I bought a garden home in June. Yard had not been put in yet. Contractor put in sprinklers and sod after closing. The soil is clay and the water will not drain into the ground, and the yard stood in water and began to mold and die, becoming stagnant. Contractor came out and put in french drains throughout the yard. Didn't work. Contractor pulled up drains and sod, layered the yard and reshaped for runoff. Still stands in water. Builders fired contractor. New contractor came out, re-layered yard, reshaped yard, ground up existing soil about 1/2 inch and trucked in some topsoil to mix with the 1/2 inch of ground caliche, then relaid sod. Rained November 12th and 3 days later I have up 3" of standing water in yard still. What do they need to do to soil to get this fixed? I have a trench through the yard for "drain off." I think instead of trying to run the water off the yard, they need to get the water to "soak" into the ground. All the trees and bushes have died because the roots are sitting in a "bowl" of water.
Lawn Standng in Water
Certified GKH Gardening Expert
It sounds like you may have a clay layer of soil under the topsoil. Heavy clay can act almost like a layer of plastic below the topsoil, not allowing any water to trickle down through the layers.
Unfortunately, there are no really easy ways to correct this. One common practice is to build up the yard so that it sits a several inches or more above your neighbors' (my own house had this done decades before we purchased it). The water then runs off into the surrounding properties. Great for you, but neighbors are normally not thrilled.
The french drains are another common solution, but what they put in may simply not have been large enough to accommodate the amount of water your yard holds. I would talk to a contractor about looking at a larger system for run-off. In the country, where people do not have public sewer lines to tie into, they use several methods to handle the water from their homes and some of these methods may be a possibility for your yard. But a contractor would be better qualified to determine that.
Your third option is to learn to garden with it. There is a type of gardening style called rain gardens where people actually work to create conditions like what you have in your yard. It uses plants and trees that not only do well in those conditions but also help to suck up excess water. You may be able to turn your yard into a rain garden or select a location that you can further reduce the soil level to encourage pooling of the water in your yard. Here is more information on those: http://www.uri.edu/ce/healthylandscapes/raingarden.htm