How To Fix Drainage Problems In A Driveway?

Drainage can be a frustrating problem to fix on a driveway. That’s because it’s hard to fully predict how water will behave once it rains. Even if you did everything right when building a driveway, you may still get pools of water on the driveway or find that the water flows where you don’t want it to go. 

Luckily, you can fix a lot of these drainage problems as they arise. Here are some tips on how to fix drainage problems in a driveway. 

Common Driveway Drainage Problems

Common Driveway Drainage Problems

Here are the most common driveway drainage problems you are likely to face. 

Standing Water On The Driveway 

Assuming it has no potholes or sunken areas, a well designed driveway should be able to shed any water that falls on or flows across it. 

That’s why driveways, just like roads, have a crown design where they slope gently to the sides from the center. 

If you find pools of water on your driveway, it’s a sign that water is not draining properly. Maybe the gradient of the driveway is wrong or it’s not crowned. 

There are two ways to fix this problem. 

Either rip out the driveway and lay a new one, or resurface the driveway to improve its gradient and surface profile. I discuss both solutions in detail further below. 

Heavy Runoff That Washes Away The Driveway

Heavy runoff flowing over or along the driveway can cause a lot of damage over time. This usually happens when stormwater from the yard or the neighbors flows towards the driveway. 

The water will gradually wash off driveway materials, including the base layers. This is especially noticeable on loose gravel driveways. But the water can also erode pavers, concrete and asphalt. 

You may notice bare patches on the driveway, potholes, crack and other kinds of damage. 

In such a situation, the best solution is to divert the runoff so that it doesn’t reach the driveway. 

Moisture on Walls or Foundation

Poor driveway drainage can damage more than the driveway. It also poses a danger to your house. 

Your driveway probably drains water fine but directs the runoff towards your home. This can cause serious and expensive damages over time. 

The water builds up around your home’s foundation and exterior walls. Some of the things you may notice include damp walls, increased humidity in the basement and mold inside the house. 

Too much water can also damage the foundation, often resulting in cracks. 

So check where your driveway directs rainwater to. If it flows and settles near your house, find a way to redirect it. 

Runoff Into The Road or Street

In some cases, the driveway directs runoff the opposite way towards the road or street. This is also bad. 

For one, you could be fined depending on where you live. Some cities prohibit allowing stormwater from your home or property to runoff into the street. 

That’s because runoff from people’s driveways can stress the city’s stormwater drainage and sewers, potentially increasing the risk of floods. 

Secondly, stormwater runoff contains pollutants like sediment, oils, chemicals and bacteria. These could end up in rivers, lakes and other water sources.

Your options here are either changing your driveway to one that’s permeable or redirecting the runoff so it doesn’t go into the street. 

Insufficient Drainage 

If you’ve already one or two drainage fixes but you still experience poor driveway drainage, the problem could be that the current drainage solutions are not enough. 

You may have underestimated how much runoff you need to deal with. Probably the channel drain you installed is not wide enough to handle all the stormwater that falls on the driveway. 

Or maybe your yard is not big enough to absorb all the runoff from the driveway, resulting in pools of water on the yard.

You could expand whatever drainage method you are currently using. For instance, build a bigger channel drain or dig a wider swale. 

Alternatively, you could add an extra drainage method to handle all the excess stormwater.  

How To Fix Poor Driveway Drainage: 6 Solutions That Work

1. Improve Driveway Gradient and Surface Profile

If the main reason your driveway has poor drainage is because it doesn’t slope the right way or lacks a crown surface profile, you can either replace or resurface the driveway. 

Replacing the driveway is expensive and will take a lot of time but it is necessary if you need to drastically change the gradient of the driveway or the driveway is in bad shape and planned to lay a new one anyway.

Replacing the driveway is also the only option if you have a paver or gravel driveway. Since these driveways cannot be resurfaced, you have to remove the surface layer, grade the base layer properly, and then re-lay the driveway.  

For concrete and asphalt driveways, resurfacing is usually enough to improve drainage. This involves adding a new layer (usually a couple or so inches) of material to the top of the driveway. 

You can add the new layer in such a way that the driveway achieves the right gradient or surface profile for proper drainage. 

2. Redirect Runoff Away From The Driveway

If, whenever it rains, you get a river flowing over or along your driveway, the best solution is to figure out where the runoff is coming from and redirect it. 

This will prevent water from washing off and eroding your driveway. 

You can use various methods to redirect runoff coming from the yard or your neighbor’s home. You could build a drainage ditch that collects the water and carries it elsewhere. 

You can also build a swale that traps the water and allows it to percolate into the ground. 

A French drain also works great for collecting and redirecting stormwater. 

3. Install A Channel Drain

A channel drain is like a gutter, but for your driveway. The channel collects runoff from the driveway and carries it through an underground pipe to a more appropriate location. 

Channel drains are typically built across a driveway so that water flows into it. A grate on top of the channel allows cars to still pass over the drain.

You can direct the water from a channel drain to a different part of your yard where it’ll absorb into the ground. You can also harvest it in a tank or reservoir. 

4. Build A Swale 

A drainage swale is a wide and shallow channel (usually filled with straw or rocks) designed to trap stormwater, giving it enough time to absorb into the ground.  

Building a drainage swale can solve two drainage problems. 

  • It can prevent or reduce runoff towards or from the driveway. You can build a swale to keep water from flowing towards the driveway and eroding it or to prevent water from the driveway from flowing to the house or street. 
  • A swale can also help if runoff from the driveway causes soggy or flooded areas in your yard. The swale helps the water absorb into the ground quicker instead of pooling on the surface. 

5. Build A French Drain 

A French drain is another great way to manage heavy runoff from or towards the driveway. It’s a combination of a swale and a drainage ditch. 

To build a french drain, you dig a trench along the area where stormwater flows towards. Usually, these are areas that get soggy when it rains.  

You lay a permeable drainage fabric in the trench, put a perforated pipe inside, then cover the trench with gravel, soil and grass.

A French drain provides a path of least resistance for water. When it runs off the driveway and other parts of the yard, it gets into the pipe and flows where you want it to go. Here’s a great video of how to build a French drain. 

Be sure to check out part two of the video to see the French drain at work.

6. Install A Permeable Driveway

Water-resistant driveways can create so much runoff that it can be difficult to deal with using regular methods like swales or channel drains. 

This can be an especially big problem if you don’t have a sufficiently large yard to soak up all that stormwater coming from the driveway. 

That’s why making the driveway itself permeable is one of the best fixes for poor driveway drainage. Instead of worrying where you’ll direct the runoff, the water soaks right through the driveway, resulting in little to no runoff. 

If you are building a new driveway or considering replacing your current one, I highly recommend laying a permeable driveway.

A gravel driveway is one the cheapest permeable driveways you can build. Rainwater easily passes through the gravel and into the ground. 

Grid and permeable pavers are also great for reducing water runoff. You can also use permeable/pervious asphalt or concrete to build a new driveway. 

Tip: Make sure the base is also highly permeable (use coarse aggregates in the base) to ensure it doesn’t prevent water from percolating into the soil. 

2 thoughts on “How To Fix Drainage Problems In A Driveway?”

  1. We’ve had some truly awful weather lately; it’s been raining for weeks! My driveway has good drainage, but will the extra water cause problems?

    • It is not unusual, during freak weather conditions, for even the most well-planned driveway to seem as though it is not draining the water away. As long as this weather is not predicted to go on for months or years, your driveway should be able to cope once the rain returns to normal levels.


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