Prevent Excess Moisture In Your Yard With A French Drain System

Interior French Drain and Exterior French Drain photo depicting prevent excess moisture

Just who doesn’t love the sound of rain splashing to the ground and the earthy smell after the rain?  Little might you have expected that your home sure doesn’t. This is because the excess moisture that rain causes doesn’t treat the walls and foundation of your building well. 

Getting the excess water out of the area of your home will help to prevent the inevitable decaying of your walls due to a damp structure. The water can even damage your building’s foundation, causing some serious issues. It damages the quality and strength of your home,  leaving it vulnerable to collapse. And no one wants that to happen to them, right?

Don’t worry too much though, since there is good news! You can prevent the damage from happening by installing a simple french drain system. If you are dealing with standing water in your front yard, or permanent dampness, installing a french drain system can be very useful for you. 

Understanding and installing a french drain system for your property isn’t rocket science. That being said, the performance and benefits of it being put to use are truly remarkable for transforming the quality of your yard, beauty of your landscaping, and integrity of your home’s foundation.

Typically, a french drain is a trench made specifically to redirect or remove water from a particular area. It’s especially useful in prolonging the lifespan of buildings by preventing the water or moisture from damaging the walls or foundations of a building. It is also effective at reducing the chance you might get your shoes dirty from soaked soil in your front yard. 

Let’s take a further look into what a french drain system is and how you can take care of the excess moisture in your front yard by installing one.

 

What is a French Drain System?

 

First up, the name of the french drain system doesn’t come from the country. Instead, it got its name from the judge and farmer Henry French in Massachusetts when he promoted the idea of a drain system in the year 1859. A french drain system, or weeping tile, trench drain, etc., is a trench made specifically to redirect or remove water from an area. 

The modern day system consists of a combination of perforated pipes and drains to get the water out of your yard naturally and effectively. It doesn’t only drain the collected surface water in your backyard, as the various forms of french drain systems allow it to drain excess groundwater too, among water from many other sources. 

While installing a french drain system, you need to keep track of all sources of excess water, be it groundwater, surface water, or the wastewater that your septic tanks emit. After all, you’re implementing the system for the purpose of keeping the excess moisture at bay. Let’s discuss some of the different forms of french drains and how and why they are different.

Different Forms of a French Drain System

To understand which of the various forms of french drain systems is the one for you, you have to have developed a sense of where the excess water is developing. A pinpoint location or source is best, but not necessary.

For example, there is no point in installing a french drain system that drains the excess groundwater away while surface water continues to cause the real problem. 

1. Curtain Drain

This is the traditional and the most common form of french drain system. It is typically made of a perforated pipe surrounded by gravel. This is the most traditional and simplistic form of french drain system. The water is collected by the gravel which is laid out along the surface of the ground. The collected water then seeps down until it reaches the perforated pipe.

From there, it drains out and away from the soil closest to the foundation of the home. You need to properly conceal the drain, however, or it will damage the elegant look of your front yard. This can be done simply by covering it with soil and it will work the same.

2. Filter Drain

Damp in your walls and indoor air is enough to annoy even the most adaptive of homeowners. There’s a high chance that it is caused by excess groundwater under your living areas. That is to say, to prevent the structural dampness in your walls, you need to get rid of the excess groundwater from under and around your home.

Installing a filter drain in your front yard is one of the most highly recommended ways to do it. This type works the same as the curtain drain, except the gravel is designed to specifically collect groundwater instead of surface water.

Both a filter drain and curtain drain will keep excess moisture from these sources, and any dampness it causes, miles away. 

3. Dispersal Drain

This is one crucial drain for every home. This is because the water emitted from a septic tank is highly toxic and dangerous to health.

Yes, you CAN be rid of the smell of this filthy water that is generated by the waste system of your home.  A dispersal drain is specifically designed to drain toxic waste water away from your home.

4. Fin Drain

A fin drain is relatively lower in cost to build than a traditional french drain system. It consists of a perforated pipe with an extension that rises perpendicularly to the drainage pipe.

This extension is also called the ‘fin’. Though it is less expensive, the fin drain is also slightly more inefficient than the traditional french drain system. 

No matter which type of system you and your local drainage experts determine is best for your property’s situation, they all share these same advantages homeowners will receive by implementing a french drain system for their home.

These advantages can also be available for your family to enjoy after a successful and professional installation.

 

 

Advantages of a French Drain System

 

Efficient Drainage

A french drain system can work wonders if you are sick of the seemingly never ending dampness in your walls. It can draw the water away from the walls of your home or foundation, essentially helping it to become safe from dampness.

It is also a helpful measure in maintaining the moisture level of your front yard, even during periods of wet weather. Furthermore, you can draw the water to whatever location you want, be it a septic tank or sump pump well, for example.

It helps keep your basement dry and prevents foundation wall damage due to permanent dampness, such as bowing and cracking.

Cost-Efficient

Although labor intensive, french drain installation is very affordable and fairly easy to construct. When comparing to other more costly techniques of keeping your basement and your front yard dry, it is important to be aware that a shoddy installation can end up causing more expenses in repair or replacements.

Aesthetically Pleasing

When professionally designed and installed, a french drain system can double as a beautiful landscaping feature in your yard. It can be covered with plants and other organic decoratives that make your lawn look even better than its previous best.

Ease of Construction

Consider the differences between a french drain system being installed with heavy machinery VS tools from the home improvement store. It should go without saying which method would produce surprisingly fast results.

More relevant variables to consider would depend on the size and complexity of the french drain that is being installed.

Now that we have covered the plethora of positives for an effective form of drainage for your property, we would do you well to mention some of the difficulties that can arise. While the following points affect all homeowners at different levels, we strongly suggest you give equal attention to addressing these possible areas of concern.

 

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Disadvantages of a French Drain System

Difficult & Laborious to Build

If you decide to take a french drain system on as a DIY project and construct it without the supervision and strategy of a professional services, it can end up to prove very difficult for you.

If you don’t consider potential water lines and gas lines you could easily damage them, as well as any structures or people working around them! So, it is highly recommended to hand this task over to a professional or collaborate with their team at the cost of hiring.

Regular Maintenance Required

The drainage pipes are vulnerable to becoming clogged by sediments building up over time. This is especially true for properties with meticulous substrate such as pea gravel or chips.

