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How to Install a Channel Drain

This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook helps a homeowner solve a driveway drainage dilemma

In this video, This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook helps a homeowner solve a driveway drainage dilemma.

Installing a channel drain

  1. Mark a straight cutline across the corner of the driveway to indicate the position of the channel drain.
  2. Cut through the asphalt with a water-cooled circular saw fitted with a diamond-impregnated blade.
  3. Pry up and remove the severed piece of asphalt with a shovel.
  4. Use a small sledgehammer and brick-set chisel to chop out any rocks along the edge of the just-cut driveway.
  5. Dig a 6-inch-deep trench along the end of the driveway. Shovel the excavated dirt into a wheelbarrow.
  6. Glue an offset outlet and a 90-degree elbow onto one end of the channel drain.
  7. Glue a short section of 4-inch-diameter plastic pipe and a 45-degree elbow onto the 90-degree elbow.
  8. Glue an end cap onto the opposite end of the channel drain.
  9. Mix up a bag of concrete in the wheelbarrow.
  10. Fill the trench with wet concrete. Smooth the concrete with a pointed brick trowel.
  11. Press the channel drain down into the concrete, then check it with a level to ensure it's sloping slightly toward the drainpipe. Tap down the drain with a rubber mallet.
  12. Use the trowel to spread an angled wedge of concrete against the back of the drain.
  13. Dig a 12-inch-deep trench out from the channel drain and across the yard.
  14. Use a reciprocating saw to cut plastic pipe to extend from the drain along the trench. Glue the pipe and fittings together.
  15. Check the drainpipe with a level to make sure it's pitched down and away from the driveway.
  16. Backfill the trench with soil to conceal the drainpipe.
  17. Line the end of the drainpipe with flat stones to deter erosion.
  18. Sprinkle some asphalt cold patch between the channel drain and the driveway.
  19. Compact the patch with the small sledgehammer, then add more asphalt and compact it again. Repeat until the patch is flush with the surface of the driveway.
  20. Plant grass seed along the backfilled trench.


If you have a lot of driveway to remove, consider renting a walk behind concrete saw.