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Understanding French Drains

by Allison E. Beatty
Repair-Home Columnist

Yard drainage can be a serious issue, particularly if it's causing water to seep into your basement. In many cases, a French drain will solve the problem. Here's a look at the details of this home improvement project.

A French drain is a trench that carries water away from your house. This is an important home improvement project, because it gets excess water away from the foundation so that it does not enter your basement or other parts of your home.

When building a French drain, a contractor typically digs a trench several feet into the ground and installs gravel and drain pipe to divert water from the house. The French drain should slope gradually away from the house without moving water into a neighbor's yard. The contractor should look for a space at the back or side of your yard where water can collect.

Look At Overall Drainage

As you consider adding a French drain, don't forget to look at the overall picture. Ideally, this home improvement project should identify the source of the water problem. Is your neighbor's property built on a higher slope? Was your yard improperly graded so it funnels water toward your foundation?

In either scenario, a French drain should be seen as part of the solution. Because adding a French drain involves digging out part of your yard, it is a good time to regrade the yard if necessary to correct drainage problems. Also look at other landscaping issues, such as water run off from a patio.

Do You Need a Contractor?

While some homeowners can tackle this project, a French drain typically is best left to a professional contractor. This project is labor-intensive and requires a good knowledge of drainage. Depending on the size of your property, this type of project can also require heavy equipment.

A French drain can make a big difference in how water flows around your property. In severe cases, it can save you from frequent water seepage and basement flooding. While it involves tearing apart your yard and putting it back together, the end result should be well worth the inconvenience.

About The Author
Allison E. Beatty is an avid old house enthusiast who has been renovating houses and writing about them for more than 10 years. She contributes regularly to national newspaper, magazines and web sites.