When this happens, your french drain will stop functioning and will need to be repaired as soon as possible. Routinely maintaining your system is a much more convenient and cost-reducing route to take.

What Is The Difference Between A French Drain And A Trench Drain?

At the foundational level, both trench drain and french drain systems do the same job of redirecting excess water out of a particular afflicted area.

However, their operations to get the job done are different. Trench drains fall under the category of above-surface drainage methods and french drains are categorized as sub-surface drainage methods.

Let’s dig deeper to better understand both of these drainage systems and how they differ from each other.

 

Explaining Trench Drains

Unlike french drains, trench drains give an impression of a large ditch in the ground. This is because it is constructed by digging a trench in the ground and covering it with grating. It is for this reason these systems are also referred to as channel drains.

Trench drains require the same basic knowledge of the behavior of water and soil as french drain systems and many others. The trench must be gently sloped downwards at some angle to keep the water flow or your system will not work. 

If you are installing a trench drain without the help of a professional team, it is important that you are sure to utilize a very strong grating. Since this type of drainage system is exposed to the surface, the covering of the drain will be dealing with heavy loads of people and possibly vehicles.

Since this type of drainage system is exposed to the surface, the covering of the drain will be dealing with heavy loads of people and possibly vehicles. Any compromise during this installation and you and your loved ones could end up with a serious injury.

A high load-bearing capacity grating will be the best choice for this project.

 

Explaining French Drains

A french drain is constructed by digging a trench and filling it with gravel before laying a perforated or slotted pipe. 

Unlike trench drains, french drains are subsurface solutions, performing their drainage capabilities from underground. This means a further extent of work is involved than when installing a trench drain system. 

However, the extra effort can easily be identified as worth it since a french drain looks better and requires less maintenance than a trench drain. 

A French drain can be covered with organic decoratives and gives your yard a new look where trench drains don’t.

Mold and Mildew Growth on Basement

What Is The Process A French Drain Uses?

At this point of reading, we have outlined a lot of the preliminary information surrounding making a choice about a french drain system. If you are ready to move further into making a decision, you may want to know more about the mechanics of the process a french drain system uses to provide the exterior drainage you need for your property.

Despite being so remarkably effective, the principle that a french drain works on really is quite simple: Water will always flow downwards.

The influence of gravity on water forces it to continuously flow downwards by way of the shortest path possible. Keeping it possible for these principles to carry out properly in your french drain system will help it work like magic.

If there are any limitations to this playing out, like blockages, misalignments, or ineffective angles, your french drain system will turn out to be just about useless. 

A french drain provides the collected water with an accessible and straightforward path to flow. The pipe and the trench should be downward to fully leverage the force of gravity. The drainage pipe, if installed, should also be downward sloped and parallel to the trench. 

Now, despite being perfectly constructed, there is always a chance the system might stop working. This is due to a variety of reasons, most common of which is becoming clogged.

When water flows from the ground to the drain, it is no longer only water, carrying along with it even the smallest bit of sediment. It can also contain leaves or an array of organic materials big enough to hamper the flow of water.

The sediments can eventually build up to an amount that will slow down or completely stop the flow of water through the french drain. 

You can later take a quick check to see if your french drain is not working right. The simplest way to tell is to look for if there is water in your front yard or basement. If water is collecting there, you can know the drain was not constructed properly or that it has malfunctioned.

The most straightforward and assured way to get this done right, however, is by calling a professional to check the status of your trench system or systems.

Any disassembly or modifications that need to be done, when implemented with an educated and experienced know-how, are bound to be successful and long-lasting.

How Are French Drains Made?

The typical locations for installing a french drain are directly around the foundation of a home, whether that be the exterior or interior. A common place, for example, is to be installed under the basement floor. This helps prevent excess moisture from reaching the living or storage area inside. Doubling up with an external french around the foundation walls will make for an even more resilient protection against excess moisture. 

You may want to know more about what you will be getting when paying for a professional french drain installation service (which we recommend as the best option!). Perhaps you want to better understand how to build one so you can take the task on yourself. No matter the reason, the following breakdown will take you step by step through the process of creating and installing a french drain system on your property.

1. Careful Planning Comes First

A slight error in measurement or structure can ruin a whole french drain building project. To avoid this, it is important that a careful plan be formed before starting construction. These points should be kept in mind for achieving a successful french drain system construction:

  • Water will always travel towards the bottom

Regardless of the position or angle the water enters into the drain, it will always seek out the lowest point of the system. Naturally flowing downwards, the influence of gravity is a constant variable that plays a part in how a french drain works . This may seem like quite an obvious point, but people often ignore it, having placed more emphasis on other aspects of construction during planning. Failing to sort out these mechanics can result in a low efficiency or useless outcome for draining excess moisture on your property.

  • Organic Matter Absorbs Water

Organic matter created from the breakdown of leaves and other various processes causes the soil to become fertile and hydrophilic. This means the soil will absorb and hold water like a sponge. Therefore, soil with little to no organic matter will fail to absorb a significant amount of water. These conditions for soil are perfect for the function of a french drain system. Wet, water-retaining soil will continuously release heavy amounts of moisture into the air or simply reduce the draining effect overall, proving to be counterproductive for your system.

  • Remove Objects That are in the Path of the Flowing Water

Hindrances to a clear path of flowing water, like grass, small trees, or pebbles, can potentially slow down or even completely block draining water. This can result in the usual yet numerous ailments of excess moisture on your property, from standing water on your lawn to foundation damage of your basement or crawl space.  Removing all the obstacles in the path for where the water is to drain away is crucial for a useful french drain system.

2. Mark the Concrete

It’s always better to prevent errors rather than have to fix them. A good step of the installation process to implement this type of prevention can be taken when dealing with the interference of concrete. A driveway, patio, or other outdoor concrete pad that needs to be modified to make way for a french drain can be easily marked for accuracy. No matter what you use to make the mark, giving a guideline for how to make way for the french drain can clear any confusion up further down the installation process when taken care of during this step.

3. Cutting the Concrete and Making a Trench

A demolition chainsaw is a tool of choice for cutting concrete that poses a problem during a french drain system installation. Another benefit of hiring a team of professionals for this work is that, though industrial grade tools make for much easier work, they are not usually easily obtainable. 

If you have no other options currently available to you but to DIY, we recommend performing some research on the safest and most effective tools and tips to cut through concrete that is locally available to you.

