French Drains Explained

Poor drainage issues around the outside of your home can create a long list of problems, from standing water in the yard to cracks in your foundation. Water is the most destructive element on earth, and if you’ve ever heard the saying “water always finds its way” and wondered what it meant, look at the Grand Canyon or the Mississippi River. Sometimes called the “universal solvent,” water will reach its destination, regardless of what is in its path.

What is a French Drain?

French drains are used to keep groundwater from ponding up in your yard, as well as keeping water away from the base of your home’s foundation. Think of a French drain as a ground-level version of gutters on the eaves of your roof, as they both perform the same function, re-routing and directing water away from your home.

The construction of a French drain looks complicated but is deceptively simple. Dig a trench with a downward slope of 1-inch every 8 feet, line it with gravel or other stones, lay in a perforated PVC pipe, and cover with soil. Or, instead of fill dirt, use decorative rocks or gravel to fill in the drain trench, making a decorative addition to your property. The next time it rains, the excess water that used to pool up in your backyard will now be directed into the French drain, routed away from your yard, and more importantly, your home’s foundation.

Do I Need a Catch Basin Installed with My French Drain? 

On its own, a French drain will have a tremendous effect on the amount of water that remains in your yard after a heavy storm. Most professional installers, including Nick’s Plumbing & Air Conditioning, recommend placing at least one catch basin for every gutter downspout along the length of a French drain. Catch basins allow large amounts of water, such as the flow from a rain gutter system, to be directed into a deep plastic box with a grate on top. Catch basins should be placed as close as possible to any downspouts that empty into the area of the French drain.

Do French Drains Really Work?

Ask anybody who has one, and they’ll tell you a French drain is a great idea, especially here in the Houston area, where our clay-heavy soil makes water absorption a real challenge. Just about every yard in our city (that doesn’t have a French drain) will have puddles of standing water, which aren’t only unsightly, but will attract mosquitos and other pests. Having a professionally installed French drain will remove the standing water from your yard, allowing your family to enjoy the outdoors without the muddy shoes and the bug bites!

What Maintenance Does a French Drain Require? 

Once your French drain has been installed, there isn’t much for the homeowner to do concerning maintenance. Check the drain gates atop the catch basins, and make sure they are clear of debris, like leaves, weeds, or rocks. Check beneath the drain grate for any buildup of mud inside the catch basin, and if any is present, a good soaking with your garden hose should be enough to loosen it up and flush it away. French drains that use a narrow pipe structure (less than 4” in diameter) are more likely to become completely blocked by mud and should be checked for buildup at least twice a year.  

How Much Does a French Drain Installation Cost? 

As is the case with any home improvement project, the cost will depend on several factors, like the size of your yard and the cost of materials. A simple, single-trench French drain with a 50-foot run has an average price of $25 per linear foot or $1,250, with more complex jobs ringing in at around $50 per linear foot, or $2,500.

How Do I Know if I Need a French Drain Installation in Houston?

Chances are if you’ve landed on a webpage about French drains, you didn’t get here by accident. Puddles, ponding, pooling of water around your yard, broken foundations, warped door frames, and cracked drywall are all signs that your property is experiencing a severe issue with proper drainage. Nick’s Plumbing & Air Conditioning has been solving drain problems both in and outside your Houston home since 1979, and they’re ready to help tackle your soggy lawn issues. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment for a cost evaluation or second opinion on your French Drain installation.

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