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Home > Plumbing > Protect Your Home with a French Drain System

Protect Your Home with a French Drain System

By Brett Freeman
Protect Your Home with a French Drain System

Water flowing downhill can be a serious problem in areas where new development is taking place, because the trees and vegetation that naturally absorb and retain water are replaced with impervious roads and buildings. The resulting runoff can wreak havoc on existing homes and neighborhoods, overwhelming drainage systems. If drainage problems cause standing water or chronically wet conditions around the base of your home, protect your investment by installing a French drain (also known as a trench drain) system.

Determining Where to Dig

A French drain system has perforated pipes buried about two feet deep. The perforation allows water to enter the pipes and be diverted to an outlet point safely away from your home’s foundation. Make sure that you lay the pipes at least four feet away from your home. The system layout should intercept the water and divert it to the lower side of your property. Ideally you want the water coming out of your outlet pipe to be diverted toward a creek or stream, or into a municipal storm sewer system.

Laying the Pipe

French drain pipes are made of either 5-inch corrugated pipe or 5-inch PVC pipe. The corrugated pipe is less expensive and easier to lay and connect, while PVC tends to work better and is more durable. You want to use perforated pipe for areas where water is actually collected and solid pipe elsewhere. Before you start digging, lay out the pipes above ground. This ensures that you have enough pipe and connectors and enables you to mark out where to dig with spray paint. Paint a line on both sides of the laid-out pipe and dig in the middle. You might also want to lay tarps, cardboard, or plywood along the edge of where you're digging to capture the dirt as you dig the trench. You will refill the trench with gravel so this dirt needs to be removed.

Digging and Installation Tips

It’s definitely worth renting a trenching machine to do your digging. Make sure you contact your local utilities to mark the location of underground utility lines before you start. You want your trench to be about two feet deep. Use a trenching shovel to remove any loose dirt at the bottom of the trench and then tamp it down. Use a level to ensure that the bottom is level or sloping down toward the outlet location throughout. Next, install the pipe. When installing perforated pipe, lay it so that the holes are at the bottom. Cover the pipe and fill the trench with washed gravel until it is two inches below ground level. Finish filling the trench by placing strips of sod over the gravel.

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