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Why Your Yard Has Standing Water, And How To Remove It

We hear it every single summer: warnings from the government about the importance of removing standing water pools from your yard. Standing water can attract mosquitoes, ruin the yard, and bring other pests to your home. 

Why does your yard have standing water, and how do you remove it? Standing water happens when dips in surfaces cause water to collect and pile up in certain areas of your yard. Removing it can require resurfacing your lawn, reducing the number of places where water can congregate, or installing a water drainage system. 

Standing water can pose a serious health risk to your family and your neighbors. This guide will tell you everything you need to know in order to remove the standing water in your yard and keep your family safe. 

Why Your Yard Could Have Standing Water

Your yard can get standing water from a wide range of different reasons, including:

  • Birdbaths
  • Wheelbarrows
  • Dips In Your Lawn
  • Depressions
  • Uneven Terrain
  • Pools
  • Drainage Issues
  • Debris
  • Heavy Rain

Figuring out how to get rid of those standing water pools involves working backwards and figuring how to get rid of the cause. This guide is here to help!

Why Is Standing Water So Bad?

Standing water doesn’t seem like a big issue at first, but when you think of all the different things that come with standing water, it becomes a serious issue. Standing water becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes, regardless of where the water may be.

If the standing water is on soil, mosquitoes won’t be your only problem. Standing water can cause muddy spots on your lawn, make soil unstable, and also become the main reason of muddy tracks in your home.

Floodwater and standing waters can be dangerous and can make you vulnerable to infectious diseases, chemical hazards, and injuries. Protect yourself and your loved ones from the risks brought by floodwater. (source)

In recent years, the CDC has sent out advisories to homeowners, warning them of the dangers of standing water. Getting rid of standing water is one of the only ways to curb the spread of pests that carry diseases like West Nile, Zika, and malaria.

Standing water near the foundation of your home is the leading cause of leaks in a basement. The water drains along the side of your basement walls, and when it freezes, the water will expand and could crack your foundation or basement walls.

Here’s a good video that explains how stagnant water breeds mosquitoes to give you a better idea of how that works.

Do You Need To Get Rid Of Stagnant Water Immediately?

It all depends on how bad the situation is. If you recently had a small bout of rain that caused water to collect in small gaps, chances are that you can let it air dry. Technically, that’s not actually standing water; it’s just rainfall that has collected.

Standing water is defined as water that has remained stagnant for days or even weeks. It’s something that is just sitting there, unable to fully evaporate, for one reason or another. If you notice standing water in your yard, it’s best to combat the issue as soon as you can.

How To Tell If You Have Stagnant Water In Your Yard

The easiest way to see if you have stagnant water is to do a cursory search for pools of water that are just sitting on their own. Puddles are the most common form of standing water you’ll find, but at times, there might be other indicators that are a little more subtle. These include:

  • Mud patches. Mud patches often indicate that there are portions of your lawn that contain standing water after heavy rainfall or floods. 
  • Increased mosquito activity. Mosquitos breed in pools of stagnant water. If you find yourself surrounded by more mosquitos than usual, it could be that you have a hidden source of standing water.
  • Flood ponds. If a portion of your lawn always floods during a rainy moment, chances are there are other parts of your lawn suffering from standing water.
  • Increased dragonfly activity. Dragonflies might look pretty, but they are not a good sign for your water levels. Much like mosquitos, dragonflies need standing water to multiply.
  • Sick pets. Many pests that contain parasites like roundworm make their homes in standing water. If you recently had a pet get diagnosed with worms, it could be due to standing water in your yard.

Can You Get Penalized For Having Stagnant Water In Your Yard?

On a federal level or a state level, the answer is no. There aren’t any state laws requiring homeowners to get rid of standing water. However, there is a catch. Many local municipalities and Homeowners’ Associations have rules regarding stagnant water. 

If you’re concerned about getting penalized for standing water in your yard, it’s best to ask your local HOA or look up municipal laws regarding it. Or, simply get rid of it before it becomes problematic enough to draw attention. It is better to be safe than sorry in most situations. 

Cause #1: Birdbaths

Birds adore having baths in nice little dishes, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for the environment. Standing birdbaths are a common source of standing water, which can breed anything from mosquitos to flies. 

How To Get Rid Of Standing Water In A Birdbath

This is actually a fairly easy fix, since getting rid of the birdbath is what you will need to do. Of course, this means that having bathing birds in your backyard might not be doable through traditional means. 

