What Is a French Drain and How Does It Work?

You dread that first clap of thunder because you know in a few hours your basement will be a soggy mess.

Or maybe it isn’t your basement, but your front yard that’s a soggy situation. It’s frustrating and can turn into a potential nightmare for homeowners and businesses.

You have a few options, but one way to get rid of the drainage problem is installing a French Drain system. What is a French Drain? If you aren’t sure what that is or if it’s the right decision, let’s look at a few things you should consider.

What Is A French Drain?

A French Drain is a pipe that collects and directs water. A wide, perforated pipe placed in the ground collects excess water and drains it away from the affected area. The pipe is covered with gravel or rock so that it’s not visible, and it’s angled downward to make sure drainage is smooth.

Open ditches and stormwater drains manage rain-flow and excess water near roads, but you don’t want an open ditch near your building or house. A French Drain system is less open, but still allows water to drain to an area where it can cause less damage. You can also use a French Drain near a retaining wall to prevent groundswell pressure from upheaving it during periods of intense rain.


How Do I Install A French Drain?

We recommend that you don’t install a French Drain yourself unless you’re already a lawn and garden professional, but here’s how it works:

  • Dig a trench about two feet wide in your needed area and as much as six feet deep depending on the location (basement, retaining wall, or other areas, for example). Slope the pipe down in the direction you want the water to travel, such as away from the house.
  • Cover the pipe with gravel, not sand or soil. Sand or dirt can clog the pipe over time and cause problems. Standard procedure now is to lay filter fabric above the gravel to prevent soil from re -settling into the gravel over time. Back fill the foundation so that the ground is its original height.


What Are The Types Of French Drains?

Not all French Drains look the same. Depending on your needs, you have a few options.

  • Traditional French Drains, sometimes called Curtain Drains, follow the directions above. They use gravel and perforated pipe to collect water and it’s covered in earth and vegetation. They’re the least obstructive.
  • Collector and Interceptor drains direct groundwater and surface run-off towards the same drain. It quickly handles surface water to prevent flooding or ground upheaval, but should have a filter because of the shifting earth and debris. Otherwise, you have problems with the pipe further down the line.

If your household runs on a septic system, a dispersal drain handles the wastewater. There’s also a filter drain which filters and directs just groundwater. A fin drain is a smaller, cheaper version of a traditional French Drain with a vertical composite above.


Can I Install A French Drain Myself?

We are huge fans of DIY, but we recommend you call a professional to install a French Drain. Here’s 4 reasons why it is important to find a professional you can trust:

  1. Installing a French Drain isn’t as intuitive as you may think. You have to calculate the dispersal carefully because you want to drain water away from your house or yard quickly but also keep the water level in the pipe itself low.
  2.  Many people lay the perforation holes in the wrong place. You want them facing downwards at all times to keep that water level low. DIYers also typically choose the wrong type of drainage stone which causes clogs and other issues down the line. If the clog is located further down the pipe, it can be expensive to fix.
  3. DIYers also frequently use the wrong type of piping. Some pipes, such as corrugated plastic pipes, are fine in the short term, but have the wrong kind of perforation. You guessed it. It causes issues down the road.
  4. The final issue with DIYing such a massive project is forgetting to check on other piping already running through the ground. Nicking a gas line or sewage pipe while you’re burying a French Drain can cost you a chunk of change to fix and ruin the goodwill of your neighbors.


Professional French Drain Installation

Invest in proper installation now and save yourself a lot of repair and costly mistakes. Lawn and Landcare has the knowledge and expertise to help with your drainage issues so you’ll worry less about heavy Texas rainwater water casuing ugly surprises down the road.


Contact us to discuss your French Drain and other landscaping services today. We service many areas in the North Dallas area. Click on your city below to learn more about the work we have accomplished in your area:




Flower Mound


Highland Village


Little Elm



The Colony


Give us a call to find out if we service your area.

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Lawn & Landcare was founded in 2002 and specializes in commercial and residential landscape construction and maintenance throughout the North Dallas area.

Lawn & Landcare was founded to bring a new level service to its customers through superior work with highly skilled labor. Our customer service, expert staff, and attention to detail have made us the leader in North Dallas

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