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How to Install a Foundation Drainage Swale – Design & Tips

Learn about installing a foundation drainage swale and how they help you foundation.

By Frederick Marshall
March 5, 2013

Often over looked and under used, drainage swales are simple and inexpensive foundation maintenance options that Advanced Foundation Repair, a foundation repair company in located in Dallas Texas, often recommends.


Foundation Drainage Swale Definition

A foundation drainage swale, also known as a vegetated swale or grass swale, is just a fancy term for a wide shallow ditch which carries away run-off water from rain, sprinklers, and so on. From a landscaping perspective, short swales hardly show because they of their wide and shallow design and areoften the easiest drainage system to install and can help prevent the possible need for expensive foundation repairs and are nearly maintenance free.

To Start?

Do you need a foundation drainage swale? One easy test is to check one hour after a rain fall. Look to see if there is a standing pool of water no more than 10 feet from the home’s foundation. Standing water can cause soil to expand which can cause undo pressure on foundations while excess pressure on the foundation may cause foundation damage that requires expensive foundation repair. Once installed, drainage swales are virtually maintenance free as they blend in with the grass and are easy to mow.

Foundation Dainage Swale Tips

Here are a few swale design tips for DIY homeowners looking to install a drainage swale:

  • Because swales must slope downhill, on flat lawns, they should be deeper as they get longer. Swales must slope at least 1 inch for every 10 feet of length. With this in mind, map out where drainage goes by marking the ground along where the center of the swale will run.
  • Use a shovel and cut a trench along where the center of the swale will be. Dig the trench, sloping the bottom  down at least 1 inch for every 10 feet of length. If sod will be placed in the swale, lower the entire trench 2 to 3 inches.
  • Next, mark the edges of the swale. The goal in locating the edges of the swale is to keep the sides of the swale sloped gently enough to keep the swale from being noticeable.
  • Using a shovel, gently lift the up the grass in the swale.
  • Set the grass pieces aside.
  • Check on the pieces often while working to ensure they are stay moist. Water them if needed.
  • Dig a trench in the marked area. The trench should be a shallow V shape leading away from the foundation to an adequate run off point such as a French drain or street.
  • To keep the swale from being too noticeable, it should gradually widen as it approaches the final drainage point.
  • Wet the soil in the swale.
  • Place the grass pieces back into the dampened swale by laying them smoothly out and pressing firmly back into the damp soil.
  • Make sure the grass is thoroughly watered.
  • Make sure that nothing is blocking water flow as it moves out to the street or to a drain.




Frederick Marshall is the CEO of Advanced Foundation Repair, LLC, a foundation repair company specializing in home repairs from the foundation up including foundation repair, foundation drainage, exterior foundation waterproofing, foundation irrigation, and plumbing services. Advanced Foundation Repair has specialized in foundation repair needs of Texas homeowners for over 100 years. Connect with him on Google+.


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Christopher Lorenzo
Christopher Lorenzo
19:36 06 Sep 17
I have had multiple good experiences with Advance Foundation Repair. They stand by their work and kept me informed at all times on the repairs. Post work service was good too. I am very satisfied with their workread more
Ruth Schuman
Ruth Schuman
19:56 05 Sep 17
Workers were very professional and hard working. They dug up around the house and put plants back to look nice. This company also has a trust to forever be able to redo warranted work.read more
Gwen Baumann
Gwen Baumann
02:30 11 Aug 17
I can't too highly recommend this company. I had work done of my foundation by another company several years ago. That work did not resolve the problem, and that company did not fix. Advanced was recommended to me by mother, who said they were the best in the business. I agree! They were polite, professional, charged reasonable prices, and did excellent work. They also have a strong guarantee that is backed by a trust. I can't imagine why you'd use any other company.read more
Linda Krizka
Linda Krizka
19:44 10 Jul 17
Advanced Foundation repair is the only way to go! The engineer, Eric was kind, helpful and informative! The crew under Haynard's watch was unbelievably considerate. The crew was in and out of our house for 5 days. Everyone of them were happy even in the 90 degree weather. They work hard and were very polite. If you saw my house now you would never even know they were here. They cleaned up every night and on the last day it looked like new! Very thankful to have been able to work with them.read more
Michael Francis
Michael Francis
00:48 29 Apr 17
Advanced recently performed our foundation repair and did a fantastic job! The job took four days and throughout the process, the workers were on time each day, were kind and courteous. They left our house clean each day and took great care in making my wife and newborn comfortable during the repair. They came back out to make adjustments, as was expected, and I am more than pleased with the results. Thanks to Juan Martinez, Miguel Mata and Ernesto Alvarato for doing everything I requested. I highly recommend Advanced Foundation Repair, they know what they are doing.read more
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