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Planning to Drain Your Land


What are the benefits of tile drainage?

  • Tile drained land will lower your unit cost of production and help you compete in the marketplace.
  • Tile drainage is a best management practice.  It reduces soil erosion and assists in the reduction of phosphorus in streams.
  • The benefits of land drainage are many and depend on the condition and management of the farm after the work is done.
  • For corn and soybeans - expect about 35 - 50% increase in yield compared to the same crops in undrained soil.
  • For hay and pasture expect about a 30% increase in  yield.
  • Grazing periods are extended two to three weeks in the fall, thus saving on barn feeding.
  • Well-drained soils carry more livestock per acre with less damage to the soil compared to poorly drained soil.
  • Tile drained soils create uniform field conditions for early field work.
  • Tile drained soils are essential for no-till agriculture on any soil type.


What will it cost to drain my land?

The following tables may be of assistance in making a preliminary estimate of the quantity of drainage pipe required for a drainage project.

The table gives the size of main drain required to drain an area, when the drain is laid at a specified grade and is flowing full. For example, an 8-inch drainage pipe, laid at a grade of 0.10 feet per 100 feet will drain 16 acres. Your LICO contractor will provide the information for a specific situation.

Acreage Drained by a Main Drain Laid at a Specified Grade

Grade (%)

Tile Size (inches)

4 6 8 10 12
0.05 2 6 12 20 35
0.10 3 8 16 30 45
0.20 4 13 24 40 70
0.30 5 17 30 50 80
0.50 6 20 35 70 125

Pipe with a smooth interior wall will drain a 20% greater acreage.


The number of feet of drainage pipe you will need in order to drain a certain area can be estimated from the following table. Your LICO contractor will discuss the actual need with you.

Length of Lateral Drainage Pipe Needed to Drain One Acre at a Given Drain Spacing

Lateral Drain Spacing & Drainage Pipe Required
Spacing (Feet) Feet per Acre Spacing (metres) Metres per Hectare
20 2180 6 1640
30 1450 9 1090
40 1090 12 820
50 870 15 655
60 725 18 545

Main drains often add 10% to the total pipe quantity.


Local experience will help determine the cost for drainage work.  Ask your LICO contractor to provide an itemized estimate of costs and provide a list of your responsibilities.

Some of the cost may be:

  • surveying the field
  • layout of the job
  • moving onto the job
  • installing the drain pipe
  • connections
  • cost of pipe, fittings, outlet pipes, filter material, catch basins and inlets.

Additional items may include:

  • locating existing drain tile
  • locating buried utilities
  • repairing fencing and other items
  • clean-up including stone removal
  • needed permits

Some of the above may not be required, or, are not itemized in the pricing.  Your LICO Contractor will answer all questions reasonably and do the work as agreed upon, at a FAIR PRICE for the results wanted.

A contractor cannot always determine in advance all the problems that might be encountered in the field and which could affect the final cost.

Click here to see A View of Drainage Costs from Country Guide, March 1998.


How can I pay for it?

Your LICO Contractor can advise you on financing.  The Tile Drainage Act provides a loan for up to 75% of the cost of the work.  The loan is financed by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF) and is obtained through your local municipal office.


How can I find a good drainage contractor?

LICO Contractors have their business, machines and operators licensed through OMAF.   The Land Improvement Contractors of Ontario provide ongoing training and professional development for their members.  Ensure you select a licensed contractor who is a LICO Contractor!  Click here to see LICO Contractors.

Also ask the contractor:

  • To explain when and how he proposes to do the work?
  • Does he guarantee his workmanship?  For how long?
  • Does he carry adequate liability insurance to protect you?
  • Will he provide you with a plan of the work after completion?


Can I do the work myself?

As long as you only work on land that you own (or have under long term lease) you do not need a license and can do the work yourself. But why would you want to?

You are investing a lot of money in the job and the new equipment. You must be confident that you have the ability to construct a system that will work for you. It is not easy. The price of fuel, labour, drain pipe, junctions and other parts of the system cost about the same. There is no saving to you. The cost of installing the pipe varies across the province. Contractors receive about 40 percent of the total cost per acre for the installation.

Drainage contractors produce a professional job at a fair price. The reason you might consider doing the work yourself is certainly not to save money, it may be getting the work done at a time convenient to yourself. With planning and scheduling this problem should also be overcome.

Laser equipped mini-drainage plows, pulled with a tractor, are available. These machines are well built but often require more pulling power (traction, hydraulic capacity and speed adjustment) than the farmer usually owns, or extensive pre-ripping of the trench line may be needed. Main drains using larger pipe are also a problem. There is an extensive learning period to instal drains which will perform properly. Would you want an inexperienced contractor to drain your land? How do you plan to recover your investment in the machine? For more information see Pull-behind farm drainage plows.


What can I do to protect my drainage investment after installation?

  • Design the system for future additions.
  • Insist on a proper plan of the work, a statement of work performed and a list of materials used.
  • Arrange to have the drainage system inspected and maintained each fall and spring on a regular schedule.


bullet.gif (188 bytes) Remember, land drainage is a lifetime investment! bullet.gif (188 bytes)

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