French Drains: Not For a DIY Project List!

Solving Soggy Problems

In some locations, property owners face recurring soggy spots in lawns and (sometimes) basements. A “French Drain” may provide a highly effective “last resort” solution. However, experts caution installing this seemingly simple technology requires specialized training. A typical homeowner should probably avoid tackling such a complex project, because an incorrectly placed or constructed French Drain could contribute to serious long term structural problems impacting the foundation. Hiring an experienced drain contractor typically represents a more timely, cost-effective strategy.

Pooling Water: A Concern Inside (and Outside)

Water collecting regularly in the basement of a home requires attention. Over the course of months or years, this situation causes a deterioration in the basement and the foundation. As water seeps into the interior, it gradually creates cavities and cracks. Weakened building foundations eventually lead to structural problems, potentially shortening the useful lifespan of the building.

Similarly, water pooling regularly in a yard also causes concern for property owners. Tending wet, soggy lawns proves challenging. In addition to the physical difficulty of mowing effectively in these environments, residents in some locations may experience problems with mosquito infestations. These pesky biting insects breed copiously in standing pools of warm shallow water. Yards which remain soggy for extended periods of time also create muddy, odoriferous zones around the home.

French drain system

A Versatile Approach

Fortunately, in both these scenarios, a “French Drain” often supplies an excellent solution. Due to the expense involved, it usually represents a last resort strategy. However, both basement repair companies and landscapers sometimes rely upon this option to assist customers in removing unwanted water from living areas. In fact, this popular drain has even acquired some colorful descriptive names: “weeping tile drain”,”sub-soil drain”, “rock drain” and “perimeter drain”.

In theory, a “French Drain” appears quite simple. It relies upon straightforward ditch technology to collect and carry water away from the home. An experienced contractor will install this solution either (1) inside the residence, along the edges of the basement, or (2) outside along the exterior perimeter of the basement foundation. It proves helpful to consult with a structural engineer before undertaking this complex process, of course.

French Drains Inside Basements

Unfortunately, a French Drain inside the basement does not completely eliminate water entry; this tool simply collects water as soon as possible and channels it back outside again. In damp locations, it nevertheless provides a valuable way to help minimize water pooling indoors.

A contractor with expertise in waterproofing will excavate insite around th edge of the basement in order to install an encompassing perforated drain pipe and an associated sump pump. The contractor buries the pipe in a gravel trench and then applies new concrete. In some cases, a homeowner may also choose to install a home generator to support the 24/7 operation of the sump pump during severe storms causing power outages. Although frequently costly, these efforts may help prevent some expensive basement floods.

French Drains Outdoors

When a waterproofing contractor installs a French Drain along the exterior foundation wall, essentially a similar process occurs, with one important additional step. Typically, this installation requires the use of heavy machinery to completely temporarily uncover the basement foundation. The contractor then applies waterproof sealant to the exterior of the exposed basement walls, before laying a new perimeter trench of pipe (inside loose gravel) and cutting a channel directing water away from the residence. The slope of the land around the home dictates whether installing an exterior sump pump becomes necessary to control water flows.

While usually exterior French Drains involve hefty installation costs (these projects require extensive digging), this strategy offers a wonderful tool for keeping a basement dry. When the new “perimeter drain” functions effectively, water won’t seep inside. Plus, the contractor does not need to cut into the basement floor. By involving a landscaper in the planning phase, it may become possible to use this technique to also resolve problematic soggy spots in the yard. The buried gravel trench can direct the water towards a desired exit point, such as a neighborhood storm drain or agricultural ditch.

Use Gutters And Drain Spouts

Waterproofing experts advise homeowners to use reliable gutter and extended drain spout systems in conjunction with both types of French Drains. By ensuring rainwater flowing off the roof won’t soak into the ground close to the foundation, property owners help reinforce the beneficial results of underground pipes channeling water away from the basement.

Although the process of installing a French drain often causes short term disruptions (especially to landscaping near the home), this technology sometimes helps real estate owners avoid serious problems associated with water damage. It has become a valuable waterproofing solution!