4. Fabric Installation

Adding fabric to the makeup of your french drain system is essential, yet highly recommended. In fact, if you do not install fabric, sand as well as a host of other materials will be free to easily enter your drainage pipes or other places it doesn’t belong. Sediment will build up over time inside the pipe and inevitably cause a blockage, for example. This results in a decreased efficiency of your french drain or in the worst case scenario, causes it to stop working altogether. 

5. Laying Drainage Pipe

After you have dug out the trench of the desired dimensions, the next step is to fill it with gravel and lay the drainage pipe. Our technicians recommend using a slotted agriculture drainage pipe for maximum effectiveness and reduction of gravel. (This is because drain systems with smaller to no piping require much more gravel.) And that serves as the final step of installation, but don’t miss the paragraph below if you have questions about backfilling your french drain!

Can You Backfill the Excavated Soil to The Trench?

The sole reason for a french drain installation is that the soil is not properly draining the excess water found in the soil on your property. This means that putting any excavated soil back into the trench is a very bad idea. It can cause repeated clogging and most certainly decrease the effectiveness of your french drain system over time. The perforations on the drainage pipe will openly allow dirt to enter the pipe and practically ruin the entire system. In addition, fixing a clogged pipe is tremendously hard as the pipe becomes very heavy with the combined weight of collected soil and absorbed water.

Okay, you have learned in previous sections that Careful Planning Comes First when making a french drain, though you may have also asked yourself what a french drain system plan looks like.

There are many variables to consider given that every homeowner’s property is unique, with different variables that either reflect their physical makeup or way the homeowner wants it to look. Planning for a french drain system relies on the integration of these kinds of things to not only function well, but also meet the expectations of the family that will be receiving the increase in their quality of life! Below are some pointers for helping you identify an effective french drain system installation from start to finish.

How To Plan For Your French Drain

As previously stated, installing a french drain system requires expert knowledge of the mechanics of water drainage and absorption in soil. The smallest of mistakes can result in a complete failure of the trench, whether it does so right out of the gates or after a little time. This of course points to creating an effective plan to prevent errors from happening during installation, of which includes these various aspects of the design and installation of a french drain system:

Planning the Design of a French Drain System

  • Slope: The drainage pipe and the trench itself must be downward-sloped. It is essential to keep the water flowing under the influence of gravity. However, the slope does not need to be significantly steep, for a minimum drop of 1% per 100 feet is necessary to maintain the flow of water. 

  • Depth: If you are having a french drain built around your foundation, precise measurements need to be taken. This is because digging in such an area for installation will require deeper digging. Otherwise, the usual sufficient depth is 8 inches to 2 feet for most drains. 

  • Carefully Placing Aggregate: It may not occur to you that the drain can fill with aggregate. The position of the small and large gravel in your trench can make it less effective if placed inappropriately. For the best results, small gravel is placed near the pipe and large gravel is placed near the surface.

  • Pipe Length: Needless to say, the length of the pipe should be enough to carry water from its source to where you have chosen as the destination. 

A well coordinated combination of these variables will set your drainage efforts up for maximum success. Waterproofing and Drainage professionals, like ours here at BARRIER, will take all of the necessary measurements and specialized aspects into consideration to plan the best french drain system for your specific situation. Once the most optimal system design is achieved, they will put their years of experience to work into an installation plan for the system that will drain excess moisture on your property for many years to come.

Planning the Installation of a French Drain

  • Determining The Location: Choosing the best location for the construction of your french drain depends on where the problem areas are located on your property. There is no point installing a french drain where there is no excess water to collect. The condition and type of soil also comes into play when determining the best location for installing a french drain. 

Really, the fact that water runs downward due to the action of gravity is what is used to determine the placement of a french drain. This means it is important to install a french drain at the lowest point in your area where water will naturally travel. The drain must also be gently sloped downwards to promote the flow of water. 

The endpoint of the french drain should be the lowest point of the trench so that water flows freely to the exit. You can place the exit of your french drain in a dry well, existing gutter, septic tank, or a gravel pit, depending on if your location permits.

  • Prepare Before Digging: It is important for homeowners living in a metropolitan area to be aware of their city codes. This is true because digging a french drain is a long and noisy process that can easily annoy your neighbors, and understandably so!

  • Constant Grading Measurements: We implement constant grading measuring, even during the digging process. This is a highly effective technique that leads to remarkable results that allow your french drain to be built with great precision by the desired dimensions.

  • Add The Fabric First: Lining the trench with landscape fabric first and foremost will keep the gravel in place when placed inside. It also prevents dirt from mixing with the gravel, which lessens the opportunity of clogging issues. 

It seems it can’t be said enough that placement is a priority when building a french drain system. You may find yourself asking, however, which of the materials being placed in the system are the best to use? Of course, installing inadequate materials in even the most perfect order won’t merit the best drainage results.

What Is The Best Fabric For Use In A French Drain?

As said, lining your trench with fabric is necessary to prevent unnecessary and unwanted hassle. It also prolongs the life of your french drain. Not lining a french drain with non-woven geotextile fabric is one of the main causes of failure of a french drain. If you don’t use fabric before adding the gravel, soil and other impurities will get mixed with water as the water flows through the gravel. 

This leads to an inevitable failure of your french drain due to excessive clogging in the drain. Repairing your french drain, in this case, is not going to be an easy task either. Removing the collected sand from your pipe is as hard as installing the french drain itself.

This drainage fabric prevents the soil from entering the pipe through perforations. However, you have to only use industry-standard non-woven geotextile fabric using the burrito wrap technique. If you manage to get your hands on a high-quality drainage fabric, it can last for decades without sweating a bit. 

What Size Stone Is Best For Use In A French Drain?

There is a large variety of drainage rocks available to buy, or so you may have heard. Drainage rocks don’t need to be shiny and attractive, as they will be buried in the ground. What’s the point of buying expensive, shiny, and elegant-looking stones just to bury them in the ground? 

Unfortunately, most of the stones labeled as drainage rocks are very decorative in nature and come with a higher price tag because of it. You can save money by avoiding this trap, you don’t need those decorative stones for superior drainage. Filling your trench with gravel is more efficient and cost-effective than any other drainage stones. 

If you decide on a different type of stone, it is best to avoid using large stones that are larger than 1 inch. Instead, consider using stones that range between ½ to ¾ inch for the best performance. A greater quantity of rocks directly leads to a better flow of water and reliability of the trench. This is why you have to consider putting in stones that are smaller than 1 inch. 

