Pop-Up Lawn Drain And Emitters 101: How Do They Work?

It is important to have proper drainage around your home to prevent excess water from causing damage.

Too much water will leave you with a soggy lawn and damage to your home’s foundation.

While almost every home has a gutter system installed, many homeowners will also install extensions to the downspouts to channel water away from their house.

Sometimes, these extensions do not move the water far enough away, and you still end up with issues.

One of the most effective ways to keep water away from your home is to install a surface drainage system, specifically a pop-up emitter.

But what exactly is a pop-up drain emitter?

A pop-up drain emitter is connected to a series of pipes buried underground in your yard. It is designed to collect excess water from your downspout and expel the water far away from your home to avoid damage to your soil or foundation.

While it may be costly to have a pop-up drain emitter installed in your yard, it will save you money in home and lawn repairs in the long run.

Not only is a pop-up drain emitter a good investment, but it is one of the most effective ways to keep water from destroying your home and lawn.

Read on to learn more about how pop-up drain emitters work and why you need one in your yard.

how does a lawn pop up drain work

How Does A Lawn Pop-Up Drain Work?

Lawn pop-up drains work by collecting water gathering near your foundation and running it down through a series of pipes farther away from your home. It uses hydrostatic pressure to get rid of water which may cause problems to your house. 

The downspout of your gutters will be connected to PVC pipes buried in your yard.

These pipes run several feet away from your home, and they are positioned downhill whenever possible.

At the end of the pipes is a drain, and it will pop up and emit the water over a larger surface far area away from your home.

The pop-up drain emitter is installed flush with the ground, barely noticeable.

The water in the pipes creates hydrostatic pressure whenever it rains, which forces the drain to open and expel the water.

For help setting up a drain trench, head over to our detailed article.

Why Are Lawn Drains and Emitters Important?

Drains and water emitters are essential for your lawn because they prevent any damage from excessive rainwater. A surface drainage system such as a pop-up drain emitter is more efficient at moving water away from your home than a typical gutter system.

Stormwater will easily wash away the dirt and soil in your garden, cause ruts and soggy spots on your lawn, and erode the soil away from your home’s foundation.

Without a drainage system in place, you may have to pay thousands of dollars to repair water damage to your home and your lawn.

Once your home’s foundation has been damaged, it is very challenging and costly to repair, and it affects the integrity of your entire house.

It may cost up to $5,000 to have a surface drainage system installed on your property, but the cost of fixing water damage could add up to a lot more.

If you notice water pooling around your drain spouts or soil erosion near your foundation, it is important not to delay getting these issues fixed.

Do Pop-Up Drains Clog?

do pop up drains clog

Pop-up drains are designed to keep small animals and debris from underground pipes. In theory, it is highly unlikely for your pop-up drain to clog as long as it has been installed correctly, but it is not completely impossible.

Traditional drain grates are easily clogged with rocks, dirt, and leaves.

If there is no steady water flow, it is more unlikely for a pop-up drain to get clogged because it stays closed most of the time.

However, if you do not have a gutter guard or a drain screen, leaves and other debris will be able to get into the underground pipes and clog them.

If your pop-up drain happens to become clogged, it may be easily fixed by removing the debris you can see and flushing out the pipes with water.

In addition to keeping your gutters and drain screens clean, ensure the lid on your pop-up drain emitter is closed when it is not in use.

A Few Clever Ways To Hide A Drain In Your Yard

While most pop-up drains sit flush with the ground, there may be instances where they are visibly noticeable. There are several methods of hiding the drain, including paint, fake rocks or pebbles, and growing taller grass.

It is not advisable to plant many flowers around the drain because they may be damaged when the drain pops up to release the water from the pipes.

Whatever you use to hide your pop-up drain, you need to ensure it does not interfere with the drain’s ability to open.

Perhaps the easiest method of hiding a pop-up drain is to paint it the same color as the grass around it.

Consider gluing a fake rock or small pebbles to the lid to camouflage the drain.

Be sure the fake rocks or pebbles are lightweight, so they do not prevent the drain lid from opening when it needs to.

If there is a lot of grass around the pop-up drain, find artificial turf to glue to the lid.

It may be tricky to find fake grass that matches your lawn’s natural grass, but it is always possible to paint it the same color, so it does not stick out.

If you have a taller grass type, it is pretty easy to hide the drain by allowing your grass to grow longer.

Of course, this is only a good solution during the spring and summer months, when the grass is growing.

You would likely have to find a different solution in the late fall and winter months when your grass is likely dormant.

For more ideas on disguising drainage ditches and drains, click to see our comprehensive list.

Do I Need A Pop-Up Drain Emitter?

