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How to Build a French Drain

If you're having problems with standing water in your yard or a leaky basement, improper drainage is the culprit. Fix your water drainage issues once and for all by adding a French drain in just a few short steps.

Brian Patrick Flynn, decordemon.com
Mask the Drainage Ditch with Pebbles

Materials Needed:

  • shovel
  • striping spray paint
  • top soil
  • sand
  • 6' drain pipe (or more, if needed)
  • roll of landscape fabric
  • gravel
  • turf
  • landscaping stones

Determine Area for Re-Routing and Draining

Locate the appropriate area of yard for excess water to be re-routed. Choose a location where the flow of water won't affect neighboring properties. Determine a slightly downward-sloping route at least 1 meter from walls or fencing that's clear of any obstructions such as posts, trees or shrubs. Tip: Drains that slope 6" for every 50 feet ensure the best result. Use striping spray paint to mark drainage route.

Spray Paint Drainage Ditch Site

Create a Trench and Add Gravel

Referring to spray paint marks, use shovel to dig a 6" wide trench with a depth no greater than that of the nearest foundation (Image 1). Tip: Proper trenches run parallel to buildings and horizontally across slopes. Once trench is dug, add a 3" layer of gravel along bottom (Image 2).

  • Dig Drainage Trench
  • Add a Layer of Gravel to Trench

Add Fabric Lining

Use landscape fabric to line entire span of trench atop layer of gravel, leaving roughly 10" of excess fabric on each side of trench.

French Drainage System Steps

Insert Drain Pipe

Place drain pipe atop fabric lining, then add gravel, covering pipe completely. Leave approximately 5" between top of gravel and ground surface.

  • Lay Drainage Pipe in Fabric Lining
  • Bury Drain Pipe in Gravel
  • Leave Five Inches Between Pipe and Ground

Fold Over Excess Fabric Lining

Fold excess fabric over gravel, creating an overlap. This will help protect the lined drain pipe.

Outdoor Drainage System with Rocks

Fill and Cover Trench

Use shovel to fill trench with sand then topsoil. Cover sand and topsoil with turf and add a bed of stones around open end of drain pipe.

  • Fill Trench with Sand
  • Add a Layer of Topsoil to Drainage Ditch
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