If cost can be greatly affected simply by the type of stone that is used in your french drain system, you might be pondering what other cost variables there might be to consider. 

Cost of A French Drain System

First things first, installing a french drain to fix your excess moisture woes could very well take longer than you expect. Either way, it is one of the best investments you can make to correct moisture and dampness in the long run. The cost of a french drain investment relies heavily on factors like the size and complexity of the design of the drain. Additionally, the cost reflects whether you are constructing it by yourself or hiring a professional to do the job. As you could probably guess, the increased cost of hiring a professional with specialized tools and experience can ensure a higher quality outcome in a fraction of the time. 

In most cases, installing a french drain system can cost around $2,000 to $6,000. These amounts average out at $4,000. Some homeowners consider this amount to be quite a lot of money, but it is arguable that the benefits far outweigh the initial cost of investment. It is possible to save money on a more thrifty installation by doing it yourself with cheap and more easily accessible tools.

Are you the type of homeowner that knows you can be stubborn when it comes to your pocketbook? The following reasons for investing in a professional french drain system installation might just part those cloudy skies of decision making.

The Importance Of A Professional Installation

What exactly is behind the job of installing a french drain system? How does someone become a professional of digging a trench and filling it with rocks and pipes? From things that can go dangerously wrong, to accidentally causing damage to yours or a neighbor’s property, this work can include plenty more things to consider.

What Can Go Wrong During Installation?

Believe it or not, constructing a french drain system without the proper knowledge can prove dangerous for anyone close by. A lot of things can go wrong if there is a miscalculated step in the process, or an accident while operating heavy machinery. Let’s take a closer look.

  • Damaging A Gas Pipeline: Damaging a gas line can turn out to be extremely dangerous for you and your neighbors. These lines are run in the ground underneath and around your home. There is also a lot of hassle involved in fixing a gas line. Usually, the federal helpline number will need to be called for getting help with repairs.

  • Accidentally Draining In Your Neighbor’s Yard: If the endpoint of the drain eliminates too closely to (or inside of!) your neighbor’s yard, the excess water can instead damage the foundation and walls of your neighbor’s house! This is one of the most common problems that arise when people try to construct a french drain system by themselves. If done incorrectly, the problem might be solved for you, but make for a bad situation for your neighbors. 

  • Using Wrong Stones: A properly working french drain requires stones that can easily let the water pass by and even assist in the drainage. However, it is easy to do just the opposite. You can easily purchase stones that block the flow of water and hinder the effectiveness of the drain. Lack of prior knowledge is the main reason for this mistake, and can result in the complete breakdown of the installed french drain system. 

  •  Not Using a Filter: The work of a filter in a french drain system is to block sediments and excess sand from entering the drainage pipes. The absence of this filter, or inadequate installation thereof, will result in repeated clogging. Cleaning clogged pipes can quickly become a nightmare, what with the combined weight of all the sediment, sand, and moisture becoming very heavy.

A base conclusion to draw from these points is that a professional installation will greatly increase the safety of the job, let alone the success of it. But what other advantages are you bringing into such a home improvement project when you hire your local professionals?

 

The Advantages of Having A Professional Do The Job

 

  • Less Worry: You won’t have to do any worrying about the depth of the trench. Professional technicians know and specialize in their job and won’t let any of the pipelines, machinery, or surrounding property get damaged during construction, so sit back and relax.

  • Fast and Effective: The tools professionals use are also specialized and can help do an efficient job in a fraction of the time that more commonplace tools would take. The calculations and measurements that need to be made also become like second nature after so many years of experience.

Simply put, an inexperienced and uneducated approach to installing a french drain system can cause many of the undesired problems that may just leave you feeling even more frustrated than before. Like any problem a homeowner needs to go about solving, a solution simply won’t do if it is only haphazard.

Supposed “solutions” like these not only lack the ability to solve the problem, but can introduce conditions that create even more! One of these unexpected circumstances, for example, are the makings of a very mold-friendly environment inside of your french drain. This of course is not likely in a properly put together french drain, but if it occurs, reversing the problem can prove to be horrendous. 

 

Can French Drains Cause Mold?

While exterior drains provide you with full assurance of a mold free drainage environment, interior drains can sometimes tell a whole different story. Mold growth is a top motivator of a homeowner looking to install a french drain, through primarily from inside the home. This is because stagnant indoor air combined with consistent high humidity levels creates mold’s favorite conditions.

Something to take into consideration is that simply ordering a french drain installation will not solve all of your excess moisture woes if it is not installed to address the specific sources of moisture, slopes, and other factors that are unique to your home. One of the problems that can eventually arise from an inadequate installation is mold growth. Perhaps the moisture is not draining properly or fast enough; mold spores will be looking to move in right away.

So, in short, yes. French drains can cause mold in homes that otherwise might not have had any mold growth. This is where the emphasis on a proper and professional installation becomes relevant once again.

After All This, Is A French Drain System Best For Me?

This question can be likened to asking:  “I need a vehicle to drive to work, which one is best for my family?” There are a mountain of variables to scale when making a decision of that magnitude, one of which being that the vehicle you purchase will most likely be relied on for years to come to solve your transportation problem.

 

The following variables to consider when determining the drainage system that is right for your home could look like the following:

 

…and many more. Every one of these variables can be different for a home sitting just down the street from your own. Since drainage systems are so dependent on gravity and being built to both collect and eliminate water efficiently, it is crucial that the design of a french drain system be custom made to your home. 

 

Not all homeowners know how to answer all of these questions about their home and the property it is on, but that’s okay! Our team of professional technicians have years of experience and are highly trained to determine what kind of drainage system is best for the excess moisture issue you might be facing. They will execute an educated installation that addresses all of the important variables for the most successful drainage outcome possible.

 

Simply give BARRIER a call today and schedule a FREE evaluation of your property. We will discuss the options you have available to you and help determine which drainage system is the best option after getting to know the intricacies of moisture that is both leaving and entering your home. 

SCHEDULE AN EVALUATION

Our team of professionals will perform a free evaluation on your basement or crawl space and discuss which waterproofing solutions will be the best fit for your family to improve your quality of life and wellbeing of your home.

Article Authors:

Brooke Britton

Graduated from UTM in 2017, a Registered Nurse dedicated to the quality of care of her patients.

