Fixing Foundation Drainage Problems with a French Drain

By: Julie Day

Help! We bought a great house, but soon learned that when it rains, the water runs toward the house and foundation, causing flooding. The cost of professional grading is prohibitive, but we aren’t physically able to do a major DIY grading job ourselves. Any ideas? -Brenda

A French drain around the perimeter of your house would be a great, inexpensive way to divert water runoff without having to regrade the entire yard. Think of a French drain as an underground “gutter” system that collects and drains water before it enters your home’s foundation.

Building a French drain involves digging a 12” to 18” deep channel, that slopes downhill to route water toward a chosen exit point away from the house (make sure you know the location of buried utility lines and pipes before digging). You then put corrugated plastic pipe in the channel, and fill the hole to the top with gravel. Water is lazy – it chooses the path of least resistance – so it will fall into your channels and be diverted before it reaches your foundation.

A French drain will require some heavy digging, as well as hauling and shoveling gravel. It also requires careful planning, as the channels must slope properly or water will collect in them without running off. However, once you’ve planned your design, you could enlist the help of friends, family, or even hired laborers to help with the physical work. Alternately, you could hire a licensed landscape contractor to build the French drain for you, and it would likely be much less expensive than regrading the entire yard or building retaining walls.

In addition to the French drain, make sure any rainwater from your roof is directed away from the foundation of your home – you’d be surprised how much water can be eliminate that way. If you have gutters, extend the downspouts away from the foundation or toward the French Drain.


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5 Comments on “Fixing Foundation Drainage Problems with a French Drain”

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  • Robert Says:
    August 8th, 2016 at 8:20 am

    I am installing a French drain myself. It’s easy. Dig a trench. Place perforated plastic pipe ($6/ 10′ plus drain cover $10). Pour pea gravel over it ($7/20lb bag that covers 10′. Lowes has everything and photos. 25 feet should cost $40-$50.

  • Heidi Says:
    April 20th, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    Previous owner put in French drain right at corner of front porch which is pretty much ground level there (25 years ago) overflow causing water get into house. Called around to get quote. My son began to dig it was only about 12″ deep and maybe 3-4 ft long with holes initial facing up drain was straight I have called to see what to do there any suggestions ? This is only area around house flooding,

  • Bob Lisec Says:
    February 8th, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    Do you need a “vent” on a French drain type system? Water flows well then backs up then flows well again. Have a 4″ pipe that will get half full during heavy rain.



  • ROS DUBOSE Says:
    December 29th, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Water is draining down the driveway partly dumping into my carport and down the foundation into my crawl space. Will a French drain help, and how costly, would it be? The home is in the Atlanta area.

  • Pat LoPi Says:
    March 17th, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    What type of person do I call to get an estimate for a french outside drain? We also have irrigation system so I assume I’ll have to call the people that take care of that to locate and maybe relocate some fo the sprinkler pipes and heads? Do I need a gutter person or what kind of trade person? My husband passed away and I’m not much in the know about these kinds of things. I’d appreciate any help you could give me regarding this. I live in central Florida.
    Thank you in advance for your assistance.
    Pat LoPi

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