Do you have excess water collecting around your home or on your property after it rains and need a way to drain the water. If this sounds like you then you probably have heard of a dry well and how effective they are at draining runoff water – but you are probably wondering what is a dry well?
Dry Well Information
A dry well is a covered hole in the ground made of porous materials that allows stormwater and other drainage from your yard to flow back into the ground water supply. The inside is usually made of gravel, perforated pipe and pea gravel that allows water runoff to flow into the underground structure and slowly drain into the surrounding water table and soil.
There might be standing water at the bottom of the pit after a heavy rain but the unwanted water will drain over the next few days into the soil.
How a Dry Well Helps
A drywell helps drain excess storm water from your yard before it can flood your basement or damage the foundation on your house. They are a popular way to collect roof runoff, stormwater drainage, and irrigation water and put it back into the water table and surrounding soil.
They don’t require and electricity and very little maintenance – all you have to do is install them where the storm water runoff pools in your yard.
Dry wells are also effective to install around paved surfaces. Since it can be hard to run electricity to a remote drainage system a dry well might be the answer to your drainage problem.
How to Install a Dry Well
Installing a dry well is easy – all you need is some tools from the shed and materials for the well. We recommend digging the well with a friend so you have some help with the digging!
Dry Well Material and Tools
- A pickaxe for breaking the ground
- A shovel for digging the well
- A basin for the well
- Pea Gravel
- A PVC Pipe or other Drainage Pipe
- Landscaping fabric
Follow these step by steps directions to dig you dry well
1. Dig the Hole
The first step is to dig the hole for your new well. A good depth for a dry well is at least 5 feet. By digging deeper you will be able to drain more water and won’t have to worry about a frozen well in the winter.
2. Add the Basin to the bottom
Once you have dug to the bottom of the well place the basin securely at the bottom. Make sure it is placed as level as possible so you don’t have to dig up the well in a few years. At the bottom of the basin should be a final drain tile for any water that makes it to the bottom of the gravel.
3. Lay Gravel, Fabric and Containing Wire
The next step is to add the gravel, landscaping fabric and containing wire to build the sides of the well. Go slow and make sure to build solid well wall so it does not collapse during a heavy downspout.
4. Test Drainage
The final step in building a dry well is to test the drainage. Use a garden hose and spray water at the well for a few minutes – it should all drain down into the gravel and filter into the soil.
Where to Install a Dry Well
The best place to install a drywell is in any location where water is pooling in your yard. By installing a well in the path of the water drainage you can return the water to the soil and prevent damaging floods with a simple dry well.
Simple dry wells are an effective way to prevent water from pooling and add extra yard drainage but letting the water flow directly into the soil – instead of draining it to the street or storm sewer.
Common Dry Well Problems
A dry well is a robust way to drain stormwater runoff from your yard but there are a few problems that can pop up from time to time. First, you need to make sure you system can drain gray water if you plan on using it for that or you could be creating a health hazard.
Another common problem is debris building up on the bottom and side and slowing drainage. A common fix for this problem is to add landscape fabric into the sides of the well when it is being built.
Dry Wells in Clay Soil
Dry wells can be used in clay soil, but you should still use the landscaping fabric to prevent your well from caving in and building it deep enough so that water can drain.
This is important because clay soils shrink and expand with dryness and wetness, which can damage structures like wells. If the well collapses, it can cause a hazard if you step on the surface and it will prevent drainage and eventually cause a pool of water in your yard.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of a dry well?
A dry well is used to add additional water drainage and flood protection in areas a pump will not work.
What is the difference between a dry well and a septic tank?
A drywell can be used as part of a septic system to dispose of grey wastewater. A drywell drains the wastewater into the surrounding soil while a septic tank contains the waste water.
How much does it cost to install a dry well?
If you dig the well a dry well can be installed for about $100 in materials – if you call a professional installation company it will cost about $500.
Are dry wells good?
Dry wells are effective but they do not offer as much drainage in clay soil. They are one of the most effective ways of draining water
Can Dry Wells Use Gray Water?
Some dry wells can drain gray water but it is important to remember where the water is draining to and to ensure it does not run into a water supply.
Where should a dry well be placed?
Your dry well should be placed at least 30 feet from your foundation to prevent problems. It is also a good idea to check where underground pipes are buried before you start digging.
Can a Dry Well Freeze in Winter?
It is almost impossible for a properly built dry well to freeze. Since it is built underground it is difficult for the entire system to get cold enough to freeze, and if it does there are no mechanical parts to break!
Dry Wells vs French Drain Systems