storm water problem for homeowner
My husband and I are homeowners in State College with a storm water problem. Our house sits on flat ground just below a small rise that leads to our neighbor's yard. When it rains—anything above a drizzle—storm water collects near the house and floods our back porch. Some of the water may be coming from our neighbor's downspout and we have asked him to direct the water away, which he has now done. We are waiting for the next storm to see if this helps. But we suspect we still need some way to deal with the water, since the area by the porch is a low spot. We think a possible solution could be a rain garden or a French drain, but we are not sure what the best solution is or how to decide the optimal location to put a rain garden or drain. We would love to get advice from a storm water expert. PHOTO: On the left, you can see our screened in porch, with side entrance and the low area just outside the door. During a rain, several inches of water collects in this area and the pressure of the water pops open the door and lets water into the porch. On the right, you can see the neighbor's downspout at the rear corner of his garage (and his newly added extension to divert his roof runoff away from our porch). You can also see the slight rise all along the property line that channels water into the low spot near our porch.
Centre County Pennsylvania
The soil in your yard looks compacted. When that happens, water can't penetrate very far into the soil, and it collects on the surface. Clay soil in particular becomes saturated quickly at the surface level, and clay is too dense to let water percolate through. I would try using a rototiller to break up at least a foot of the existing soil and then adding one third organic matter like peat moss to open the soil up. After that, cover the ground with undyed wood chip mulch.
If you find the soil compacted to a hard pan below a foot, I would break it up a bit to give the water a pathway down to the ground water below.
If you are still having trouble, you can install a French drain along your porch to keep water out of your house, but hopefully the soil will absorb all the rainfall going forward. Once your soil is nice and loose, consider planting the area while leaving a path for foot traffic.