Tame A Swampy Yard With A French Drain

Posted on: 9 September 2015

Do you struggle with a water-logged yard? Or, even worse, a basement that floods on a regular basis? There might be a cheap and easy solution to your problems: a French drain.

What is a French drain and why is it an inexpensive way to save your yard or house?

A Good Idea, Even If It's Not French

A French drain (named after the inventor, not the country) is a simple idea that uses a submerged pipe to divert water away from areas where it pools or causes damage. If you have low spots in your yard, problems with water in the basement or a retaining wall, you could probably use a French drain to move water safely to another location.

Just a Few Days to Fix the Problem

To install a French drain, you need to determine where the water problem is coming from and where you can safely divert it before it reaches that spot. Then, dig a trench above the water-logged area. A common French drain is about 1 ½ feet to 2 feet wide and deep. It needs to slope slightly – perhaps as little as 1 inch for every 8 feet of length (you want to work with gravity but not create a waterfall).

Line the trench with gravel and then place a perforated pipe at the bottom. The pipe's upper holes will allow water to seep into the pipe and run down the length of the pipe to the exit point. Your exit point should be a safe distance from the home, preferably in a ditch, street or a low-lying distant part of the yard.

How to Hide It

Once installed and functioning, a French drain is hidden from view nearly completely (the end spout is accessible, of course). However, since it only works when covered by something that allows drainage – usually gravel – its footprint will remain visible.

The good news is that you can incorporate the gravel into your existing landscape without a lot of fuss. If the French drain protects your home or lawn, for example, make it into an edging for a planted area next to the house or grass borders.

Many meandering French drains can be turned into walkway edging to blend in with the décor. Simply create a walkway with pavers, bricks, or wood ties and mirror the gravel of the French drain on one side by placing the same amount on the opposite side to create symmetry. Place LED or solar walkway lights in the French drain gravel to discourage walking on that side.

If you have a complex drainage problem, you may need to address it with more than a simple French drain. It may call for a retaining wall or engineering solution. But for most homeowners plagued by unwanted pooling, the humble French drain may be just the answer they were looking for.   

For professional landscaping, contact a company such as Done Right Landscapes.