts of water runoff.

Aim for a gentle slope that leads the water away from your property. You can also install drainage pipes within the trenches to enhance the water flow and prevent blockages. Once the trenches are in place, you will backfill them with soil and restore the surface with topsoil and vegetation.

Excavation work can be a bit labor-intensive, so it’s important to take your time and plan it properly. If you’re unsure about any aspect of the process, it’s always a good idea to consult with professionals who specialize in drainage or landscaping. They can provide valuable advice tailored to your specific situation. With excavation, you’ll be able to redirect the runoff water and protect your property from potential damage.

3. Construct a Berm

berm landscape against water runoff

A berm is essentially a raised mound of soil strategically placed to redirect the flow of water away from your property. Here’s how you can go about it to redirect runoff from your neighbors yard:

Start off by identifying the areas where the water runoff tends to pool and flow towards your yard. Ideally, you want to position the berm in a way that diverts the water away from your property and towards a designated drainage point, such as a ditch or a stormwater system.

Once you’ve found the location, now you can start building the berm! Start by excavating or shovelling a trench along the path where you want the berm to be. The trench should be slightly wider and deeper than the desired size of the berm. Use the excavated soil to create the mound, shaping it into a gentle slope away from your property. Compact each soil layer as you build up the berm, this will make sure that the water will not flow through the berm.

After constructing the berm, consider reinforcing it with erosion-control materials like landscaping fabric or even grass. This can help prevent soil erosion and provide additional stability against the water runoff. Planting other vegetation on the berm can also improve its effectiveness in preventing runoff and even better it adds an aesthetic touch to your yard.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to consult with professionals who specialize in landscaping and drainage to make sure the berm is built correctly. Their help sends you in the right direction, because it’s possible to build a berm yourself incorrectly meaning you can waste a lot of time to be exactly where you started.

4. Direct Water Into a Dry Well

dry well install by driveway
Dry well installed by Timothy Jarrett, licensed by (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A dry well is an underground structure designed to collect excess water runoff. It’s often just a large hole or chamber filled up with gravel or something similar like crushed stone. The purpose of a dry well is to provide a temporary storage solution for the runoff water and facilitate its gradual infiltration into the surrounding soil.

To use a dry well to combat neighbor runoff water, you would redirect the water flow from your neighbor’s yard into the dry well. This can be achieved by connecting drainage pipes or channels to guide the water towards the well. The dry well acts as a reservoir, collecting the runoff water and preventing it from causing damage to your property.

Once the water enters the dry well, it slowly drains into the surrounding soil through the gravel or crushed stone. This allows for the gradual infiltration of the water, reducing the risk of flooding or erosion. By utilizing a dry well, you can effectively manage and control the neighbor runoff water, protecting your property from potential damage.

5. Build a Dry Creek

Build a Dry Creek

A dry creek is a landscaping feature designed to mimic the appearance of a natural creek or river bed. It is created by excavating a shallow, meandering channel and filling it with stones, rocks, and gravel. The purpose of a dry creek is to redirect water runoff, mimicking the flow of water in a natural watercourse.

By building a dry creek, you can help manage and control the runoff water from your neighbor’s yard, preventing it from causing damage to your property. Here’s how it fixes the problem:

  1. Diverts water flow: The dry creek is strategically positioned to divert the water runoff from your neighbor’s yard. As the water flows downhill, it naturally follows the path of the dry creek, guiding it away from vulnerable areas on your property.
  2. Provides infiltration and absorption: The combination of stones, rocks, and gravel in the dry creek bed allows the runoff water to infiltrate and be absorbed into the soil gradually. This helps prevent water pooling and the other possible damages that can occur when water accumulates on your property.
  3. Enhances natural aesthetics: Not only does it fix your water runoff problem, a dry creek adds visual appeal to your landscape. It creates a natural-looking feature that blends with the surroundings, making it an attractive addition to your outdoor space.

6. Install a Trench Drain

Install a Trench Drain fro water runoff

A trench drain is a linear drainage system designed to collect and redirect water runoff. It consists of a long and narrow trench-like structure with a grate or cover. Installing a trench drain is a really good way to control the flow of water from your neighbor’s yard, preventing it from causing damage to yours! Here’s how it fixes the problem:

  1. Collects runoff water: The trench drain is positioned in a strategic location where the water runoff from your neighbor’s yard pools or flows towards your property. The open grate or cover allows the water to enter the drain while keeping out leaves, twigs, and other debris.
  2. Guides water away: As the runoff water enters the trench drain, it is directed along the drains path. The slope of the drain makes sure that the water flows away from your property and towards the drainage point, such as a stormwater system, a drainage ditch, or an area with proper drainage infrastructure.
  3. Prevents property damage: By collecting and redirecting the runoff water, a trench drain helps to prevent pooling or excessive water accumulation on your property. This reduces the risk of erosion, foundation damage, landscape damages, and water-related issues that can cause harm to your home.

