Hardscaping ideas for stormwater management

Stormwater runoff can be reduced through changes to your property’s hardscape and landscape.

It is a fact of nature that as pervious surfaces are reduced through development, there is more stormwater runoff. Each time a heavy rain event occurs, there are often reports of flooding. Flooding causes major property and environmental damages and can occur in many areas including streets, basements and golf courses. You might live in an area where there are concerns about flooding whenever storms are predicted.

To reduce potential damage from rainwater on your property, Michigan State University Extension (MSU Extension) suggests you do a full review of your hardscape as well as your landscape. A hardscape is defined as a “non-living or manmade fixture of a planned outdoor area.” This includes building, streets and sidewalks where the soil profile is no longer exposed to the Earth’s surface.

Can some paved surfaces be eliminated? Consider using alternatives to pavement such as gravel or wood chips for walking areas. Paver stones are porous (when not sealed) and make great patios, walkways and even driveways. Paver stones allow the rain to soak through into the ground below.

Is the outside water collection system in good condition? Check roofs, gutters and downspouts. Are they all properly connected to each other so rain water does not leak out through loose connections? Are the gutters attached securely, sloped properly (to the downspout) and free of debris? Are downspouts directed away from the house and toward grassy areas to allow stormwater to soak in rather than run into ditches or storm drains? Does the yard slope away from the house and garage to prevent it from pooling around the foundation causing possible damage?

For areas that cannot drain to landscaped areas, consider installing a rain barrel at that downspout to catch the rainwater. A rain barrel is a large container attached to the downspout. The rainwater runoff is collected in the barrel for later use for yard landscaping. For more information on rain barrels, see the MSU Extension article “Rain Barrels: Both Economical and Ecological.”

Do you have bare spots on your property? Areas with exposed soil allow stormwater to run off more quickly, carrying soil into storm ditches or sewers. Cover bare areas with grass, mulch or other plantings to prevent runoff and soil erosion.

Do you have a low spot on your property where rainwater collects? Consider planting a rain garden in this area. A rain garden is a low maintenance perennial garden designed to collect rainwater and hold it until it slowly soaks into the ground. For more information on rain garden plants, refer to the booklet “Landscaping for Water Quality.”  

By maintaining your property and adopting some new strategies, you can reduce stormwater problems on your property, in your community and in the environment.

Other places to find additional information on runoff control include the MSU Extension bookstore or your local MSU Extension office. You may also want to read the article “Home Site Assessments Protect Water Quality.”