Vivian Hemstead

AA in Journalism, 10+ years experience writing engaging and informative content for both large and small businesses. 

John Trusa

Managing Partner of Barrier Waterproofing Systems LLC., 20+ years experience working with polymers and various plastics forming processes. With his engineering degree he has served as Quality Control Manager and Engineering Manager at a plastics molding facility. He developed a background in sealants and adhesives from his years working at General Electric.

references

Just who doesn’t love the sound of rain splashing to the ground and the earthy smell after the rain?  Little might you have expected that your home sure doesn’t. This is because the excess moisture that rain causes does not treat the walls and foundation of your building well. 

Getting the excess water out of the area of your home will help to prevent the inevitable decaying of your walls due to a damp structure. The water can even damage your building’s foundation, causing some serious issues. It damages the quality and strength of your home,  leaving it vulnerable to collapse. And no one wants that to happen to them, right?

Don’t worry too much though, since there is good news! You can prevent the damage from happening by installing a simple french drain system. If you are dealing with standing water in your front yard, or permanent dampness, installing a french drain system can be very useful for you. Understanding and installing a french drain system for your property isn’t rocket science. That being said, the performance and benefits of it being put to use are truly remarkable for transforming the quality of your yard, beauty of your landscaping, and integrity of your home’s foundation.

Typically, a french drain is a trench made specifically to redirect or remove water from a particular area. It’s especially useful in prolonging the lifespan of buildings by preventing the water or moisture from damaging the walls or foundations of a building. It is also effective at reducing the chance you might get your shoes dirty from soaked soil in your front yard. 

Let’s take a further look into what a french drain system is and how you can take care of the excess moisture in your front yard by installing one.

What Is A French Drain System?

First up, the name of the french drain system doesn’t come from the country. Instead, it got its name from the judge and farmer Henry French in Massachusetts when he promoted the idea of a drain system in the year 1859. A french drain system, or weeping tile, trench drain, etc., is a trench made specifically to redirect or remove water from an area. 

The modern day system consists of a combination of perforated pipes and drains to get the water out of your yard naturally and effectively. It doesn’t only drain the collected surface water in your backyard, as the various forms of french drain systems allow it to drain excess groundwater too, among water from many other sources. While installing a french drain system, you need to keep track of all sources of excess water, be it groundwater, surface water, or the wastewater that your septic tanks emit. After all, you’re implementing the system for the purpose of keeping the excess moisture at bay. Let’s discuss some of the different forms of french drains and how and why they are different.

Different Forms Of A French Drain System

  1. Curtain Drain

This is the traditional and the most common form of french drain system. It is typically made of a perforated pipe surrounded by gravel. This is the most traditional and simplistic form of french drain system. The water is collected by the gravel which is laid out along the surface of the ground. The collected water then seeps down until it reaches the perforated pipe. From there, it drains out and away from the soil closest to the foundation of the home. You need to properly conceal the drain, however, or it will damage the elegant look of your front yard. This can be done simply by covering it with soil and it will work the same. 

  1. Filter Drain

Damp in your walls and indoor air is enough to annoy even the most adaptive of homeowners. There’s a high chance that it is caused by excess groundwater under your living areas. That is to say, to prevent the structural dampness in your walls, you need to get rid of the excess groundwater from under and around your home. Installing a filter drain in your front yard is one of the most highly recommended ways to do it. This type works the same as the curtain drain, except the gravel is designed to specifically collect groundwater instead of surface water. Installing both a filter drain and curtain drain will keep excess moisture from these sources, and any dampness it causes, miles away. 

  1. Dispersal Drain

This is one crucial drain for every home. This is because the water emitted from a septic tank is highly toxic and dangerous to health. Yes, you CAN be rid of the smell of this filthy water that is generated by the waste system of your home.  A dispersal drain is specifically designed to drain toxic waste water away from your home. 

  1. Fin Drain

A fin drain is relatively lower in cost to build than a traditional french drain system. It consists of a perforated pipe with an extension that rises perpendicularly to the drainage pipe. This extension is also called the ‘fin’. Though it is less expensive, the fin drain is also slightly more inefficient than the traditional french drain system. 

No matter which type of system you and your local drainage experts determine is best for the situation your property is presenting you, they all share these same advantages homeowners will receive by implementing a french drain system for their home. These advantages can also be available for your family to enjoy after a successful and professional installation.

Advantages Of A French Drain System 

  • Efficient Drainage

A french drain system can work wonders if you are sick of the seemingly never ending dampness in your walls. It can draw the water away from the walls of your home or foundation, essentially helping it to become safe from dampness. It is also a helpful measure in maintaining the moisture level of your front yard, even during periods of wet weather. Furthermore, you can draw the water to whatever location you want, be it a septic tank or sump pump well, for example. It helps keep your basement dry and prevents foundation wall damage due to permanent dampness, such as bowing and cracking.

  • Cost-efficient

Although labor intensive, french drain installation is very affordable and fairly easy to construct. When comparing to other more costly techniques of keeping your basement and your front yard dry, it is important to be aware that a shoddy installation can end up causing more expenses in repair or replacements.

  • Aesthetically Pleasing

When professionally designed and installed, a french drain system can double as a beautiful landscaping feature in your yard. It can be covered with plants and other organic decoratives that make your lawn look even better than its previous best. 

  • Ease of Construction

Consider the differences between a french drain system being installed with heavy machinery VS tools from the home improvement store. It should go without saying which method would produce surprisingly fast results. More relevant variables to consider would depend on the size and complexity of the french drain that is being installed.

Now that we have covered the plethora of positives for one of our favorite forms of drainage you can use on your property, we would do you well to mention some of the difficulties that can arise. While the following points affect all homeowners at different levels, we strongly suggest you give equal attention to addressing these possible areas of concern.

Disadvantages Of A French Drain System

  • Difficult and Laborious To Build

If you decide to take a french drain system on as a DIY project and construct it without the supervision and strategy of a professional services, it can end up to prove very difficult for you. If you don’t consider potential water lines and gas lines you could easily damage them, as well as any structures or people working around them! So, it is highly recommended to hand this task over to a professional or collaborate with their team at the cost of hiring.

  • Regular Maintenance Required

The drainage pipes are vulnerable to becoming clogged by sediments building up over time. This is especially true for properties with meticulous substrate such as pea gravel or chips. When this happens, your french drain will stop functioning and will need to be repaired as soon as possible. Routinely maintaining your system is a much more convenient and costly route to take.

