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.
Drainage Pipe Emptying Into Pebbles

Drainage Pipe Emptying Into Pebbles

Hide the end of a drainage ditch with attractive 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 Painting Ground With Orange Arrow

Spray Painting Ground With Orange Arrow

Outline where you plan to dig the drainage ditch with spray paint.

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).

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.

Covering Ditch and Rocks With Black Garbage Bag

Covering Ditch and Rocks With Black Garbage Bag

Dump rocks into the drainage ditch in order to fill it in.

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.

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

Outdoor Drainage System with Rocks

Bury drainage pipes with rocks in garden settings.

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.

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