Thankfully, there are some other ways you can still keep birds happy near your home. These include:

  • Having a fountain instead. As long as the water is not immobile, birds are welcome to bathe.
  • Having a birdfeeder. Birds need to eat, too. 
  • Having a birdhouse. Birdhouses are just as attractive as they are functional. 
  • Regularly changing the birdbath. If you insist on keeping your birdbath, the other solution to consider would be regularly changing the water in it. Once every three days is enough.
  • Consider getting a koi pond instead. Koi ponds require a lot of water circulation, which makes them a great option for homeowners who want a little wildlife without the potential health risks of a birdbath.

Cause #2: Lawn Equipment

Sometimes, lawn equipment can be a major source of standing water in a home. Water can pool in lawn equipment that’s left outside after a storm. In most cases, this is due to wheelbarrows left out on the open, or water pooling in tarps covering equipment. 

Most people don’t realize how much water can pool in their lawn equipment! In most cases, the standing water will evaporate relatively quickly and will not be a matter of concern. However, if you had a particularly bad flood, the standing water might not evaporate entirely on its own.

How To Get Rid Of Standing Water In Lawn Equipment

This is a (thankfully) easy fix. Storing lawn equipment in a shed and overturning wheelbarrows is all you need to do in order to make sure that standing water doesn’t accumulate in your yard. It’s that simple!

It’s worth noting that lawn equipment doesn’t usually acquire large amounts of standing water unless you live in an area that’s known for being rainy. During drier seasons, there’s a chance that you’ll be totally fine with keeping your equipment out in the open.

Cause #3: Uneven Lawns

Uneven lawns come in a wide variety of different forms. They can be lush with muddy patches. They can be hilly with deep crevices. Some also might have uneven lawn coloring, or just have problems growing grass evenly. 

No matter the appearance, one thing is clear. Muddy, uneven lawns are a common (and natural) place for standing water to congregate after a storm. They also are nature’s way of indicating serious waterflow drainage issues that exacerbate standing water problems in a yard.

Uneven Lawns: Diagnostics

This is a little trickier than just overturning a wheelbarrow or getting a fountain. Uneven lawns can be caused by a wide range of things, including:

  • Extreme Rainfall. Heavy rain, flooding, and other forms of inclement weather can cause your lawn to have pits. 
  • Bad Soil. Soil that’s high in clay won’t be able to drain rainwater as well as soil that’s high in loam. This can exacerbate problems brought on by extremely rainy weather.
  • Lawn Thatching. If your lawn has a lot of thatching or poorly aerated soil, it can cause water to get stuck in puddles. This makes standing water far more likely.
  • Low Spots. Sometimes, lawns will have natural dips due to hilly terrain. Those dips can act as natural troughs for standing water after a storm.

Take a look at your lawn and try to determine what the cause of your standing water issue is. Once you determine the initial cause of the standing water, you’re going to be able to treat it. Here are some tips on treating the most common causes.

Treating Extreme Rainfall

To a point, there’s not that much you can do if you live in an area that regularly gets heavy rainfall. Puddles are going to be a part of your daily life. In many parts of the world, areas with extreme rain levels will have built-in drainage areas that help get rid of the water flooding in from rain.

There are three main fixes you can consider when dealing with climate-related water issues:

  • Adding drainage ramps to your lawn. By giving rain a place to drain into, your lawn will be unlikely to have standing water.
  • Soil replacement or mulching. If your soil is high in clay or highly compact, heavy rainfall will worsen the chance of standing water. Adding mulch or topping your soil with extra loam can help absorb the runoff while giving your plants a better chance at life.
  • Planting more trees and shrubs. Studies show that trees and other plants help absorb rainwater faster, which in turn reduces stagnant water from pooling in areas. A little gardening might be what you need to do.

Bad Soil

Not all soil is equal. Soil that is heavily compacted or high in clay will not be able to absorb water the way loamy soil would. This causes higher rates of mud puddles, which causes your lawn to die out. 

When it comes to having soil issues, it’s often best to resurface your lawn using loamy soil and replant your lawn using flats of grass. The sooner you replace (or at least mix up) the soil in your yard, the better off your yard will be.

Here’s a video explaining how to mix up your soil and improve the drainage of your lawn.

Lawn Thatching

Lawn thatching is not a term many outside the lawncare industry know, but it’s one that should be more widespread. This term deals with the tendency of dead grass to knot and twist underneath a lawn’s surface. 

