The Most Necessary Part of Exterior Design

Exterior Designer Catherine Arensberg offers solutions to some of the most common drainage problems.

Drainage – how water flows from one place to another – is something none of us ever think about until it causes a problem. And even then, it’s a problem that gets neglected longer than any other problem on our property, but it’s the one that can cause the most costly damage. Here are some common drainage problems and well-designed solutions. Because despite how ugly drainage is, the design solution can be quite beautiful.


Problem: Gouging lawn or landscape bed
Water rushed off the roof and landed several feet out into the yard, creating a hard, gouged place where no grass would grow. 

A rain chain was installed at the roofline. The roof water now trickles down the beautiful rain chain and into a bucket of rocks at ground level. New sod was added and will fill in over time. Watch this episode to see it in action.

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Problem: Land Slide
This entire property slopes down from the street to the back yard fence, with a house and pool in the middle. Over the years, more and more earth has moved toward the back property line, creating a need for a design solution so the yard doesn’t eventually end up in the pool.

I’ve proposed terracing the back yard with two retaining walls with a simple planting design on top for ease of maintenance, including not having to cut grass on top of terraced areas. Drainage pipes behind the walls will help capture water and drain it around the pool and into the lower back portion of the yard.


Problem: Flooding House
Water ran off of the raised brick patio, off the small retaining wall, and pooled against the brick of the house, flooding the interior.

Solution: A new retaining wall was built, farther away from the house, and a new concrete patio was poured. The patio is sloped into the center, and the yard was graded so that the water flows out and around the house to the street on the front side of the property. Watch this before-and-after in action here.

While we usually don’t like to even think about our drainage problems, or how much they will cost to fix, consider it an insurance policy for the future of your property, home and contents. Tackle the issues now, and your wallet will thank you later!

Catherine Arensberg is an exterior designer who specializes in finding ways to create your ultimate outdoor space, no matter the budget. Browse more of her work here:

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