What Is The Difference Between A French Drain And A Trench Drain? 

At the foundational level, both trench drain and french drain systems do the same job of redirecting excess water out of a particular afflicted area. However, their operations to get the job done are different. Trench drains fall under the category of above-surface drainage methods and french drains are categorized as sub-surface drainage methods. Let’s dig deeper to better understand both of these drainage systems and how they differ from each other.

Explaining Trench Drains

Unlike french drains, trench drains give an impression of a large ditch in the ground. This is because it is constructed by digging a trench in the ground and covering it with grating. It is for this reason these systems are also referred to as channel drains. Trench drains require the same basic knowledge of the behaviour of water and soil as french drain systems and many others. The trench must be gently sloped downwards at some angle to keep the water flow or your system will not work. 

If you are installing a trench drain without the help of a professional team, it is important that you are sure to utilize a very strong grating. Since this type of drainage system is exposed to the surface, the covering of the drain will be dealing with heavy loads of people and possibly vehicles. Any compromise during this installation and you and your loved ones could end up with a serious injury. A high load-bearing capacity grating will be the best choice for this project.

Explaining French Drains

A french drain is constructed by digging a trench and filling it with gravel before laying a perforated or slotted pipe. Unlike trench drains, french drains are subsurface solutions, performing their drainage capabilities from underground. This means a further extent of work is involved than when installing a trench drain system. However, the extra effort can easily be identified as worth it since a french drain looks better and requires less maintenance than a trench drain. A French drain can be covered with organic decoratives and gives your yard a new look where trench drains don’t. 

What Is The Process A French Drain System Uses? 

At this point of reading, we have outlined a lot of the preliminary information surrounding making a choice to choose a french drain system. If you are ready to move further into making a decision, you may want to know more about the mechanics of the process a french drain system uses to provide the exterior drainage you need for your property.

Despite being so remarkably effective, the principle that a french drain works on really is quite simple: Water will always flow downwards. The influence of gravity on water forces it to continuously flow downwards by way of the shortest path possible. Keeping it possible for these principles to carry out properly in your french drain system will help it work like magic. If there are any limitations to this playing out, like blockages, misalignments, or ineffective angles, your french drain system will turn out to be just about useless. 

A french drain provides the collected water with an accessible and straightforward path to flow. The pipe and the trench should be downward to fully leverage the force of gravity. The drainage pipe, if installed, should also be downward sloped and parallel to the trench. 

Now, despite being perfectly constructed, there is always a chance the system might stop working. This is due to a variety of reasons, most common of which is becoming clogged. When water flows from the ground to the drain, it is no longer only water, carrying along with it even the smallest bit of sediment. It can also contain leaves or an array of organic materials big enough to hamper the flow of water. The sediments can eventually build up to an amount that will slow down or completely stop the flow of water through the french drain. 

You can later take a quick check to see if your french drain is not working right. The simplest way to tell is to look for if there is water in your front yard or basement. If water is collecting there, you can know the drain was not constructed properly or that it has malfunctioned.

The most straightforward and assured way to get this done right, however, is by calling a professional to check the status of your trench system or systems. Any disassembly or modifications that need to be done, when implemented with an educated and experienced know-how, are bound to be successful and long lasting.

How Are French Drains Made? 

The typical locations for installing a french drain are directly around the foundation of a home, whether that be the exterior or interior. A common place, for example, is to be installed under the basement floor. This helps prevent excess moisture from reaching the living or storage area inside. Doubling up with an external french around the foundation walls will make for an even more resilient protection against excess water and moisture. 

You may want to know more about what you will be getting when paying for a professional french drain installation service (which we recommend as the best option!). Perhaps you want to better understand how to build one so you can take the task on yourself. No matter the reason, the following breakdown will take you step by step through the process of creating and installing a french drain system on your property. 

  1. Careful Planning Comes First

A slight error in measurement or structure can ruin a whole french drain building project. To avoid this, it is important that a careful plan be formed before starting construction. These points should be kept in mind for achieving a successful french drain system construction:

  • Water will always travel towards the bottom

Regardless of the position or angle the water enters into the drain, it will always seek out the lowest point of the system. Naturally flowing downwards, the influence of gravity is a constant variable that plays a part in how a french drain works . This may seem like quite an obvious point, but people often ignore it, having placed more emphasis on other aspects of construction during planning. Failing to sort out these mechanics can result in a low efficiency or useless outcome for draining excess moisture on your property.

  • Organic Matter Absorbs Water

Organic matter created from the breakdown of leaves and other various processes causes the soil to become fertile and hydrophilic. This means the soil will absorb and hold water like a sponge. Therefore, soil with little to no organic matter will fail to absorb a significant amount of water. These conditions for soil are perfect for the function of a french drain system. Wet, water-retaining soil will continuously release heavy amounts of moisture into the air or simply reduce the draining effect overall, proving to be counterproductive for your system.

  • Remove Objects That are in the Path of the Flowing Water

Hindrances to a clear path of flowing water, like grass, small trees, or pebbles, can potentially slow down or even completely block draining water. This can result in the usual yet numerous ailments of excess moisture on your property, from standing water on your lawn to foundation damage of your basement or crawl space.  Removing all the obstacles in the path for where the water is to drain away is crucial for a useful french drain system.

  1. Mark The Concrete

It’s always better to prevent errors rather than have to fix them. A good step of the installation process to implement this type of prevention can be taken when dealing with the interference of concrete. A driveway, patio, or other outdoor concrete pad that needs to be modified to make way for a french drain can be easily marked for accuracy. No matter what you use to make the mark, giving a guideline for how to make way for the french drain can clear any confusion up further down the installation process when taken care of during this step.

  1. Cutting The Concrete and Making a Trench

A demolition chainsaw is a tool of choice for cutting concrete that poses a problem during a french drain system installation. Another benefit of hiring a team of professionals for this work is that, though industrial grade tools make for much easier work, they are not usually easily obtainable. 

If you have no other options currently available to you but to DIY, we recommend performing some research on the safest and most effective tools and tips to cut through concrete that is locally available to you.