Lawn thatching has a way of trapping moisture in the soil without actually giving it a way to drain. This eventually causes muddy patches and stagnant water that isn’t always immediately visible. 

If you have an issue with your lawn’s thatching, the best thing you can do is try core aeration. This can be done using a lawn unthatcher, a hoe, or an aerator. I have a de-thatching blade that I put on my lawn mower and do a quick pass over the grass at the beginning of spring every year. Here’s the De-Thatching Blade (link to Amazon) I use, you can also rent a de-thatcher from most home improvement stores.

Low Spots

Does your lawn naturally have an area that dips low between two hills? If so, that low spot probably is what’s causing pools of water to congregate on your lawn. Fixing low spots is more involved than a typical lawn issue would be.

To get rid of pools caused by low spots, you will need to find a way to get drainage going. This can be done by creating a French drain, or by actually placing a concrete trough that leads to the side of your curb, near a drain.

I wrote an article explaining step by step How To Install A French Drain in case that’s the route you want to take. The job should take most people one day or less, possibly a weekend if you take your time with it.

Bad Drainage

When it rains, water has to go somewhere, otherwise, it’ll become standing water. When a lawn doesn’t have a place for water runoff to go after a storm, you’re going to have issues with water drainage. 

Water drainage problems can be fixed through the following methods:

  • Getting a French drain. This is ideal if you have a river or gutter that rain can get directed to. French drains are simply drainage pipes that are surrounded by gravel that eventually run into a drainage ditch, gutter, or curb. This article will show you How To Install A French Drain.
  • Installing a concrete trough to drain out water. You don’t always need a pipe to carry away water. Sometimes just adding a special trough on a hill will be enough to guide runoff adequately. 
  • Installing a creek bed. Erosion can also cause serious drainage problems, too. If you have been noticing erosion issues near a creek, adding a new creek bed can fix things.
  • Adding piping underneath your sidewalk. Some sidewalks can act as dams that prevent runoff from hitting the drain. If you believe this may be the case, installing some piping under your sidewalk can be helpful.

Here’s a helpful video showing a couple tips about creating better drainage in a yard.

Cause #3: Pools

Ah, the relaxing experience of enjoying a dip in your backyard’s pool! Is there anything better? Though your pool might make your home the hottest place on the block during summers, it still remains a leading cause of stagnant water.

Pools typically cause stagnant water in two different ways, The most common way it happens is due to leaving the pool uncovered or only partially drained. The other common cause of stagnant water in pools is water that builds up over a tarp after heavy storms.

How To Get Rid Of Standing Water In Drained Pools

Pools are great at holding water. That’s why we have them, right? The problem comes when drained pools get rain caught in them. This can lead to pool structure problems, mosquitos, and even pool infestations. 

The best way to fix this issue is to ensure that your pool is completely drained during each season, to keep your pool cleaned, and to have a well-fitting pool cover that prevents water from getting in. Truth be told, this should be standard pool maintenance. 

A well-maintained pool is a pool that won’t cause a health risk. If you have a defunct pool or a pool that has a leak, treating stagnant water issues will take extra steps to solve.

What To Do With A Defunct Pool

Let’s say that you got tired of your pool, or that your pool began to be more of a burden than it was a joy. This happens, and when it does, some pool owners simply let the pool fall into a state of neglect. 

This isn’t a smart thing to do, especially if you’re concerned about property values. A pool that’s defunct, and no longer in use, is a pool that should be filled in or otherwise removed from the property. 

Keeping your pool open to the air is a fast way to make standing water far more dangerous, especially if you’re not maintaining the land nearby. For everyone’s sake, remove, replace, or fill the pool if you no longer can use it. 

What To Do With A Pool Leak

A leaking pool can do just as much damage as an open, dried pool, when it comes to stagnant water. When your standing water is caused by a leak, the water seeps into nearby soil, which can cause compaction and dips in your soil. 

Telltale signs of a leaky pool being the cause of your stagnant water include:

  • Noticeable cracks or tears in the pool. If you can see the holes, it’s clear you’ve got a leak. 
  • Missing water. Does the pool never seem to stay entirely full? It could be a leak in the plumbing, or could be a sign that your pool has a small crack in it that causes leaks.
  • A muddy patch that never seems to go away. If the patch lines up with pool plumbing, chances are that you have a leak in the piping that keeps your water in there. 
  • Standing water near your pool, despite dry weather. The water has to come from somewhere. If this is happening around your lawn frequently, it could be due to an unseen pool leak. 

