How To Install A French Drain

how to install a french drain

Whether you just bought a house or you lived in one for some time, having a good yard drainage system is crucial. This is especially true when the rainy season comes. At that time, you will be thankful that your drain system is working accordingly. One of the drainage solutions that we recommend you take a look at is the French drain. They are simple to install and will provide you with the necessary draining capacity for those rainy days. If you are looking into installing a French drain on your property, then you are in the right place. We will go over how to install a French drain and everything that you need to know about them. Now, without any more delay, let us begin.

Why Is It Called A French Drain?

Contrary to popular belief, a French drain did not get its name because of France. In fact, they have gotten their name because of Henry French who wrote a book named Farm Drainage where he talked about how those drainage systems worked. He also had a recommendation for a new system that he himself designed which would later be known as a French drain.

What is a French Drain and the Working Principle Behind It

In all honesty, a French drain looks extremely simple. At first, it looks like a ditch with some rocks on top. However, when it is done, it can add a simple yet fitting element to your background landscape. The working principle behind a French drain is a drain pipe that is implanted into the gravel at a certain angle which allows it to funnel the water away from your property keeping it safe from potential damage. Also, you can easily check if there is a French drain on your property already. Simply, look for an end of a pipe that is exposed and tilted away from the home and you can easily tell if you have a French drain or not.

The French drain elements are perfectly designed together so the water can move freely without any issues, avoiding unwanted pooling in the drain itself. The pipe is perforated so the water can easily pass through the gravel and surrounding stones into the pipe. Additionally, with the help of landscaping fabric, the unwanted debris such as weeds that can clog the holes will be no problem at all. So you will not have to worry about potential damages as the water can easily get to the sewer or the drainage area.

how to install a french drain

French Drain Installation

Think of French drains like gutters but on the ground level. In the same way, the gutter carries the water from your roof, and the French drain also guides the water from specific places on the ground to where you want it. For example, after heavy rains, there is usually a place in your garden where the water will pool in as it is the lowest spot. After you figure out where this spot is, you can utilize a French drain to prevent any problems. Additionally, they are also great at preventing leakage through your foundation keeping your basement and the structural safety of the house intact.

However, if the water still gets through even with the proper drainage outside, there is an option to install one indoors. You can install a French drain in your basement by making a trench in the basement slab all around the foundation to put in pipes as well as a sump pump which will move the unwanted water outside.

Signs that You Need a French Drain

Installing a French drain can help you in most cases. They are the most practical solution to your home drainage problems, but only if there is a basis for their installment. These are some of the indicators that can imply the need for a French drain. First of all, if the open ditch poses a major safety hazard, it is obvious that a French drain will solve that. Also, if there is a retaining wall, it would be jeopardized with the use of a regular trench. Additionally, if there is a need to direct the flow of water away from your structures and their foundations. Lastly, if there is a specific area in your yard that you want to keep dry without any surface water accumulating such as a garden or a playground for your kids.

Hire a Professional

If there is ever a question regarding whether you should hire a professional or not to install french drain systems, remember that there is a reason to hire one almost always. That being said, here are some of the more common reasons why you might want to hire a professional. First of all, there might be problems when it comes to digging. If you lack the proper equipment and you are dealing with harder soil, then you will probably need the help of a professional. They can save you a lot of time and effort and do the job reliably.

Furthermore, if you are ready to take on the digging process, there is another problem that you will have to solve. There are underground utility lines that are going through your yard. If you are not sure where these utility lines are, then digging blindly can only result in some serious problems and hazards. Hiring a professional who will contact the local authorities and find the correct map of the utility lines is probably your best option. However, you can do this yourself if you are willing to put in the effort.

The most common argument for hiring a professional is that they will save you a lot of time and possible unwanted expenses. They know what materials are needed, how to calculate everything, and most importantly are efficient.

DIY French Drain

Now that we have mentioned the benefits of hiring a professional, there still stands a question “Should you do it yourself?” Well, the answer is you can if you want. If you are ready to deal with the technicalities and have the proper equipment, there is nothing that should hold you back as long as you follow the steps for installation. The most time-consuming aspect of the project will definitely be digging. If you want to make the job easier and faster, you can always consider renting a trencher. French drain DIY is not a small project and if you do not have the tools, you will have to turn to equipment rentals.

French Drain Installation

french drain installation

Installing a French drain is definitely a long process but you can complete it in these 8 easy steps.

Step 1 Determining the Lowest Point of Your Yard

This step is self-explanatory; all you have to do is find where the lowest point in your yard is.

Step 2 Digging

As we mentioned, digging the trench is what will take the majority of your time and effort. You will have to dig a trench that is at least 18 inches deep and 9 inches wide. Also, every 10 feet you pass, dig an additional 1 inch to create a slope trench.

Step 3 Line With Fabric

Now that you have your trench, you will have to line it with a filter fabric which will prevent any clogs from happening by catching the debris.

Step 4 Gravel

After you line the trench, it is time to fill the trench with gravel. Make sure to add 3 inches of gravel to the bottom of the trench and compact it well.

Step 5 Put in the Pipe

Place the perforated pipe into the trench on the gravel. Make sure that you position the pipe accordingly with the drainage holes pointing downward so the water can be pulled down.

Step 6 Add More Gravel

Same as before, add 3 inches on top covering the pipe.

Step 7 Fold the Fabric

Take the excess fabric and fold it on top of the gravel to overlap it so the pipe is more secure.

Step 8 Fill up the Trench

The last thing you need to do is fill the trench back up. Here you have several options. You can either put back the soil you dug up before, making sure that it is flat after, or fill it with some other soil. After you finish filling the trench, you can always add sod or some crushed stone on top of the filled trench to make it synergize with the rest of the landscape. There are many design tips that you can use to make your yard look perfect.

French Drain Maintenance

The last thing you need to keep in mind is to maintain your French drain. With these pro tips, your drainage issues will be a thing of the past. Clean it regularly and do thorough inspections from time to time. Always look if there are places where the water is accumulating into standing water or if there is a clog somewhere. Also, a good piece of advice is to maybe hire someone who will do this for you. This way you can be sure that everything is running smoothly as it should. Home owners that do not tend to their drainage systems end up with bigger problems down the line.