My AC unit drains into the side yard, causing the clay soil to become very wet and boggy. What can I do to reduce the surface water?

– Clayton

Correcting drainage problems in neighborhoods is tricky, because there’s always the risk that your solution will create a problem for someone else. It might be easier to have a landscape contractor analyze the situation and design a solution that keeps everybody in the neighborhood happy.

How To Tackle AC Condensation Runoff

Whether you hire someone or tackle the problem yourself, your solution is likely to involve two components:

  • Rerouting the AC drain water
  • Improving soil drainage
Drainage pipes can be used to carry AC condensation drain water away.
A soil perk test will help you determine how to improve drainage in your yard.

Reroute AC Drain Condensation

Your first step is to route some of the drainage water elsewhere. Ideas include:

  • Aboveground Extension Pipe: The easiest solution is to attach an extension pipe or hose to your AC drain, then extend it downhill away from the house or into a thirsty flower bed.
  • Underground Drain Pipe: To hide the drain pipe, run the condensation drain into a buried drainage line, which can then be routed downhill and away from the yard.
  • French Drain: A French drain also routes water away underground by allowing it to flow through a gravel-filled trench.
  • Catch Basin: If the water is collecting in puddles, you can put a catch basin in the center. A catch basin is a buried box with a grate on top and openings for underground pipes to connect. Surface water runs into the catch basin and is routed away in buried drainage pipes.
  • Dry Well: If there’s no place to route the drainage pipes, you can construct a dry well at the lowest point. A dry well is a hole filled with gravel and rock, which provides a place for the water to collect and slowly seep into the surrounding subsoil.
  • Collection Bucket: If your air conditioner unit is high enough off the ground, you can route the condensation drain pipe into a bucket or rain barrel, and then use it to water your flowers.

Improve the Soil

If the trickle from your AC unit is causing the ground to become boggy, your clay soil probably isn’t draining very well. To improve the soil’s ability to absorb water:

Top-dressing soil in a yard.
Top-dressing the soil in your yard to improve drainage.
  • Soil Perk Test: An easy DIY soil percolation test can help you determine your soil’s drainage rate.
  • Aerate and Top-Dress Soil: Core aeration removes small plugs of soil, which allows you to top-dress the lawn to add organic matter. If you do this each year, you can slowly improve the quality of the soil and its drainage.
  • Grade Lot: If your yard is shaped like a bowl, you may need to consider having the land graded to give the surface water someplace to go. If you go this route, be sure to have a landscape contractor analyze the topography to make sure the problem won’t simply be moved somewhere else.
  • Open Up Yard: Thin the surrounding trees and shrubs to make sure the area gets plenty of air circulation and sunlight, so it can dry out.
  • Landscape Plants: Put that excess water to use by incorporating water-loving plants that tolerate wet soil.

Further Information

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio,, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

Learn More