It is important to evaluate your yard’s current drainage situation to decide if a pop-up drain emitter is right for you. If you have poorly draining soil, grading issues in your yard, or a flawed gutter system design, you will significantly benefit from installing a pop-up drain emitter.

Drainage systems are often overlooked until it rains and you suddenly notice a problem.

Poorly placed gutters will cause the mulch in your garden to be washed away by stormwater, and your plants may become damaged.

The most expensive problem with poor drainage issues is the damage the water will do to your foundation as the soil erodes.

If there is no soil to protect your foundation, your house may begin to shift, causing cracks to appear on your walls.

Installing a pop-up drain emitter will prevent these types of water issues and keep you from having to pay thousands of dollars in home repair.

The next time there is a rainstorm, observe the areas around your home.

The sooner you spot any problems, the better it will be for your yard, house, and budget.

How Deep Should Your Pop-Up Drain Be?

As a general rule, a pop-up drain is buried either a few inches below the soil line or as deep as 16″ inches. The entry point of the water needs to be buried around 2″ inches above the pop-up drain emitter to allow the water to flow through the pipes more easily.

How deep you bury your pop-up drain will depend on your landscape and specific drainage needs.

If you live in a colder climate where freezing temperatures are common, it is best to bury your pipe system deeper.

It is important to remember if you need to bury the pop-up drain very deep, it will take more water for the drain to work correctly.

In this case, you will want to make sure your pop-up drain is not fitted with an elbow attachment.

This elbow attachment helps install the emitter onto your drainpipe, but it will impede the flow of water and prevent the drain from popping up in certain situations.

Will A Pop-Up Drain Freeze?

If there is any standing water in the pipes of your pop-up drain system, it will freeze. There is usually a smaller drain below the pop-up emitter to drain extra water into the ground to prevent standing water from freezing.

If the ground is frozen, but the snow on your roof melts and flows into the drainage system, the water may freeze again in the pipes when the temperature drops at night.

This will only happen if there is not enough water flowing through the pipes to trigger the emitter.

The water in the pipes is not likely to be enough to burst them if it freezes.

Heat tape made for pipes may work to keep your drainage system from freezing in the winter.

Consider redirecting the flow from your downspout to prevent any water from flowing into the surface drainage system.

While redirecting the water is not ideal, it would prevent your system from being damaged by ice.

Once the weather gets warmer in the spring, you will be able to move the downspout back to the surface drainage system and resume using your pop-up emitter.

How Do You Clean A Pop-Up Drain Emitter?

clean pop up drain pipe

While pop-up drain emitters are rarely clogged due to their design, it may happen from time to time, and you will need to clean the system out. Cleaning the pop-up drain emitter involves removing debris and flushing the pipe out with water.

If there is a clog, it is usually at the gutter or entry drain.

You must first inspect the entry and exit points and remove any debris.

Then, you will use a hose to run water through the pipes to clean out any debris in the pipes.

Ensure the lid on your pop-up emitter is closing properly and there is no debris impeding it.

If the clog is in the middle of the pipe, it may be necessary to dig it up to remove the debris you are unable to reach.

Digging the pipe up is not ideal, but it is the only way to solve the problem.

It is better to unclog your surface drainage system than to deal with the damage caused by excess rainwater.

Commonly Asked Questions

Do pop-up yard drains work?

Pop-up lawn emitters effectively move excess water away from your home and lawn.

Unlike French drains and other types of drains, a pop-up emitter system is not out in the open, and it is almost entirely hidden.

Combined with gutter guards, it is rare for a surface drainage system to become clogged, and they are very low-maintenance once installed.

As long as the entry point is higher than the pop-up emitter, the water will flow freely through the system.

While they are sometimes expensive to install, a pop-up yard drain will offer a lot of protection to your home and property every time it rains.

Where should a pop-up drain be placed?

Ideally, the pop-up drain needs to be placed as far away from your home as possible without impeding someone else’s property.

For maximum effectiveness, the pop-up emitter will be at a minimum of 2″ inches lower than the drain inlet, which is usually where your downspout is located.

There needs to be at least a 2% slope for the drainage system to work correctly.

The steeper the incline, the better the water will flow.

It is always best to place the pop-up emitter in an area with no issues with pooling water to avoid oversaturating the ground.

It is often possible to place the drainage system to empty into the main street drain.

How do you extend a pop-up emitter?

If the pipe for your pop-up emitter is buried too deep into the ground, you will need to extend the height so the emitter sits at ground level.

Raising the height of your pop-up drain emitter is very simple to do by attaching what is known as a pop-up drain riser.

This PVC riser attaches to the bottom of the pop-up emitter and raises its height by 2″ inches.

If you need more height, stack the risers on top of each other until they are tall enough for the pop-up emitter to be at ground level.