Wednesday, July 10, 2013


After laying the trenches in the back yard it was time to install the pipe for the french drains and sprinkler system. As I mentioned in the last post, I took a trip up to a local irrigation supply store with my yard plan and came home with everything I needed to complete this project.

The list of supplies was a mile long, but here's a list of what we needed for this phase of the project:

For the French Drains
• 50 ft. of 4" perforated drain pipe to lay along the back fence line (this is the low spot in the yard and therefore where the water pools when we get a lot of rain)
• 80 ft. of 3" perforated drain pipe for french drains running perpendicular to the house (connecting to the gutter downspouts)
• Fittings to connect the drain pipe to the downspouts 
• T fittings with reducers to connect the 3" pipe to the 4" pipe
• Pipe sleeve made from landscape fabric to keep dirt and sediment from clogging pipe

For the Sprinkler Line
• 150 ft. of 3/4" PVC pipe
• A whole box of 3/4" T Joints, 90 degree joints, 45 degree joints and straight fittings to connect the pipe as it runs through the yard
Purple PVC softener and Blue PVC cement for fitting the pipes together
• 3/4" to 1/2" threaded joints for connecting PVS line to sprinkler head
These doo-dads, which connect the sprinkler head to the line (and should make our lives easier when we actually hook up the sprinklers
• White plumbers tape

The picture above shows a good before of just how much pipe we put into our yard.

The point of the perforated drain pipe is that it carries water from the gutter downspouts attached to the house through the yard to the sump pit. As the water flows through the pipe, any that can be absorbed into the earth will (or conversely if the ground is completely saturated, any excess water will absorb into the pipe). It's sort of like yin and yang... if the ground needs water and the pipe has it, the ground will get it, and if there is too much water in the ground the pipe will take that water and drain it to the sump pit. When the pit fills to a high enough level, the sump pump will kick on and push the water out to the street (and out of our yard).

Then came the fun part.

The first step in the process was to lay a bed of 3/4" drain rock in all the trenches. This will help that yin and yang of water absorbing in and out of our perforated pipes. It's important to note that when adding the rock, make sure to have a constant slope away from the house and toward your sump pit. This will aid the water in flowing the right direction.

Next, we layed out the pipes on the ground next to the trenches and joined them together (thankfully, they snapped together easily). We made any necessary cuts with a miter saw for where the pipes would join together. Then we added the fabric sleeve around the pipe, to keep out any dirt or sediment that would otherwise seep in and keep water from moving cleanly through the pipe. When we had everything the way we wanted it, we set the pipe into the trenches and snapped everything together, using PVC cement at all the fittings.

3" drain pipe from house connecting with 4" drain pipe running to sump, using a t-joint
Once everything was in place, we checked for level again to make sure it was all running away from the house and toward the sump. Then we brought in more drain rock and covered our pipes, whispering wishes of luck as we buried them.

It was sort of sad to see all of our hard work buried in the ground (we had just spent a ton of time digging those trenches after all), so it was important to keep reminding ourselves that this would help keep our future yard looking great throughout the entire year, and keep water from pooling in places it shouldn't (like under the house or on the lawn).

And here's a shot of the sump pit. I wish I would have gotten a picture of the four foot hole we dug to put this garbage sized badboy in, or the intake valve hole that we fitted the perforated pipe in to, but I didn't. This shot is of it nearly finished. The pipe at the top of the shot going towards the fence holds the sump pump power cords (and serves as a vent) and the pipe coming out the bottom of the picture is an outlet pipe that will eventually run all the way along our fence line and out to the street, so any water collected in the pit will be carried out of our yard and into the storm drains. We used pressure treated lumber to create a retaining wall so that things don't shift too much over time, and filled the pit with drain rock.

Next, it was time to create the sprinkler lines. At my visit to the irrigation supply, we worked everything so that the sprinkler system would run on three separate zones, (one in the front, center and back of the lawn) and that each area of the lawn would be hit by two separate sprinklers with 16 sprinkler heads in all.

We set the pipe in place, measured and got to work cutting and splicing it together into sprinkler line. I bought a pair of handy PVC pipe cutters that made things a lot more simple that walking back and forth to the saw, and used plenty of cement when joining pieces together.

After a few hours of work, the sprinkler lines were starting to shape up:

Here's a shot of how they all fit together. I didn't follow any specific set of rules while doing this, but tried to use as much common sense as possible. We buried everything before testing it, so I still don't know for sure if it's going to work, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

The last step was to add the flexible sprinkler risers, which we covered with tape at the top to keep dirt from getting in, and stake with flags so we could keep track of them as the yard continued to evolve.

Then we covered everything back up. One week of hard work and $1500 later, the yard looked just as it had before we started the process. But just like our house has a strong foundation that we never see, our yard now has a functional base that we will appreciate all the more when it is finished.


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