Agricultural drains are designed to improve subsurface soil drainage, increase soil aeration, lower high water tables, and enable faster soil drying, especially in spring. Although these artificial subsurface drainage systems do many good things for residential and commercial properties, they can also cause damage.

When an agricultural drain is not installed correctly, it can harm the structure it was intended to protect. If your home or building has an agricultural drain, you’ll want to keep a close eye on it to identify signs indicating a problem that could damage your foundation. 

Read on to learn what agricultural drains are, how they work, how they can damage homes and buildings, and what you can do if you think you have a problem

What Is an Agricultural Drain?

An agricultural drain consists of a trench containing a perforated pipe that is backfilled with sand or rocks. This type of drain may also be called an ag pipe, ag line, agi pipe, French drain, slotted drainage pipe, or soakage drain. 

Ag drains are designed to provide efficient, artificial subsurface drainage for commercial properties, particularly farms with inadequate natural drainage. These drainage systems feature pipes buried three to six feet below the ground's surface.

Subsurface water naturally flows through the perforations in the pipe, and the sand or rocks around the pipe filter out any organic debris within the water. The pipe then carries away the water, which drains into a ditch, stream, river, or a larger municipal drainage system.

Some agricultural drainage systems also feature surface-level intakes and buried tubing. These inlets are designed to draw in and remove excess surface water from depressed areas of the property. 

Why Would You Have an Agricultural Drain?

Some properties naturally have poor drainage, which leaves the subsurface soil overly saturated when it rains or when an irrigation system turns on. Agricultural drains help the soil drain faster so that excess subsurface water does not damage plant root systems. 

More importantly, agricultural drains help prevent foundation damage to homes and buildings in poor soil drainage areas. In some cases, these drains are also used as a remedy for slab heave and to help reduce cracking in houses. 

Artificial subsurface drainage systems offer property owners several benefits, including:

  • Keeping the water table below plants’ root zones to help protect crops’ root systems.

  • Increasing soil aeration to help keep crops’ root systems healthy.

  • Encouraging more rapid soil drying and warming in spring to help farm owners get their crops planted earlier and improve other field operations.

  • Reducing soil compaction caused by excess subsurface moisture.

  • Improving the soil environment to encourage early crop emergence and better overall growth.

  • Reducing the risk of crop stress caused by excessive or ill-timed rainfall.

  • Improving soil nutrient content overall.

How Can an Agricultural Drain Damage Your Home?

When an ag drain isn’t installed correctly, it can cause subsurface soil to retain more water, not less. These drains are sometimes installed with geofabric around the perforated pipe. Unfortunately, the geofabric often becomes clogged with soil over time, which prevents water from entering the perforations in the pipe. 

When water can no longer enter the pipe designed to whisk it away, it is forced to accumulate within the trench. If there are heavy rains, the water can build to the point that it floods the trench, and at that point, it will seep back into the ground around the home or building it was installed to protect. When that happens, excess subsurface moisture can damage the foundation over time. 

Clogged agricultural drains can also result from a buildup of mineral deposits or vegetation accumulating in the drain. When an ag drain is installed correctly — meaning it features the proper materials and is strategically placed — it is much less likely to develop blockages that necessitate emergency drain cleaning.

It’s important to note that even when an agricultural drain is installed correctly, it should be cleaned regularly as a proactive measure. Although adequately installed drains are less likely to develop damaging clogs, routine cleaning will further lower the risk of blockages.  

Can You Fix a Clogged Agricultural Drain?

Yes, clearing a clogged agricultural drain is possible, but doing so requires commercial-grade drain cleaning equipment and considerable expertise. Generally, a procedure known as commercial water jetting is the most effective way to clean a clogged agricultural drain

This procedure involves placing a hose into the drain connected to a large water reserve tank. The hose emits a high-pressure stream of water, eliminating sediment, plant material, and anything else clogging up the pipe.  

How Often Should Agricultural Drains Be Cleaned to Prevent Home Damage?

There’s no definitive timeline for cleaning agricultural drains because each drain will develop clogs at a different rate based on location and other factors, but there is a “best” time to clean these drains. 

Early spring, autumn, and winter are all excellent times to have your agricultural drain professionally cleaned. Because snowmelt hasn’t yet occurred during these times of the year, the risk of drain flooding is relatively low, so cleaning is a preparatory measure for run-off season, which typically begins in mid to late spring. 

At Drain Blaster Bill, we can perform a drain camera inspection to quickly locate any issues within your ag drain(s) and assess their severity. We use high-powered water-jetting equipment to thoroughly clear sediment and other debris from within the drains so efficient subsurface water removal can resume as quickly as possible.

Need Ag Drain Cleaning Near the Twin Cities?

If your agricultural drain is causing problems because it appears to be clogged, get in touch with our team at Drain Blaster Bill’s Sewer & Drain Cleaning right away. We specialize in several types of commercial drain cleaning, including ag drain cleaning, drain tile cleaning, culvert pipe cleaning, septic cleaning, and sewer cleaning. 

We’re a veteran-owned and operated company and have proudly served Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the surrounding areas for over a decade. 

To get a drain cleaning estimate or learn more about how we can help you, feel free to give us a call today at 763-913-8719. You can also request a free estimate online, and we’ll be in touch with additional information.