Troubleshooting Checklist

If you are experiencing surface drainage issues, there are several things you can check to troubleshoot for potential causes.

Are there areas preventing surface water from draining away from structures?

Examine the ground adjacent to the dwelling, garage, sheds, and any other structures. If the ground does not slope away from building foundations, or if there are low spots identified, the homeowner must be prepared to regrade any areas of settlement to protect their property.

The settlement that occurs under concrete steps or decks should be backfilled and sloped to ensure positive drainage from the foundation wall.

The City of St. Albert follows the current industry standard by requiring a 10% slope away from the foundation in the area within 2 metres from the foundation, if possible, depending on approved lot design allowances or existing conditions in established neighbourhoods.

Are your eavestroughs (gutters) clear of debris and in good working condition to avoid overflow?

Eavestroughs should be inspected and cleaned regularly, especially in neighbourhoods with large trees. Ensure all eavestroughs are sized appropriately to convey roof surface water without overflowing.

Are downspouts or sump pump discharges extended away from the foundation and directed toward a drainage swale, culvert, or catch basin?

Downspouts/ sump pump discharge hoses should usually be pointed to the front of the lot except on properties designed with “split lot drainage.” Splash pads are recommended to direct flows and to help prevent erosion. Downspouts/ sump pump discharge hoses must terminate a minimum of 15 centimetres from the side property lines and a minimum of 2 metres from the public sidewalk, unless otherwise authorized.

Are window wells in good working condition?

Check to ensure all window wells are free of leaves and other debris to enhance drainage and functionality of the weeping tile system (if present).

The bottom of window wells should be set a minimum of 20 centimetres below the bottom of basement window sills. Rock installed in window wells should be finished a minimum of 10 centimetres below the bottom of the window sill.

Are swales between your property and adjacent lots properly sloped to direct water to the street or a rear swale?

If the common grass swale between properties has been blocked or altered over time, homeowners should work together with their neighbour(s) to re-establish a properly sloped swale along the shared property line(s). In some cases, this may not be possible depending on existing site conditions or other limitations. Homeowner(s) may need to create an internal swale on their own lot to convey surface drainage towards an approved surface drainage facility.

Illustration showing typical drainage patterns

Do you have a concrete swale on your property?

Maintaining a clear concrete drainage swale is imperative to facilitate the proper flow of surface water, especially during spring freeze/thaw temperatures and significant rain events.

Homeowners should ensure excess snow and ice are removed to protect all affected properties.

Concrete swales must not be covered, blocked, landscaped over, or have their drainage or access impeded in any way. Interfering with the intended drainage of a swale can cause water to pool on your property and adjacent lots. The area on either side of a concrete swale, typically located within a Utility Right-of-Way (URW), is designed to act as an overflow area. Landscaping mulch is not a suitable product within this overflow area as it easily washes into the swale, causing blockages.

As per the City’s Surface Drainage Bylaw, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to ensure that their grading is maintained on either side of a concrete swale within the URW. Natural ground settling adjacent to the concrete swale can prevent surface water from reaching the swale. This can undermine the structural integrity or functionality of the swale and/or cause drainage to be misdirected onto adjacent lots. As per City of St. Albert Engineering Standards, finished grade adjacent the swale may vary between 2% - 33%, but it must match the edge of the concrete swale and convey drainage into the swale channel.

If containing pets is a concern, products used over a drainage swale must be permeable and kept free of debris so that water can flow along the swale from lot-to-lot toward the catch basin.

Do you have sheds or other structures that may be interfering with proper drainage?

Rear sheds or other accessory buildings require a minimum 1-metre setback from property lines.

Side yard sheds or accessory buildings are required to have a minimum of 1.2 metres from the side property line and 1.5 metres from the dwelling.

Additionally, sheds and/or other structures should not be built within a utility right-of-way, unless otherwise authorized.

Are there landscaping improvements that may be impacting drainage?

Do you have landscaping borders or other features along the property lines? Some decorative features can block proper surface runoff along the property lines.

If gravel or rocks are placed directly onto the rough grade, you can create a place for water to pool. Landscaping rocks should be placed on a solid, properly sloped finished grade to minimize the possibility of pooling.

Rain barrels should have an overflow outlet near the top of the barrel with a drainage hose extension to direct extra water away from building foundations.

Are driveways located up to the property line?

Currently, the City of St. Albert requires driveways to have a minimum of 30 centimetres from the side property line to allow for drainage.

Driveways built prior to the adoption of the Surface Drainage Bylaw 14/2015 may not have the required setback but should be brought up to the current standard if replacing the driveway or if experiencing surface drainage issues.

If your drainage issue involves an adjacent property, have you communicated with your neighbour?

Ensuring proper drainage is in the best interest of all property owners.

Surface drainage concerns between private lots are often the result of grading/landscaping conditions on both properties. When making a complaint with the City, homeowners (including the affected complainant), must be prepared to modify their own lot grading. Any changes required on private lots would be the sole financial responsibility of the private property owner(s).


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Last edited: November 19, 2019