If you have a leaking pool, you are going to have to find the source of the leak and fix it. With above-ground pools, this may be a DIY project. However, if it involves an in-ground pool with specialized plumbing, calling a trained professional is advisable. 

How To Get Rid Of Standing Water In Pool Covers

Not long ago, pool covers were universally known as large blue tarps stretched over the edges of the pool. This is no longer the case, though “floppy” pool covers still exist. If you use a loose tarp on your pool, water will always pool in the middle of the tarp when rain occurs. 

An easy fix is to get a flatter, firmer pool cover for your pool. If you decide to keep your tarp, make a point of lifting the tarp after a long rain in order to reduce the amount of standing water it collects. 

Isn’t Pool Water Standing Water?

Pools are meant to contain water, and it’s not like that water is meant to keep flowing in most cases. So, what’s the deal with stagnant water in pools? Isn’t it all stagnant water?

Stagnant water refers to water that is not cleaned, not chlorinated, and prone to bacterial infections. Stagnant water is dirty water, water that is prone to causing infestations from pests.

Knowing this difference is crucial. Keeping your pool water well-maintained is vital to avoiding typical problems caused by stagnant water. 

Cause #4: Plumbing Drainage Problems

Sometimes, standing water can be caused by plumbing or sewage drainage issues in your home. When a drainage issue occurs, water and/or sewage that would normally stay in tanks or travel through plumbing ends up seeping into your yard. In many cases, this results in standing water.

Determining whether or not you have a drainage problem can be difficult. These signs below indicate that drainage is the reason for your standing water issues:

  • Your lawn is constantly wet, regardless of the weather. Your lawn can’t stay wet without a source of water. If you regularly find puddles on your lawn during dry weeks, it’s almost certainly a drainage issue. 
  • You’ve experienced plumbing issues at home. If your water turns brown or yellow in the faucet, this could indicate that your plumbing has a leak seeping into the yard. 
  • There’s a smell of sewage that lingers around your yard. This suggests that your standing water is caused by a septic tank leak that compacted soil. 
  • Your basement has started to flood on a regular basis. Basement flooding is a surefire sign of serious drainage issues. Who’s to say that the issue wouldn’t spread to your yard, too? 

Plumbing Drainage Problems

There’s no quick fix to standing water caused by plumbing issues in and around your house. The only way to ensure that your yard stops flooding is to call in a professional to fix the problem. Check out HomeAdvisor Plumbing to find top rated local plumbers.

Out of all the causes for standing water, this one is the most expensive to deal with. Depending on the repairs needed, it can cost anywhere from several thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. 

When Should You Call For Professional Help?

In most cases, getting rid of standing water can be done by yourself—especially when the cause involves replacing items in your yard or doing proper maintenance. If you’re a fan of doing lawn work, this could be a great way to save money on professional work. 

Not all causes of standing water can be solved with a DIY approach, nor should everyone attempt DIY work. These signs below are good indicators that a professional will be the best approach:

  • You can’t figure out why your lawn has standing water. You can’t fix a problem without knowing the cause. If you are unable to determine the cause of your lawn’s standing water, you are going to need to discuss the matter with landscapers. 
  • The problem in question would take more hours than you can afford to work on it. Not everyone has time to fix things in their yard. Busy individuals would be wise to hire a professional to do it. 
  • The problem in question deals with plumbing or septic tank drainage. If the cause of your problem is plumbing-related, doing it yourself will often worsen the problem. Plumbing and septic tank issues are severe issues, and should only be handled by someone who is trained to do so. Besides, good contractors will warranty their work.
  • You don’t have the tools or the manpower to make it happen. Not all easy jobs are doable by one person, nor is it always easy to find the supplies you need to complete them correctly.
  • It’s pretty obvious there’s a complex drainage issue involved. If you need to install piping that cuts through sidewalk concrete or involves similarly complicated procedures, professional teams are a must.
  • Your local laws require paperwork for the solution that you need. Most laws that involve paper permission for construction or repair purposes won’t allow homeowners to perform the repairs on their own. If this is the case in your area, you may need to call a professional team to avoid a fine.

If you do decide that you’d like a professional to have a look at your problem, I suggest using HomeAdvisor Landscaping to find a quality local professional to help you out.

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