How To Divert An Underground Spring (Step-by-Step Guide)

Sean Jarvis
by Sean Jarvis
Your property may rest upon a natural, underground spring. Diverting an underground spring is often necessary in order to protect your foundation. Follow along as we explore how you can divert an underground spring using a French drain.

Springs occur when water pressure causes the flow of groundwater to rise to the surface. The water finds gaps in depressions, fractures, or rock faults, and pushes its way up.

A collection of natural spring water is a good place to rest and relax, swim and cool off, and otherwise enjoy a hot day. The problem is that the groundwater traveling from the spring could end up causing issues for your home.

To divert an underground spring you will need to create a french drain to draw water away from the spring. Before digging, call your utility company to map your buried utility lines. Then, dig a sloped trench around your property and fill it with a base layer of gravel, and several inches of course sand.

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Spring Water and Aquifers

Spring water comes from aquifers, which are a porous deposit of rock, usually sandstone, that contain water. When an aquifer is filled to the point that water overflows onto the land surface, a spring appears. An aquifer is similar to a sponge, in that once enough water has saturated the limestone, sandshell, or sandstone, it will overflow.

As beautiful and useful as a spring can be, they can also cause flooding in your yard or basement during heavy rainstorms. To stop this from happening, you can install a subsurface linear French drain. This will capture and divert the water before it becomes a problem for your property.

Detecting an Underground Spring

To detect a spring involves observing indicators around the area and conducting a physical examination of the property. If your grass or soil is constantly wet, even when the areas surrounding it are dry, you may have an underground spring.

If the surface of the area feels soft or springy, that is a good indication that it is oversaturated. This over-saturation is usually the first sign of there being an underground spring. It may either feel like walking on a sponge, or the ground is muddy with pools of water without any other natural explanations.

Unusual growths of vegetation, including grass, weeds, and shrubs, that are growing in an otherwise dry area, is a good indicator. A small spring can provide enough water to sustain plant life and this shows on the surface, with areas of lush greenery.

Remove the standing water with a shovel and dig a few inches into the ground. Watch for water seeping back into the area, if this happens then there is an abundance of water in the area.

Locate and examine underground water pipes, wells, and holding tanks. Make sure that they are not damaged and that everything is running as it should, to rule them out as the possible source of water.

Diverting an Underground Spring

Diverting a spring is something that can be done by most homeowners, as it is not technically difficult. With a little bit of planning and the right tools, you can divert underground springs yourself and save you the money and hassle from having someone else do it for you.

Tools You Will Need:

  • Powered Trencher
  • Trenching Shovel
  • Gravel (1/2” t0 1 ½” wide)
  • Perforated Drainpipe (optional)
  • Straw (for use with perforated Drainpipe)

Step 1: Call The Utility Company

The first step will be to call your utility company to have them come out and mark underground utility lines. If you don’t do this, you run the risk of digging into and severing various lines, as well as injuring yourself. This is a costly mistake and one that should be avoided at all costs.

Step 2: Identify Natural Slope

Find a place where there is a natural slope. With the help of gravity, this will create a natural pathway for the groundwater to flow and make it easier to divert. You will want this to be an area of lower ground, flowing away from your home’s foundation.

Step 3: Dig a Trench

Once you have mapped out your utility lines and found a spot, dig a trench that is 2’ wide and 6” deep. For this, you should use a powered trencher, which is a piece of earthmoving equipment that uses a metal chain with teeth to rip into the ground. Much like a chainsaw, the high-strength steel will tear through the soil and any roots that are in the way.

You will want the trench to wrap around your home, which will take the water around your property and flow past the foundation instead of through it.

Step 4: Clean Out Trench

Using a trenching shovel, scoop out any excess soil that is in the trench. You want to make sure that the trench is uniform and clean of debris. To keep your French drain free of dirt, tree roots, and silt, line it with a weed barrier. This is a fabric filter that stops plants and dirt from getting through it, keeping your trench clean. Do watch how this is done, click the video below.

Step 5: Spread Gravel

Next, you will want to spread gravel throughout the trench. The best-sized gravel for drainage is typically ½” to 1 1/2” across. The larger it is, the better the water flow and less chance of clogs and blockages. Filling it one-third of the way if using a perforated pipe and if not, two-thirds of the way.

Gravel acts as an underground waterway for the flowing water, guiding it where you want it to go. Smaller pea gravel will not suffice for sufficient water flow, so make sure that you get a larger size rather than smaller. You also want to opt for washed varieties, as fine dust and other particles may hinder the water flow.

If using a perforated pipe you will lay that on top of the gravel and then cover the pipe completely with more gravel. The pipe should be facing downwards so that the water can escape freely through it, through the gravel, and back into the earth.

Step 6: Add Gravel

If using a perforated pipe, you will place a 6” layer of straw on top of the gravel to act as a silt filter for the drain. Add another layer of gravel and then move on to the sand.

If you are not using a perforated pipe, then after laying the gravel you will want to cover that in a coarse sand, a few inches deep.

Step 7: Hiding the Drain

If aren’t trying to hide the drain, you can add decorative rocks to the top which will go well with the sand. This will make it easier to find the drain later if you need to make any adjustments or do an inspection to make sure it is working correctly.

If you want to hide the drain, you can seed new grass or lay sod. For new grass, cover the sand with the dirt that you dug out using the trench shovel, then plant your grass seeds. For sod, place a layer of weed barrier cloth on top of the sand, the lay the sod.

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Related Questions

Can a Natural Spring Dry Up?

Yes, springs can dry up depending on the environment. Some springs are only there because of an overabundance of water; therefore, you will only see them during the rainy season. Others can disappear during periods of droughts or if there is earthquake activity.

Can Water Come Up Through Foundation?

Groundwater can saturate the soil around your foundation and leak in through cracks or porous concrete. The best way to reduce the risk of this is by installing a French drain system around the foundation of the home.To test if it is indoor humidity or moisture leaking through the walls, tape aluminum foil to your basement wall. Inspect this a few days later and if the moisture is on the outside, it’s from interior humidity. If the water is between the foil and the wall, it means that the wall is saturated.

What is the Best Pipe for a French Drain?

The most common pipe material used to create a French drain is plastic. This is due to the durability and lightweight nature. Corrugated pipe is flexible, which is great if you are making a lot of turns with your French Drain. PVC is more rigid but offers better strength and durability.

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Sean Jarvis
Sean Jarvis

Sean Jarvis is an interior decorator, writer, and expert handyman. Well versed in everything home improvement, he is a savant at manipulating words and spaces and upgrading everything around him. Sean specializes in writing concise guides about appliance repair and installation, home and lifestyle, and other residential projects.

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