Installing a trench drain requires careful planning and consideration of factors such as the slope, size, and capacity of the drain. It’s a good idea to consult with professionals or drainage experts to ensure proper installation.

7. Build a Swale Drainage System Around Your House

Build a Swale Drainage System
Inlet In Swale by Aaron Volkening, licensed by (CC BY 2.0)

A swale drainage system is a shallow, vegetated channel or depression designed to collect and redirect water runoff. It is typically constructed around your house or property to effectively manage and control the flow of water, preventing it from causing the damages I mentioned above.

Here’s how a swale drainage system fixes the problem:

  1. Collects and channels water: A swale is designed to collect runoff water from your neighbor’s yard and direct it away from yours! The shallow channel or depression allows the water to flow naturally along its course, preventing it from pooling or accumulating near your house.
  2. Promotes infiltration and absorption: Swales are often vegetated with grass or plants that help absorb and filter the runoff water. The vegetation within the swale helps to slow down the water flow, allowing it to infiltrate into the soil gradually. This process reduces erosion, prevents waterlogging, and promotes healthier soil conditions.
  3. Prevents water damage: By effectively channeling and diverting the runoff water, a swale drainage system helps to prevent water damage to your house and property. It reduces the risk of basement flooding, foundation damage, and soil erosion, which can all occur when excessive water accumulates around your home.

When building a swale drainage system, it’s important to consider the slope and layout of your property, as well as the volume and flow of the runoff water. Proper planning and design are crucial to ensure the swale effectively collects and redirects the water.Talking to a landscpaing expert before building a swale is a good idea to prevent any other issues to your property.

8. Install a Catch Basin and Redirect the Water

catch basin for runoff

A catch basin, also known as a storm drain or a drain inlet, is a structure designed to collect and manage surface runoff water. It is typically a grated or open receptacle connected to an underground drainage system. By installing a catch basin and redirecting the water, you can effectively manage and control the flow of runoff from your neighbor’s yard. Here’s how it fixes the problem:

  1. Collects runoff water: The catch basin is strategically placed in areas where the runoff water from your neighbor’s yard tends to accumulate or flow towards your property. The grated or open surface of the catch basin allows the water to enter while preventing debris from clogging the drain.
  2. Stores and redirects water: Once the water enters the catch basin, it is stored temporarily. The catch basin is connected to an underground drainage system, such as pipes or culverts, which carry the water away from your property. This redirection prevents the water from causing damage or pooling around your house.
  3. Prevents erosion and flooding: By effectively collecting and redirecting the runoff water, a catch basin helps prevent erosion and flooding on your property. It ensures that the water is efficiently carried away from vulnerable areas, such as the foundation of your house or landscaped areas, reducing the risk of damage.

When installing a catch basin, it’s important to consider the proper placement and sizing based on the volume and flow of the runoff water. Professional assistance may be required to ensure proper installation and connection to the drainage system. By adding a catch basin and redirecting the water, you can manage neighbor runoff water, protecting your property from potential damage!

9. Build a Retaining Wall with Proper Drainage

retaining wall build

A retaining wall is a structure built to hold back soil and prevent erosion on sloped landscapes. When dealing with runoff from a neighbor’s yard, building a retaining wall with proper drainage can help manage the water flow and prevent damage to your property. Here’s how it fixes the problem:

  1. Holds back soil: A retaining wall is constructed to create a barrier that holds back soil and prevents it from sliding or eroding downhill. By building a retaining wall, you can effectively control the movement of soil and prevent it from being washed away by the runoff water.
  2. Redirects water flow: When designing and constructing a retaining wall, proper drainage systems are incorporated to manage the water flow. Drainage pipes or weep holes are installed behind the wall to allow the runoff water to drain through and prevent water pressure buildup. This redirection of water flow helps prevent excessive runoff from reaching your property and causing damage.
  3. Prevents property damage: By building a retaining wall with proper drainage, you can protect your property from the negative effects of runoff water. The wall acts as a barrier, preventing soil erosion and potential damage to your landscape, foundation, or other structures on your property.

When building a retaining wall, it’s essential to consider factors such as the slope of the land, the height of the wall, and the type of materials used. Proper drainage systems, including perforated pipes, gravel layers, or weep holes, should be integrated to ensure effective water management.

Consulting with a professional landscaper or engineer experienced in retaining wall construction can help you design and build a retaining wall that addresses the specific needs of your property. By incorporating a retaining wall with proper drainage, you can effectively manage neighbor runoff water and protect your property from potential damage.

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, landscape safe, and your house from serious damages. There are plenty of options, some easier than others, that will help you in your quest to fight back rainwater runoff.

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