What is a French Drain?
Depending on your area, you may or may not get a lot of rain. While having a downpour every so often can be a good thing, some issues come with having a wet environment. Most notably, drainage can be a significant problem, especially if you don’t have a good system installed.
If you live in an area that gets a lot of precipitation, having proper drainage is crucial to protect your foundation and your surrounding property. Let’s look at what options you have to improve your current drainage system.
One of the best methods of removing water is through a French drain. The method, which was invented in 1859 by Henry French, is rather simple to use.
To use the French drain, a trench is dug into the earth, and a perforated pipe is installed inside the trench. These drains usually use gravel or small rocks to filter out sand and dirt particles from entering the tube. The trench is then dug at an incline to redirect water away from the foundation.
Typically, French drains are used to protect building foundations, but they can also be used to distribute water (such as for a septic tank system) or to prevent ground swelling. In many cases, French drains are installed behind retaining walls so as to prevent swelling.
How to install a French Drain
For many homes, water damage can be a significant problem, especially during the wet season. A French drain can substantially reduce the amount of water seeping into your foundation or basement. Luckily, it is easy to install. In fact, you can do it yourself (provided that you check with a professional first). Also, be sure to consult your local zoning office to make sure that you aren’t going to hit any pipes or lines by digging around your home.
The best material for a French drain is a slotted plastic tube and gravel.
First, dig a trench along the outside of your home. The trench should be at least two feet deep for homes that have a slab foundation or six feet deep for any homes with a basement. When digging the trench, make sure that it is at a slope and move it away from your home to maximize the effectiveness.
Once the trench is dug out, then lay the piping. The drain doesn’t have to connect to anything, and it should empty above ground. Ideally, you can have it empty into a storm drain or something similar, so you don’t have pooling by the exit.
An ideal French drain will be covered in gravel. The purpose of using gravel is to filter out soil particles that may clog the pipe over time. For best results, cover the pipe with about a foot of gravel. For better performance, lay a fabric filter over the gravel to keep soil out.
Once the gravel and filter have been installed, you can cover it with dirt until it is level with the rest of the ground. You can even seed the soil with grass if you like, as the roots won’t get into the drain and will help reduce the amount of water that seeps in.
Basement / Interior Drain Systems
Sometimes, it isn’t feasible to install a drainage system outside. If you have a deep basement, for example, the cost of digging down to the footing can be too high. Fortunately, there are solutions in the form of basement drain systems, including a modified interior French drain. The way that these systems work is to divert water that is coming into your basement already. They are not built to prevent water from seeping in, but rather eliminating it once it’s there.
A modified French drain will sit under the floor and collect water in a perforated pipe, much like it would outside. However, to get the water out of your basement, you have to connect the drain to a sump pump, which will then send the water outside.
You can also get a trench drain for areas that can get outside water without it seeping in. For example, if you get water dripping into your basement from a garage or other opening, a trench drain is a good solution. It works similar to a French drain, except it usually has a grating that is flush with the floor and has a stoppage system to keep your insulation intact.
Exterior / Downspout Drainage
Another way to maximize your drainage is by fixing your downspout connections. For most homes, the gutters go straight into the ground. However, these pipes can get clogged and leak, meaning that you can get seepage into your foundation.
To avoid this, you should disconnect your downspout and divert the water away from your foundation. The best method of downspout drainage is to connect an elbow joint to the spout at the bottom, and then divert the water towards the grass or the street. If you have a problem with soggy ground, you can even connect your downspout to a French drain
to get the best results.
Things to keep in mind, however:
- - Don’t direct water towards the driveway
- - Make sure it is at least five feet away from your foundation
- - The drain should empty on an incline facing away from your home
- - Make sure that it will not get in your way while mowing, walking around, etc.
- - Clean out your gutters regularly to prevent overflow and to keep water moving smoothly
- - If possible, make sure that the water empties into an area with sunlight so it can be evaporated quicker
When it comes to protecting your home from water damage, the right drainage system can make all the difference. In many cases, these drains can be installed with minimum cost and effort. In other words, you can reduce the amount of water seeping into your foundation for a fraction of the cost it would take to get the foundation repaired.