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When we moved into our 50+ year old house in early 2009, the original driveway was essentially a dirt path down to the garage. The previous owners used to drive around the house (through the back yard) to exit through the back driveway. Over the years, the dirt in the backyard compacted, leading to rainwater flowing right into the driveway and the garage. This is what the front of our garage looked like the day we bought our home:

Front of garage - before 

driveway before

We were truly challenged to figure out a way to fix this issue. We wanted a dry garage and basement of course but the magnitude of the project overwhelmed us. Unfortunately, the portion around the garage entry and backgard is also considered within a 100′ of a wetland area, thus making the whole project much harder to solve.

In spring 2009 we decided to add gravel on top of the current driveway so we did not need any special approval from the conservation commission. We hired a contractor who slightly graded our driveway and added gravel. The result looked nice and we hoped it would solve our water issue in the garage/basement.

Gravel 1 Gravel 2 Gravel 3 Gravel 4

The winter in 2009 was really rough with tons of snow and rain. And then the unthinkable happened – in January of 2010 we were “under water”. The garage was partway flooded, the driveway was totally under water, and we had 1/2″ water in our basement! We learned to use sump pumps in the basement and seal cracks in the floors, but knew that this was only a “band-aid” to solve the current water problem. We were truly frustrated and felt we were in over our heads with the house. Instead of spending our savings on “nice” renovations, we had to spend it on more foundational issues we did not count on (or budget)!

Garage under water

driveway under water

We called our contractor who had installed the gravel and tried to find a solution to our problem. We brainstormed from installing an in-ground rainwater tank (wetland issue?), installing pipes into the woods to pump water away from the house (too many ledges in the yard), to even building a garage in the back of the house (too expensive!). As we had the wetlands to think of, we hired an engineer who could help us find a solution that we could eventually implement.

In the end, we decided to grade part of the back-yard so the rainwater would flow naturally towards the woods, grade the driveway (in miniscule inches) away from the garage (as the bottom of the driveway is almost at the lowest point – this was truly a science), and add a trench at the end of the driveway (beginning of back-yard) to drain excess water. We had to inform all kinds of neighbors that we’ll make adjustments near the wetland area, show up in front of the conservation commission several times to state our case, and pay all kinds of fees of course. After some minor changes to the size/depth of the trench, we finally received approval to go ahead.

Our contracter was a fantastic guy who overcame all kinds of “roadblocks” such as several boulders and stubborn tree stumps to deliver a quality job. Tree stump 1My husband started to hack on this tree stump in summer time already – little by little he made it smaller but we needed the help of our contractor to finally remove one piece of the root.

Tree stump 2Tree stump 3Tree Stump 4

We also had several surpise boulders our contractor had to remove. We had the problem to find spots for these big rocks!

Boulder 1

Boulder 2

Boulder 3

Our contractor first started with the backyard grading and digging the trench:Grading back-yard 1

Digging Trench

Backyard grading 2

Backyard grading 3

Backyard grading 4

Before adding the asphalt, our contractor graded the driveway and added/removed gravel/dirt where needed.

Driveway 1Driveway asphalt 2

Trench digging 3driveway asphalt 3Garage asphalt

Driveway asphalt 3

The trench has gone through some transformation since it was built. Here is the version 9 month after the trench was dug (btw, behind the tree with the flowers starts the 50′ wetland area):

Trench 1

Here after Hurricane Irene (August 2011). Our children like to drive our boat in our little “pond” and to my absolute horror, love to splash in the brown water in summer time <ugh>!:

Trench 2

My husband had to dig the trench a bit deeper and added a small drainage & pipe from the driveway so the water would not accumulate so much on the asphalt.  Trench 4

To date (January 2013)  the water drains well into the trench and so far we have not had any flooding in our garage or basement. I am not sure if this is due to all the improvements we have made, or that we were lucky and have not had such a bad winter such as in 2009. We are hoping that we are done with all the drainage issues in our driveway and can focus on beautifying the rest of our home.

My only dilemma now is, WHAT are we going to do with this “hole in our backyard”?? In summer it’s very dry, in winter filled with water…. We welcome your ideas :).