How To Install a French Drain

Fearless Husband and I have been getting water in the basement ever since we bought the house. The problem seems to be that the dirt around our house is too high and when the ground gets saturated, especially in a fast, heavy rain, water will leak in above the foundation between the bricks. To alleviate some of the water pressure around the foundation we decided to install a french drain. Here is an illustration of a french drain I found online:


We started by digging a gently sloping trench that ran along our back wall then turned down towards the garden area. We hope this will take the water away from the house and towards our thirsty vegetables.


We then laid a thin layer of gravel and laid down a 25’, perforated, flexible pipe covered in a landscape netting “sock.” We covered this with about 4“-8“ of gravel.


At the end of the trench, we dug a 3’ hole for a make-shift cistern. Basically, it’s just a hole that gets down below the clay layer to better-draining soil.


We put some gravel at the bottom of hole to aid drainage, and flipped a 5-gallon bucket with a hole cut it in to keep the dirt from collapsing back into the hole.


We then attached the tubing to the bucket – the kind we got just snapped right in.


Then it was just a matter of filling in the trench with gravel:



We ended up using gravel we pulled out of the yard when we first moved in. That gravel had a lot of dirt mixed in with it, which would not work well for the drain, so we had to come up with a creative way to quickly get the gravel separated from the rest of the dirt…


We used the grated top of my garden cart to sift it out which worked surprisingly well!

After we laid down the gravel, we filled the dirt back into the beds. After leveling those out we covered with a mulch made of fallen leaves. This should both keep weeds down and get some nutrients back into the soil as the leaves breakdown over the winter.


The whole project only cost about $25, plus about 12 hours of labor. We’re going to see how this does over the winter with handling the snow melt-offs If we see an improvement in the basement water issues, we will be installing similar systems along the north and south walls of the house come Spring.


10 thoughts on “How To Install a French Drain

  1. Wow, I’m impressed. That’s a lot of work, but it’s well thought out and should help a lot. I’ve never understood what a French drain was. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I wish I could take credit for being smart, but it’s your son who taught me everything I know about it :-). He’s a pretty brainy guy. Or maybe I should say a pretty, brainy guy :-).

    1. Cool! I hadn’t thought about a solid pipe, but I can see how that would help protect roots. Out of curiosity, how’d you find my blog?

      1. Just exploring for subjects that I am most interested in, which are pruning, draingage, ornamental grasses, tree care and redwood trees.

        Pretty much just typing a keyword in the search box and browsing the results for the most interesting. Sometimes these blogs show up on Google search results too.

        I’m a huge internet surfer. Both sharing and gleaning information.


        MDV / Oregon

      2. You should check out if you haven’t already – a great online resource for gardeners from around the world!

  2. So it’s been a few months….how dry is your basement? I’m thinking this will be my project, once the ground thaws (its under 6″ of snow right now) so I will be able to (finally) convert the basement into a den

  3. Hi.

    I was researching how to solve soggy backyard issues and I stumbled across your blog.
    I am looking at doing the exact same thing. Have you noticed a big difference in the backyard? Has the difference been enough to warrant the project?

    Your testimonial would greatly appreciated.


    1. Josh, sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you! I did notice a pretty big difference in how much standing water was on the ground around the house. Since it was mostly sweat equity that went into the project I’d definitively say it was worth it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s