There are many great opportunities for getting out of the house and into the outdoors this summer, and summer also means home improvement. If you’ve noticed that you’re having some trouble with drainage in your yard or around your house, it may be time to look into installing French style drains. This guide will show you how to install French drains in eight easy steps.

What is a French Drain?

French drains are trenches containing a pipe that is surrounded by gravel or rocks for water to run through. They are a good solution to issues like drainage problems that cause standing water and basement flooding. In some landscapes and situations, an above ground gutter drain pipe isn’t sufficient.

1. Determine Problem Area and Map

The first step of your installation is taking the time to assess your yard and figure out what the problem is. Is your yard on a small incline that directs water towards your house? Are there any low spots where water is gathering? Or, do you have places where water is trying to drain but is unable? Whatever the cause, take the time to examine the problem and determine a course of action.

You will need to figure out where the water is coming from so you can trap it before it gets to the foundation of your house, and redirect the water from there. Sometimes the water comes from your gutters, but in other situations it may need to be collected from another source. You also need to decide where to direct the water. You and your neighbors will most likely appreciate the rainwater being directed to the street or another location where it can drain naturally.

2. Measure Distance of Drain

Next, use a tape measure to determine how long your French drains will need to be. This will help you figure out your costs and budget, as well as where you want the water to go.

3. Determine Materials and Costs

Now that you’ve measured the distance you need to go with your drain, it’s time to figure out materials cost and budget. Many home-improvement stores offer drainage pipes pre-packed with material to prevent dirt and debris from infiltrating your French drain. If you choose not to buy this pre-made material, make sure to buy corrugated pipes with holes, plenty of gravel, and landscape fabric, as you’ll have to cover the pipes yourself to prevent infiltration. Your local home improvement store may also be able to give you advice on how to install French drains.

4. Clear Site

This step is easy enough! Before you install french drains, clear your site of yard debris, tools, toys, and anything else that might be in the way. Before you dig, make sure to call 811 or another local service to come mark sewer, gas, and any other underground utilities.

5. Dig

You need to dig to a depth of about 8 inches to accommodate your materials, and wide enough for your pipe to lay in the trench. Don’t forget to measure the grade of your pipe, you want water to drop about 1/8″ per foot to make sure the water goes where you want it. (You can figure this out by using a line level.)

6. Lay Drains

Drop in your materials. If you’re using pre-fabricated materials, lay these in and secure each end of the pipe to the next. If you’re making sure the drain stays clear yourself, first lay down landscaping fabric and then the pipes. Afterward, fill around the pipe with gravel, and then fold the rest of the fabric over.

7. Cover

Carefully rebury your new drains with the same gravel that you surrounded the pipe with, and then place soil over that.

8. Landscape

Level out the yard where you dug your trenches and plant grass seed. It’s wise to cover the seed with straw or another material to help keep it in place. Now you know how to install French drains!

America’s Home Checkers is Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill’s most trusted family-owned home inspection company. We have been inspecting homes in the Triangle since 1993. Contact us to schedule an appointment or discuss how we can serve you.