Installing A French Drain

Posted Monday, May 4, 2009 1:26:49 PM
My house has always sat too low in the ground, and when it rains (even just a little), our master bedroom and bathroom would flood. To combat this, my brother and I installed a french drain around our house this weekend. It was a lot of work, especially because the path we ran the drain went through several large roots that took hours of ax swinging to clear. We also ended up running the trench too low to drain it, so we had to come up with another solution involving a sump pump and a 5 gallon bucket. In the end though, it turned out nicely.

Digging The Trench
My dad and I started the trench last year, but we still had to dig it deeper and further, about another 30 feet.

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Lining The Trench
We lined the trench with landscape fabric to keep weeds, dirt, and other obstructions out of the gravel and pipes.

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The First Layer of Gravel
We had 8000 pounds of 1.5 inch gravel delivered and wheel barreled it to the trench where we laid a thin layer to cover the bottom of the landscape fabric.

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Installing the Drainage Basin (The Bucket)
We took a standard 5 gallon bucket and cut a 3" hole in the side of it for the drain pipe to enter, then placed it at the end of the trench.

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Installing The Pipe
Next, we took 3" corrugated piping (50'), and laid it throughout the trench.

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Testing It Out
We started to fill gravel in over the piping but decided we should probably test the whole thing before we do, just in case it didn't work. We turned a water hose on and let it flow in at the end of the trench. It took a long time, but eventually as the trench filled with water and it all moved downhill, the water started flowing into the bucket.

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Filling It In
Now that we knew the drain worked, we started filling the entire thing in with gravel, then wrapping the landscape fabric over it, and then filling it in with dirt.

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Installing the Pump
Lastly, we drilled holes in the lid of the bucket and ran a garden hose and our power cord for the sump pump. We then tested the pump out and.... it worked! It pumped out water for over 25 minutes, nearly emptying the entire trench.

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Adam W. Lewis (10 years ago)

You can't see it in my photos, but the other end is actually sticking up out of the ground about 6 inches with a cap on the end. You wouldn't need to leave it sticking up like I did but if you chose to you can always cover it with one of those hollowed out decorative rocks. You could always just cap it and put bury it though.
vidya (10 years ago)
one end of the pipe is connected to the bucket, what happens to the other end,does it remain open/uncovered? wont dirt enter through this end and clog the pipe?
matt (10 years ago)
thanks for your help and the super quick reply. looks like i have some major digging to do. maybe should of bought a boat instead. LOL!!!!
Adam W. Lewis (10 years ago)
I do not have a basement. From what I've learned in the 4 years since installing this french drain is... it depends on your situation. If you are having leaves in the foundation of your home from groundwater rising up, then putting it at the footer is the way to go for you. However, if you have a surface water issue where water is coming in from the top down, then putting the french drain at the ground level or slightly below would be the route I'd take.
matt (10 years ago)
adam great job bro.... i have read numerous articles online where they dig all the way to the footer of the basement to lay the pipe. which way works better. do you have a basement?
Adam Lewis (11 years ago)
Hey Neal,

It's been a few years so my memory is a little fuzzy on all the details but.... I would say I went 6-8" deeper than the diameter of drain pipe. This allowed for 2-3" of gravel on the top and bottom and then an inch or two of soil on top of that.

That being said, depth is VERY important and so is tube size. At the very start of my french drain I did not dig it deep enough (maybe only 2" bigger than the pipe) and I still had issues with flooding, so I had to redo that part of the system and dig it deeper. Also, make sure it is far enough away from your foundation, don't butt it right against it.

Good luck!
neal (11 years ago)
how deep did you go with the trench? i am getting water in my crawl space and going to have to run a french drain too.
Adam Lewis (14 years ago)
I did not run the French Drain across my driveway, but the French Drain itself works GREAT.
Leo (14 years ago)
Did you do the French Drain across your driveway as well? I am considering having one installed this spring.
JFunk (14 years ago)
any updates? has it rained yet? I hjave a similar problem and debating weither to put the drain close to the house, or down the slope from the house.