I live in SE Michigan where the frost line is between 3 and 4 feet. I have a house with a basement I'd like to finish and would like to run the water as far away from the house as I can. Clay soil. However, while I have a decent lot of 1/2 acre, the available slope is minimal and there are no storm sewers or culverts in the lot where I can easily send water. Max drop over about 40 feet to the road is 2-3 feet at best. I was hoping to run the water about 20 feet away into a dry well, but most dry well discussion online puts them at least 3 or 4 feet tall, which puts total depth of the well at some 8 feet deep if the line entering it is 4 feet. My question is, do I need to run the whole line from start to finish at 4 feet deep, or if I get sufficient grade, can it finish (after a 20-30 foot run) at about 2-3 feet deep (i.e. water has a fast flow), with an opening to below the frost line, at 4-5 feet bottom. I'm trying to find a way to get the water away with minimal available grade.

This is roughly what I have to work with:

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3 Answers 3


While I do not know the regulations in Michigan, drainage pipe does not need to be below the frost line in Ohio.

The most common way to connect drainage lines is to send them to the street. This puts the pipe at curb level. At the street, the pipe is 2 to 3 inches below the ground. At the house, the pipe is maybe a foot underground. The frost line in northern Ohio is similar to Michigan.

As long as the pipe sloap is enough to clear the pipe of standing water, you should be ok.


Trapped water that freezes can expand and burst a pipe. With a drain pipe, the water flows out of it. Even if you get a little puddling at the bottom of the pipe, expansion doesn't really push against anything.

As long as you have even a little downward slope, the water will run out (it will run out even if the pipe is horizontal). Corrugated pipe could catch a little water in the grooves on the bottom, but not in a way where expansion from freezing could damage anything.


You should be just fine. NDS says all you need is 8” of soil over your dry well. Install a bleeder line off of the dry well in case it becomes full so water can run off. I’ve seen sump pump lines exit water even on the ground and they do just fine. Think you need a sub pump well, and use a sump pump with back flow preventer valve and pump the water out in your situation.

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