Help with a berm to keep neighbors water in neighbors yard!

Raleigh, NC

I have a situation! My neighbors are renters and don't seem to care much that there is a big drainage problem that originates on their land and seeps over to our property and gets as far as our foundation at times! What I propose to do is build a berm to keep the water from flooding my yard because thats what happens during even the lightest of rains. This area between our yards also never dries up. It's terrible. Other neighbors tell me there is a natural spring somewhere that is causing this issue. We have drainage installed but it's either not able to keep up or is not functional (I'm guessing it's a matter of functionality).

So, how to build a berm?! My main question is what goes under my dirt? I understand that I should be using some kind of rock, but how much and is it really required? I will be putting 'material' straight in water in some places, if that matters. Also, once this berm is done, what do I do to keep it from washing away, either from rain or the water on the neighbors yard?

Thanks for all your help! Any info is greatly appreciated.


Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I would recommend having your drainage system inspected first, if it was designed right and is functioning properly then you shouldn't be having a problem. If that's not affordable to fix and you still want to do the berm, I would check into your local regulations before you do anything but honestly drainage is the "right" solution, the berm just puts water in a different place but doesn't actually solve the problem. Here if you do something that changes how water naturally flows and it ends up that your neighbor gets more water on their property as a result (which sounds like what would happen here) you can get in big trouble. I don't know if that's just a California thing or if a lot of other states have rules like that too but I would definitely check on that before you do anything. And I would also talk to the owner of the property next door--renters typically aren't responsible at all for things like this so I'm not surprised that they don't want to do anything, but if there is some sort of problem over there that is causing water to wind up on your property then it is the owner's responsbility to fix it. But if it's a natural spring, or if it's just because of rain and the way the ground naturally slopes though then you may not be able to get much from them.

Raleigh, NC

thanks for the input. The problem definitely originates from the other property, and in a big way. There is a dip between our land but it ends up seeping onto my land. I will build a berm on my land to keep the water from entering my property. I realize it is not the renters problem. I tried to talk to the renters to see if they would talk to the owners of the house and they didn't care. The builder of my house also contacted the owners of the other property with zero result so I feel the only next step is a berm!

As for the drainage, it is cheap and not sloped properly. Even if I spent the time to dig it up and lower the tubing (which is what needs done) it still wouldn't flow properly because the beginning of the drain is up too high so the water stands around it. There is simply TOO MUCH WATER and it's a matter of slope from the neighbors land to our land with a nice reservoir in between that never dries. It's a mess here. The builder really dropped the ball on drainage installation. I mentioned it to him and he said something about 8 hours of drain time... bla bla bla. It came down to him not fixing his crappy work.

As an end note, I don't have the money to hire anyone to do this. I'm just looking for pointers on the above questions so if you know anything about berm building, please let me know!!


Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I would still check around what your local regulations are on diverting water...the way it works here is if you're downhill from a neighbor and gravity takes the water onto your property you can't blame them for it, but if you do something to change how the water would naturally flow and it results in more water on their property then you can get in trouble. If NC has laws like that too then your berm could get you in trouble since it's going to result in more water in your neighbor's yard. If the source of the water is their fault (like a broken pipe, leaking faucet, downspout diverted toward your property) then you probably wouldn't get in trouble over it, but if it's Mother Nature generating the water and it's gravity's fault that it winds up in your yard then it's really in your best interest to understand what the laws are before you do anything. I don't know anything about berm building so I'll let someone else advise you on that if it is OK for you to build one there.

Raleigh, NC

Thank you for making me aware that there could be laws pertaining to my situation. I honestly had not considered that. I will check before I build the berm!

Bartlett, TN(Zone 7b)

Desi - Sorry I can't help but I can totally sympathize with you.
The people behind me have a huge in ground pool and every single year they drain and drain and drain some more. Do they not realize they are flooding me!? Where do they think all that water is going???Last year I knocked on their door - no one was home, but I left a note saying...."Can you please put your draining hose out towards the street? My yard is flooded!" It has not happened since, but geez!

I really hope you get your situation fixed. I certainly know it's no fun.

Raleigh, NC

I'm mostly mad at the builder who 'addressed' these issues by putting in the cheapest, least functional materials that took the least amount of work to install just so he could say it was there. Now I have some cheap system that doesn't even work! I'm glad you got your neighbors straightened out. It just shows how inconsiderate some people are: not noticing that they are saving their own yard at the expense of yours!

Waterman, IL(Zone 5a)

Putting in a berm can be quite costly for the materials. Many truck loads of stone and soil. Then you have to purchase plants to keep it from washing away. If you just plant grass on it you'll have a bugger of a time keeping it mowed. You may also be in violation of city or county codes. My cousin was fined $5k for building a berm along the front of his property without "official" permission. Have you considered a french drain?

