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How to Install a French Drain: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Install a French Drain: A Step-by-Step Guide

Plumbing can be an overlooked aspect of home management – when all is running well – but it is one of the most significant. We rely on proper plumbing throughout our day-to-day life whether we realize it or not: to use the restroom, wash our hands, shower, etc., and to take it a step further, this also applies to plumbing our yards that retain too much water!

So, what happens when our yards and gardens are holding so much water that it leads to mold, fungus, water damage, and more? There are numerous ways to go about that solution, and one is by installing a plumbing system of your own that ensures proper water drainage. Here is our guide to assist you with just that!

Understanding the French Drain

For starters, what is the French drain?

The French drain is a plumbing system that utilizes gravity and water’s natural ability to become “run-off” in a way that moves excess water to an underground deposit. It relocates water that would have otherwise been stagnant, thereby encouraging the water cycle and preventing mold, flooding, and other products of still water.

This drain is often sought out for its conduciveness to environmental cycles as well as their ease to maintain without professional assistance post-installation.

So, for those wanting to avoid mold, water damage, and flooding, read on to learn how to install your very own.

Tools That You Will Need

Before we get into the process itself, let us take a look at the equipment and materials you will need to install a French drain at home.

  • Shovel
  • Gravel
  • Perforated pipe
  • Filter fabric
  • Inlet grate

Brown Drain System

How to Install a French Drain

Now that you have your tools, you are ready to get started!

  1. Plot Your French Drain and Get it Pre-Approved

The first step in the installation process is to plan exactly where it will go. If you are having a problem in your yard of stagnant water or occasional flooding, start there, as that is the place that is most in need of drainage. Then, try to plot your drain in an area that slopes downward and is full of malleable topsoil such as sand. This will make the gravitational pull more efficient and the digging and plotting process much easier.

Also, contact your local utility services provider and ask them to identify places there might already be pipes or underground utility lines in your yard so you can work around them.

Finally, your neighborhood or Homeowner’s Association may need to pre-approve your French drain before you can start digging trenches in your yard, so make sure you have everyone’s confirmation before you begin this endeavor.

  1. Dig Your Trench as Wide as Your Pipe

Once you have decided on a track of land for your drain, line up your pipe to get a better sense of the layout. This may be a step that informs whether you have enough of the required materials!

Now, use your shovel to dig your trench about a foot and a half deep and a foot wide. This is contingent upon the dimensions of your pipe and should be about twice its depth. If your pipe is less or more than six inches wide, adjust the dimensions of the trench as necessary.

When you dig your trench, make sure that there is a gradual slope so that gravity can efficiently move the water within.

  1. Place the Filter, Gravel, and Pipe

… in that order! First, secure your filter fabric in the trench and pack it into the soil with several extra inches that can be laid over the pipe at the end of the process. This filter fabric will facilitate the draining process while combating soil getting between the gravel and disturbing the system.

Second, lay down a layer of gravel. It does not need to be a significant amount, but it will be integral in catching some of the run-off water so it does not accrue in the soil and cause flooding.

Finally, place your pipe within the trench, on top of the filter fabric and gravel, and verify that the perforated holes in the pipe are facing downwards so water can drain out of them.

  1. Secure Your Inlet Grate and Pipe

Once everything is in its place, secure your inlet grate over the pipe’s entrance that is located where most of the water accumulates in the soil. This is where the water will be able to enter the pipe and slide downwards into the deeper water deposit below. The grate is imperative because it allows water to come in while preventing too much dirt or other physical elements from entering the pipe.

This is your final chance to look over your system and guarantee that it is all placed accurately and will effectively carry water below.

  1. Do a Test Run

Before you finalize your project, do a quick test run with your new drainage system by pouring water into the inlet grate and making sure all of the perforated holes are facing downward and spilling into the gravel, not upwards.

This is also a good time to confirm that your pipes are connected the whole way down and will carry the flow of water as opposed to congregating in one spot.

  1. Recover with Gravel, Filter, and Topsoil

Once you are confident in your newly constructed French drain, cover the pipe with another layer of gravel, and then shroud that with the rest of the filter fabric, and finally cover your finished product in topsoil.

Consider sticking a small construction flag in the ground where you secure your French drain so you can accurately inspect whether it is doing its job by moving stagnant water as well as know where to go in your yard if you want to re-secure any of the materials.

  1. Inspect Regularly

We rely heavily on working plumbing systems which means they should be in prime condition regularly. After installing your French drain, inspect it every three months (or if you feel there is a problem), and double-check it for leaks, breaks, or any visible signs of dysfunction.

If during your inspection, you come across something unexpected or something you feel you cannot fix yourself, do not hesitate to contact a professional. They are paid and trained to do this kind of work and utilizing them for the betterment of your home is occasionally a must.


If you find that you are still in need of professional assistance, call the experts at All Dry USA! We are experts in plumbing and house repair, and they have the resources to ensure your home is exactly the way you want it.

Installing a French drain on your own is doable, but it can be physically and mentally tiresome work if plumbing is not something you are familiar with. We have the expertise to execute a proper drainage system, as well as vast knowledge and experience with other house repair services, will be right there to supplement whatever assistance you may need.


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