  1. Fabric Installation

Adding fabric to the makeup of your french drain system is essential, yet highly recommended. In fact, if you do not install fabric, sand as well as a host of other materials will be free to easily enter your drainage pipes or other places it doesn’t belong. Sediment will build up over time inside the pipe and inevitably cause a blockage, for example. This results in a decreased efficiency of your french drain or in the worst case scenario, causes it to stop working altogether. 

  1. Laying Drainage Pipe 

After you have dug out the trench of the desired dimensions, the next step is to fill it with gravel and lay the drainage pipe. Our technicians recommend using a slotted agriculture drainage pipe for maximum effectiveness and reduction of gravel. (This is because drain systems with smaller to no piping require much more gravel.) And that serves as the final step of installation, but don’t miss the paragraph below if you have questions about backfilling your french drain!

Can You Backfill The Excavated Soil To The Trench? 

The sole reason for a french drain installation is that the soil is not properly draining the excess water found in the soil on your property. This means that putting any excavated soil back into the trench is a very bad idea. It can cause repeated clogging and most certainly decrease the effectiveness of your french drain system over time. The perforations on the drainage pipe will openly allow dirt to enter the pipe and practically ruin the entire system. In addition, fixing a clogged pipe is tremendously hard as the pipe becomes very heavy with the combined weight of collected soil and absorbed water.

Okay, you have learned in previous sections that Careful Planning Comes First when making a french drain, though you may have also asked yourself what a french drain system plan looks like.

There are many variables to consider given that every homeowner’s property is unique, with different variables that either reflect their physical makeup or way the homeowner wants it to look. Planning for a french drain system relies on the integration of these kinds of things to not only function well, but also meet the expectations of the family that will be receiving the increase in their quality of life! Below are some pointers for helping you identify an effective french drain system installation from start to finish.

How To Plan For Your French Drain

As previously stated, installing a french drain system requires expert knowledge of the mechanics of water drainage and absorption in soil. The smallest of mistakes can result in a complete failure of the trench, whether it does so right out of the gates or after a little time. This of course points to creating an effective plan to prevent errors from happening during installation, of which includes these various aspects of the design and installation of a french drain system:

Planning The Design of a French Drain System 

  • Slope: The drainage pipe and the trench itself must be downward-sloped. It is essential to keep the water flowing under the influence of gravity. However, the slope does not need to be significantly steep, for a minimum drop of 1% per 100 feet is necessary to maintain the flow of water. 
  • Depth: If you are having a french drain built around your foundation, precise measurements need to be taken. This is because digging in such an area for installation will require deeper digging. Otherwise, the usual sufficient depth is 8 inches to 2 feet for most drains. 
  • Carefully Placing Aggregate: It may not occur to you that the drain can fill with aggregate. The position of the small and large gravel in your trench can make it less effective if placed inappropriately. For the best results, small gravel is placed near the pipe and large gravel is placed near the surface.
  • Pipe Length: Needless to say, the length of the pipe should be enough to carry water from its source to where you have chosen as the destination. 

A well coordinated combination of these variables will set your drainage efforts up for maximum success. Waterproofing and Drainage professionals, like ours here at BARRIER, will take all of the necessary measurements and specialized aspects into consideration to plan the best french drain system for your specific situation. Once the most optimal system design is achieved, they will put their years of experience to work into an installation plan for the system that will drain excess moisture on your property for many years to come.

Planning The Installation of a French Drain

  • Determining The Location: Choosing the best location for the construction of your french drain depends on where the problem areas are located on your property. There is no point installing a french drain where there is no excess water to collect. The condition and type of soil also comes into play when determining the best location for installing a french drain. 

Really, the fact that water runs downward due to the action of gravity is what is used to determine the placement of a french drain. This means it is important to install a french drain at the lowest point in your area where water will naturally travel. The drain must also be gently sloped downwards to promote the flow of water. The endpoint of the french drain should be the lowest point of the trench so that water flows freely to the exit. You can place the exit of your french drain in a dry well, existing gutter, septic tank, or a gravel pit, depending on if your location permits.

  • Prepare Before Digging: It is important for homeowners living in a metropolitan area to be aware of their city codes. This is true because digging a french drain is a long and noisy process that can easily annoy your neighbors, and understandably so!
  • Constant Grading Measurements: We implement constant grading measuring, even during the digging process. This is a highly effective technique that leads to remarkable results that allow your french drain to be built with great precision by the desired dimensions.
  • Add The Fabric First: Lining the trench with landscape fabric first and foremost will keep the gravel in place when placed inside. It also prevents dirt from mixing with the gravel, which lessens the opportunity of clogging issues. 

It seems it can’t be said enough that placement is a priority when building a french drain system.You may find yourself asking, however, which of the materials being placed in the system are the best to use? Of course, installing inadequate materials in even the most perfect order won’t merit the best drainage results.

What Is The Best Fabric For Use In A French Drain? 

As said, lining your trench with fabric is necessary to prevent unnecessary and unwanted hassle. It also prolongs the life of your french drain. Not lining a french drain with non-woven geotextile fabric is one of the main causes of failure of a french drain. If you don’t use fabric before adding the gravel, soil and other impurities will get mixed with water as the water flows through the gravel. This leads to an inevitable failure of your french drain due to excessive clogging in the drain. Repairing your french drain, in this case, is not going to be an easy task either. Removing the collected sand from your pipe is as hard as installing the french drain itself.

This drainage fabric prevents the soil from entering the pipe through perforations. However, you have to only use industry-standard non-woven geotextile fabric using the burrito wrap technique. If you manage to get your hands on a high-quality drainage fabric, it can last for decades without sweating a bit. 

What Size Stone Is Best For Use In A French Drain? 

There is a large variety of drainage rocks available to buy, or so you may have heard. Drainage rocks don’t need to be shiny and attractive, as they will be buried in the ground. What’s the point of buying expensive, shiny, and elegant-looking stones just to bury them in the ground? Unfortunately, most of the stones labelled as drainage rocks are very decorative in nature and come with a higher price tag because of it. You can save money by avoiding this trap, you don’t need those decorative stones for superior drainage. Filling your trench with gravel is more efficient and cost-effective than any other drainage stones. 

If you decide on a different type of stone, it is best to avoid using large stones that are larger than 1 inch. Instead, consider using stones that range between ½ to ¾ inch for the best performance. A greater quantity of rocks directly leads to a better flow of water and reliability of the trench. This is why you have to consider putting in stones that are smaller than 1 inch. 