Raleigh, NC

I appreciate your concern, as I have with previous posts. I have considered the repercussions of my actions thanks to (again) previous posts that have drawn attention to the fact that damming up water on a neighbors yard may be in violation of city codes. Despite how that may sound, I have come to my decision by much thought and forward looking. The water that originates in the neighbors yard is in large quantities meaning it spans about 20 feet into their yard and about 6 inches deep in places and as a result of precipitation, floods to the foundation of my house and into my front yard. If I dig 1/2-1 foot down into the ground anywhere in my yard, I reach standing water. So, I propose to build a 'gentle incline' between me and my neighbors yard. I don't know if maybe berm is the incorrect terminology but all I want to do is mark the boundary line between us and them with a slightly elevated region of dirt as to make a more hospitable location for plant life (specifically trees)! I understand this may be costly, and I'm fine with that. With that said:

(1) What goes under my dirt? I understand that I should be using some kind of rock, but how much and is it really required?

(2) I will be putting 'material' straight in water in some places, if that matters. Once the 'berm' is done, what do I do to keep it from washing away, either from rain or the water on the neighbors yard?

Thanks for everyones input!!

Minnetonka, MN

I don't have personal experience, so I did a quick google search for "building a berm" and got many results. This one caught my eye: I live in Minnesota and our Univ of MN extension is an excellent resource for all gardening/landscaping things. You are in a different zone, but I don't think that will matter for berm-building.

You might consider combining your incline with a rain garden. This is NOT a wetland. A rain garden is specifically designed to collect storm run-off and be dry within 24 hours. The top or the middle of an incline is the perfect place. You could try it on the neighbor-side of the incline to capture water before it spills over the top. I have not tried it yet, I am in the planning stage so I've been paying close attention. It looks a little tricky. To keep it from being a wetland you need to make sure it is the right depth, make sure it drains in 24 hours and make sure excess water can drain out of it. There are several books that give detailed instructions. I have "The Blue Thumb Guide to Raingardens". It is for the upper midwest, but that doesn't matter except for plant selection.

I did another quick google search on "rain gardens north carolina" and it looks like you have great resources.

Even if you don't do a "Rain Garden", take a look at the type of Rain Garden plants that they recommend for your area. You will need top plant on top of your berm so it doesn't wash away. They tend to recommend plants that like water and have roots that run deep - both things would be helpful on top of your berm.

Minnetonka, MN

My links don't seem to go the right spot. Here is what I sent.
All are "www" then type in the following

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Most of your links work fine--the problem with your very first one is that you put a period immediately after the hyperlink, when you do this it interprets the period as being part of your hyperlink when it really shouldn't be. If you go back to your post and take out the period or put a space between it and the hyperlink then I think it'll work fine.

Portland, OR(Zone 8a)

Desi, I fell your pain, I used to work at a nursery about 10 years ago. So often customers would come in looking for a solution to outdoor area that the builder had installed. What I learned is that many builders who do only minimal work to outside (not all, there are consciencious builders too). In the long run, it's best to hire a good desiner or landscape architect and think of it as part of the cost of having a new home. I can't tell you how many times a customer would say ...I wish I would' hind sight.


Waterford, WI

We have two neighbors who have redirected water to our property. One brought in fill and sloped his whole back yard towards our property without using a swell. The other neighbor has all of the sub pump water and downspout water directed from one side of his house to the other and then piped directly down to our yard. He has at least three big pipes buried under his back yard coming out just before our property. So we are building a berm in the woods around the back of our property where the neighbors water is directed. We are building it with grass clippings, twigs, and leaves. At least it will keep the fast flowing flash flood waters from flowing down.

This message was edited Aug 9, 2017 5:09 PM

Honolulu, HI

Desijoy, Just moved to S. Carolina and I have a similar problem. I live about midway down a street that slopes downhill so I get wet areas in my backyard from, I'm assuming, the "uphill" properties - to the point that my backyard at one end espec. is always wet, mossy, and weedy. I thought about a French drain but that's costly and I don't think there's enough of a slope to actually drain the water. I usually don't have standing water like you unless there's a heavy rain, but it's enough that it's always wet back there so mosquitos etc. and the space can't be enjoyed. I was wondering if there's any kind of small tree or shrub that I could plant there that would enjoy/utilize the damp soil rather than trying to spend a lot of $$$ on drainage projects--and then maybe move some paving stones over the top of the mossy areas (which are currently right beside the area). I don't plan to be here for a long time. Any thoughts/experiences would be appreciated.

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