Monday, 24 June 2013

How big should your rain garden be?

Rain gardens typically range from 30-90 square meters (100 to 300 square feet). They can be smaller or larger depending on your resources. Even if you reduce the recommended size of your rain garden by 30%, you will still control 90% of the runoff.

If your rain garden site is within 9 meters (30 feet) of a downspout, most of the storm water will come from the roof so you will only need to calculate its area to obtain the capacity. The area of the roof is the same as the area of the first floor. If you do not know it, use a tape measurer to find the length and width of your house. The product of the two is your area. Now take a walk around your house, how many downspouts do you have? Most houses have 4, each taking care of 25% of the roof runoff. By the shape of the roof, estimate the percent of water your downspout is responsible for. Now multiply the percent of water flowing down the downspout by the roof area. That is your roof drainage area.

Example: You have a building that is 5 m long and 5 m wide and has 2 downspouts that share the load equally. The ground floor area is: 5 m x 5 m = 25 m2. If your 2 downspouts are equal, one will take care of 50% of the water. Your drainage area will then be: 25 m2 x 0.5 =12.5 m2

If the site is over 9 meters away from a downspout you will need to consider drainage from the lawn. From your rain garden site, look up towards the house and identify which parts of the lawn slope towards your garden. You will need to measure the length and width of the uphill lawn and multiply them to get the lawn area. Now you simply need to add that lawn area to the roof drainage area (calculated in the previous step).

Example: Your building is surrounded by a lawn that slopes towards your garden. It measures 2 m long and 3 m wide. 2 m x 3 m =6 m2 as your lawn area. Your total drainage area will then be: 12.5 m2 + 6 m2 = 18.5 m2.

Now you need use your slope, drainage area, and suggested depth to get the surface area of your garden. Use the table below to determine your size factor, then multiply it by your calculated drainage area.

Within 9.1 m

8-13 cm

15-18 cm

20 cm
Beyond 9.1 m
All Depths

Example: You have a drainage area of 18.5 m2  sandy soil, and a depth of 8-13 cm. The surface area of your rain garden should then be: 18.5 m2 x 0.19 = 3.5 m2.

Once you calculate the size of your rain garden, you can divide it by the intended width to find its length. You will want the garden to be twice as long as it is wide, with a max width of 15 feet especially for slopes greater than 8%.


  1. Stormwater always requires proper SWPPP training training to handle. We have implemented it for years.

  2. It is nice to see an article dedicated to this important topic. Thank you for sharing