If cost can be greatly affected simply by the type of stone that is used in your french drain system, you might be pondering what other cost variables there might be to consider. 

Cost Of A French Drain System 

First things first, installing a french drain to fix your excess moisture woes could very well take longer than you expect. Either way, it is one of the best investments you can make to correct moisture and dampness in the long run. The cost of a french drain investment relies heavily on factors like the size and complexity of the design of the drain. Additionally, the cost reflects whether you are constructing it by yourself or hiring a professional to do the job. As you could probably guess, the increased cost of hiring a professional with specialized tools and experience can ensure a higher quality outcome in a fraction of the time. 

In most cases, installing a french drain system can cost around $2,000 to $6,000. These amounts average out at $4,000. Some homeowners consider this amount to be quite a lot of money, but it is arguable that the outcome far outweighs the initial cost of investment. It is possible to save money on a more thrifty installation by doing it yourself with cheap and more easily accessible tools.

Are you the type of homeowner that knows you can be stubborn when it comes to your pocketbook? The following reasons for investing in a professional french drain system installation might just part those cloudy skies of decision making.

The Importance Of A Professional Installation (Do You Really Save Money with DIY?) 

What exactly is behind the job of installing a french drain system? How does someone become a professional of digging a trench and filling it with rocks and pipes? From things that can go dangerously wrong, to accidentally causing damage to yours or a neighbor’s property, this work can include plenty more things to consider.

What Can Go Wrong During Installation? 

Believe it or not, constructing a french drain system without the proper knowledge can prove dangerous for anyone close by. A lot of things can go wrong if there is a miscalculated step in the process, or an accident while operating heavy machinery. Let’s take a closer look.

  1. Damaging A Gas Pipeline: Damaging a gas line can turn out to be extremely dangerous for you and your neighbors. These lines are run in the ground underneath and around your home. There is also a lot of hassle involved in fixing a gas line. Usually, the federal helpline number will need to be called for getting help with repairs.
  2. Accidentally Draining In Your Neighbor’s Yard: If the endpoint of the drain eliminates too closely to (or inside of!) your neighbor’s yard, the excess water can instead damage the foundation and walls of your neighbor’s house! This is one of the most common problems that arise when people try to construct a french drain system by themselves. If done incorrectly, the problem might be solved for you, but make for a bad situation for your neighbors. 
  1. Using Wrong Stones: A properly working french drain requires stones that can easily let the water pass by and even assist in the drainage. However, it is easy to do just the opposite. You can easily purchase stones that block the flow of water and hinder the effectiveness of the drain. Lack of prior knowledge is the main reason for this mistake, and can result in the complete breakdown of the installed french drain system. 
  1.  Not Using a Filter: The work of a filter in a french drain system is to block sediments and excess sand from entering the drainage pipes. The absence of this filter, or inadequate installation thereof, will result in repeated clogging. Cleaning clogged pipes can quickly become a nightmare, what with the combined weight of all the sediment, sand, and moisture becoming very heavy.

A base conclusion to draw from these points is that a professional installation will greatly increase the safety of the job, let alone the success of it. But what other advantages are you bringing into such a home improvement project when you hire your local professionals?

The Advantages Of Having A Professional Do The Job

  1. Less Worry: You won’t have to do any worrying about the depth of the trench. Professional technicians know and specialize in their job and won’t let any of the pipelines, machinery, or surrounding property get damaged during construction, so sit back and relax.
  1. Fast and Effective: The tools professionals use are also specialized and can help do an efficient job in a fraction of the time that more commonplace tools would take. The calculations and measurements that need to be made also become like second nature after so many years of experience.

Simply put, an inexperienced and uneducated approach to installing a french drain system can cause many of the undesired problems that may just leave you feeling even more frustrated than before. Like any problem a homeowner needs to go about solving, a solution simply won’t do if it is only haphazard.

Supposed “solutions” like these not only lack the ability to solve the problem, but can introduce conditions that create even more! One of these unexpected circumstances, for example, are the makings of a very mold-friendly environment inside of your french drain. This of course is not likely in a properly put together french drain, but if it occurs, reversing the problem can prove to be horrendous. 

Can French Drains Cause Mold?

While exterior drains provide you with full assurance of a mold free drainage environment, interior drains can sometimes tell a whole different story. Mold growth is a top motivator of a homeowner looking to install a french drain, through primarily from inside the home. This is because stagnant indoor air combined with consistent high humidity levels creates mold’s favorite conditions.

Something to take into consideration is that simply ordering a french drain installation will not solve all of your excess moisture woes if it is not installed to address the specific sources of moisture, slopes, and other factors that are unique to your home.One of the problems that can eventually arise from an inadequate installation is mold growth. Perhaps the moisture is not draining properly or fast enough; mold spores will be looking to move in right away.

So, in short, yes, french drains can cause mold in homes that otherwise might not have had any mold growth. This is where the emphasis on a proper and professional installation becomes relevant once again.

After All This, Is A French Drain System Best For Me?

This question can be likened to asking:  “I need a vehicle to drive to work, which one is best for my family?” There are a mountain of variables to scale when making a decision of that magnitude, one of which being that the vehicle you purchase will most likely be relied on for years to come to solve your transportation problem.

The following variables to consider when determining the drainage system that is right for your home could look like the following:

  • Location of the source of excess moisture 
  • Severity of excess moisture
  • Type of foundation: Basement or Crawl Space?
  • Budget available
  • Size of the perimeter of your home

…and many more. Every one of these variables can be different for a home sitting just down the street from your own. Since drainage systems are so dependent on gravity and being built to both collect and eliminate water efficiently, it is crucial that the design of a french drain system be custom made to your home. 

Not all homeowners know how to answer all of these questions about their home and the property it is on, but that’s okay! Our team of professional technicians have years of experience and are highly trained to determine what kind of drainage system is best for the excess moisture issue you might be facing. They will execute an educated installation that addresses all of the important variables for the most successful drainage outcome possible.

Simply give BARRIER a call today and schedule a FREE evaluation of your property. We will discuss the options you have available to you and help determine which drainage system is the best option after getting to know the intricacies of moisture that is both leaving and entering your home. 

About BARRIER

Barrier Waterproofing Systems is an educated, responsible, and innovative company specializing in Basement & Crawl Space Waterproofing and Foundation Repair. Our goal is to properly control the common moisture intrusion issues with your house and allow you to further increase the quality of the environment inside your home.

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