Simple Guide on How to Successful Install a French Drain

Does your lawn hold water after a rainfall? Whether it’s only for hours or days, a yard that does not drain water properly can lead to a number of problems such as:

  • Grass root rot
  • Leaking basement
  • Mosquitos breeding ground
  • Damaged lawn and foundation

Water typically flows downhill and standing water is only finding a least resistance area to flow through. If your lawn, gutter or planter drain can’t control surface water, then you need to consider french drain installation. This system allows you to divert the excess water to another spot and keep it from collecting in your yard.

What is a French Drain?
French drains are a popular and inexpensive solution for dealing with excess surface water from a yard. This system features a wide and shallow trench for water drainage and it doesn’t need advanced skill to install.

Before you start the French drain installation, it’s important to assess the origin of the problem first and determine the diversion point of the drain. This will help you calculate the cost of the project including the length and quantity of project materials required.

An excellent French drain is made of PVC for durability and for efficiency, ensure the pipe is laid in a straight line trench. Curved drains with a flexible hose will also work, however, they’ll need regular spot repairs and replacement is necessary over time.

French Drain Installation: How to Install a French Drain Like a Professional

First, seek clearance from your city’s building authority to confirm your plans are per the local law.

1. Determine the trench location and slope
Locate the flood-prone spots of your yard to determine the course for your French drain. Make sure the drainage exit in a more sustainable area, and not on your neighbor’s land. Also, consider how the exposed gravel and the trench will affect the general outlook of your yard.

Water flows with gravity and a yard with a minimum of 1% slope will assist a French drain to divert surface water more effectively. If your yard has a steep slope, consider building terraces intersecting the flow path to reduce erosion in the exit point. Dealing with a natural slope calls for extensive digging of the trench to the desired slope.

2. Dig the trench
Using a garden spade cut a straight line through the sod to the discharge area, 3 inches is enough. Then remove the sod by digging a trench of about 8 to 10 inches with slopped bottom and vertical sides.

Measure the slope of the trench bottom constantly as you dig to make sure you have the desired slope. For example, with a relatively flat slope, a 50-foot long trench should have a starting point of between 8 to 10 inches deep and 14 to 16 inches deep at the discharge point.

3.Line the trench with weed-control fabric
Line inside of the trench with fabric to prevent weed proliferation. Preferably, use a continuous swath and fasten both ends with fabric staples. Make sure to choose a weed control fabric that provides smooth passage of water. Secure the excess fabric with stones, don’t trim it yet.

4. Create a drainage layer
Add drainage gravel on the bottom of the trench and distribute it evenly to flush with the sod. You can also choose to have a more visible trench by creating a gravel mound. Overfill the trench and rake it into a heap. Now you can trim the excess fabric.

5. Drill and lay PVC pipe in the trench
An efficient French drain PVC pipe should have holes about one foot apart in a straight line. Drill other holes just an inch from the first set of holes, following a zigzag course. The new set of holes should be about six inches apart. Place the PVC pipe in the trench partly filled with the drainage gravel and make sure the holes face downward. If you are satisfied with the angle of the PVC pipe, fill the trench with more drainage gravel, at least 3 to 4 inches, and add decorative stones, if desired.

Remember to call a professional if you are dealing with uncontrollable surface water that occasionally floods your house. Also, improper French drain installation can cause more harm than good.

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