French Drain Basics

Standing water is a concern many homeowners deal with during the summer. Stagnant pools of water provide welcome breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which can make your home host to an unwelcome swarm of winged, vampiric insects. But even in the winter, standing water can cause trouble; if the temperature drops below freezing after a rainstorm, for example, you could be looking at dangerous ice on your walkways or in your yard. Aside from the obvious slipperiness, poor drainage conditions can lead to other issues down the line; water retention could eventually affect your home’s foundations or even your sewage system. Better to tend the problem as it becomes apparent, and one of the most effective methods to remedy poor drainage is the “French drain.”

What is a French drain?

This drainage solution is actually nothing more than a gravel-filled trench which houses a perforated pipe. This drain directs surface water away from specific areas, like the foundation of your home. By allowing water to do what it does best (follow the path of least resistance to the lowest point possible), French drains provide excellent drainage with minimal maintenance needs. The gravel blocks debris from entering the pipe, and the pipe collects excess water along its entire, perforated length. Think of them as gutters for your yard.

How does a French drain work?

Liquid, no matter what kind, always tries to seek the lowest point possible by the easiest path. Because soil provides many ready-made pockets for water to collect in, something more is needed to reduce water retention in notoriously soggy spots. The French drain provides an alternative easy path which encourages water to sift out of the surrounding soil and flow along a the smooth course created by the drain pipe.

Where should you install a French drain?

Basically, anywhere that water pools for hours or days after a rain is a place that could potentially need a drainage remedy. No matter if your problem is in your backyard lawn, near your patio, or against your home’s foundation, a French drain should be able to be installed. The main factor for the success of a French drain is slope. Essentially, this type of drain should drop at least 1 percent in depth for every 100 feet in length. The French drain should be buried at least 8 inches below the surface, and anywhere up to 2 feet under is generally more than enough to divert water from troublesome spots.

The other factor to consider when planning your French drain is what size and type of gravel to cover the drain with. Smaller sizes of pea gravel are acceptable, as are larger pieces of river rock. You can even choose to use both sizes. If you go this route, the smaller gravel should be placed closest to the pipe, and the larger pieces closer to the soil surface.

If you need help planning your French drain, Andy’s Sprinkler and Drainage is here with solutions for most every budget. Contact us today, and we’ll get you on the path to the yard of your dreams!