What Is A Dry Well? A DIY Drainage System

Water is something we all need to survive. It gives us nourishment, hydration, and a cool place to be on a hot day. But too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing. No one wants a flooded yard

What Is A Dry WellView in gallery

A dry well could be the perfect solution to draining problems that you may have in your yard. Consider one if you have water pooling in your yard because they are easy to build and are quickly effective! 

What Is A Dry Well?

A dry well is an underground structure that gets rid of unwanted water by leading it to a new location. Dry wells are covered with porous walls. This type of system allows the water to percolate through the walls and leads it further underground.

Dry wells are often built in basements, parking lots, and yards. They are powered by gravity and can be attached to more than one pipe or source. There isn’t one exit either as the tiny porous holes are placed throughout the system. 

This allows for a slow and steady release that doesn’t need much maintenance. Though a large reservoir or tank is often needed so that the water can always escape. When it rains, for example, the tank will fill fast if it doesn’t drain fast enough.

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How To Build A Dry Well

Most dry wells are pits filled with gravel and debris. Because they are filled pits, there isn’t a lot of reserved room for water. So more often than not, the pits are quite large. But another way around this is via a chamber.

This chamber, or tank, can be buried under the ground with holes poked in it to create a porous wall. When you build a dry well like this, the water has more time and space to escape so it can handle more torrential weather. 

Because dry wells are buried and the land is solid above them, you can build them almost anywhere. They won’t be noticed nor take up land space. Here is a great way to build your own dry well in your yard. 

Step 1: Placing The Dry Well

Make sure that the dry well is at least 10 feet from your house and at least 3 feet from the property line. This ensures that your home is safe and that you don’t cause any problems with the neighbors.

Step 2: Diggin A Hole

Using a long-handled shovel, dig a hole that is about 4-feet deep and 4-feet wide. You can also dig trenches anywhere that won’t naturally drain into the pit. French drains are perfect for pairing with dry wells. 

Step 2: Add Barriers

Not above-ground barriers, but weed barriers. Moisture barriers aren’t necessary because it’s okay if the water drains some on its way down. But a weed barrier needs to line the pit to keep weeds from growing in the well.

Step 3: Place Pipes

This is where you add pipes to any trenches you created. If you have a patio or something similar, it’s a good idea to add a drain under it so that water won’t pool. Then, add the last pipe, hanging a foot or so over the hole. 

Step 4: Fill The Hole

You can either buy a chamber for the drain or fill the entire thing with rocks. In reality, a chamber can be cheaper, though there are great options for different types of gravel. You will need some gravel either way. 

Step 5: Add More Holes

If you didn’t buy a special dry well chamber and are using a bucket or something similar, then add plenty of holes in all sides for the dry well to drain. 

Step 6: Cover The Hole

After you are done, you can add turf, more gravel, or even a garden on top. Just make sure you can still access the dry well and that it is level. This way, there are no accidents and it won’t be noticeable. 

When To Install A Dry Well

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It can be difficult to decide when it’s a good time to add a dry well. But the answer is fairly simple. If you have water pooling in your yard, then a dry well is a great way to get rid of it in a natural way.

Dry wells are usually paired with drains of some kind that can relocate the water to the dry well. Then it can release into the ground from there. Dry wells are useful both in yards with soil and concrete pads. 

Dry Well Reservoirs 

There aren’t many different options for dry well reservoirs as most dry well matierals are plastic. At least for the chamber itself. Pair it with gravel and barriers and you have yourself a good dry well. Here are a few reservoir options you can order online.

NDS FWAS24 50 Gal. Flo Stormwater Dry Well System Kit

This is the tank that most people use for their dry wells. It is 50-gallons and 4-feet wide. If you can find a similar option in a store near you then go for it because this is a safe bet that is the right size for most dry wells. 

With this type of chamber, you will probably need to knock holes out. Not all of them, but enough to allow the system to drain. Follow the instructions that come with the tank for the best results with your system. 

TUF-TITE Plastic Trench Drain

This is a smaller option but it works just the same. It is simple and adds a little bit of extra room for water to rest while it is draining. The TUF-TITE isn’t readily available online but this is a popular option that you can get at hardware stores. 

This type of drain usually needs extra perforations to drain well and is too small for yards that get a lot of water each year. However, with enough holes in the right places, it pairs well with the rest of the dry well.

Storm Drain FSD-3017-12BKIT

Another good small option for a small boost is this storm drain. It can be buried like the other drains but only holds a small amount of water. If you only notice small puddles on your dry well, then this could be all you need.

But if you notice large puddles then you will need something larger. Go with the NDS option above if you want to be sure that your drain is plenty big enough for the water to never puddles in your yard. 

StormDrain FSD-3017-20BKIT-6 

Another good storm drain that is larger than the other is this option which is 20-inches. This is a good medium-sized storm drain that is shaped in a way that is easy to place in any dry well, even a large one.

You can create your own holes or use the one that they have for you to punch out. Remember that you don’t need to let the water set because a chamber is just to make more space that isn’t taken up by gravel. 

Dry Well Maintenance

Because dry wells can be placed with or without gutter diversion, the maintenance for your dry well isn’t the same as someone else’s. Here are a few things you can do to ensure your dry well remains in good shape.

  • Clean the gutters – if your dry well is attached to your gutters, which is common, make sure you keep them clean. Clean them out weekly, or monthly, from April to November each year. 
  • Don’t let snow pile – during the winter months, check for snow and ice damage regularly. Don’t let it pile on any of the pipes or drainage systems. Ice can weaken pipes no matter what material they are made out of. 
  • Clean the pipes – this is primarily if you are having problems. If the drain isn’t working properly, then get a good snake and clean the drains out well. If there aren’t any pipes, then you will need to check the chamber.
  • Make sure everyone knows about it – not to brag, though that’s okay too! But make sure anyone walking around your yard knows of the dry well’s location. Though a little traffic won’t hurt, too much can do its damage. 

Dry Well FAQs

Here are the most frequently asked questions about dry wells.

Are Dry Wells Illegal?

Not in most cases, but in California, dry wells are used with caution due to the concern that they can cause contaminants to enter the groundwater, affecting the entire state. But they aren’t illegal in the state. 

Are Dry Wells Dangerous?

Dry wells are not generally dangerous. It is important that they are installed properly, but in any case, after it is installed, it is safe. Make sure that you test the dry well before letting children play around it. 

Can A Dry Well Cause A Sinkhole?

They can, if the dry well isn’t installed correctly, that is. You need to make sure the well is packed well and that you have a good barrier as well. If you don’t do this then the soil could sink and cause a sinkhole. 

Can I Have A Dry Well Installed?

Yes! In fact, a lot of people choose to hire a professional because then you can dig the dry well tens of feet deep this way. While doing it alone, you can only dig it about 6-feet deep safely. Deep wells should only be dug by professionals.