How to budget for your French Drain installation

Offering reliable landscaping services to homeowners in British Columbia since 2013

Natasha Maerz

Natasha Maerz

Owner/Office Manager

When starting most landscaping projects, or getting a quote, homeowners normally tell contractors what they are looking to get done, and the contractor gives them a price for that job. You might be surprised to find out that for a French Drain installation, it is more beneficial for the homeowner to let the contractor know what their budget is before the contractor designs them a system that will work for them.
Baughman- tile- and- round- rock- in-French-Drain

Why does the budget come first?

It may seem odd that you would want to give your budget first, and then have a system designed for you, but there are a couple of reasons why your budget dictates what French Drain system you get.

Your system can be built many ways

The beauty of having a French Drain installed is that if your system is built properly and with the right materials (read “The best French Drain system you can get”), that section of your yard will be dry. If you let the contractor know what system you would like (How much pipe you want in the ground etc.) the contractor will make you the biggest, best system that they can think of. This might mean replacing your clay soil with sandy soil, adding in drainage pipe everywhere, and doing a full lawn renovation on your landscape, so that your grass is super healthy (healthy grass helps take surface water away from  your yard). You might be thinking that this option is great because you want your drainage problems solved, however, the largest, best system, is going to cost substantially more. ( This is due to having tested filter fabric, not just landscaping fabric, perforated pipe called baughman tile)  This might be something that you are okay with, but before the contractor prices out your job, they need to know that you are willing to spend that type of money on a project. If you are not, time will be wasted, and you can end up disappointed.

Let’s say you are wedding dress shopping. Unless money is no object, you have budgeted for your dress, and have a limit you are willing to spend. When you go to try on dresses, two questions are always asked, what type of dress do you want? (In our case it would be what are you wanting your French Drain to do?), and what is your budget? You would not try on any dress that meets the style you like and want, and hope that it is within your budget. It would be extremely disappointing if you fell in love with a dress that was out of your budget, and would have to put back on the rack.  For this reason, the sales person finds you dresses that are within your budget, so that when you find one you love, you know that you are able to afford it.

Now, we know that French drain systems are not as exciting as buying a wedding dress, and are not as useful as having a patio put in that you can enjoy, but they are an important part of your yard if you cannot use it due to surface water issues. When buying a home and looking at the backyard, you probably envisioned BBQs on the patio, and playing outside with your children enjoying the landscaping. When the reality is that you cannot use your space, it can be disappointing and frustrating. French drains help you regain your yard by eliminating ground water and surface water, and your free time, but if your contractor designs a system that is over your budget, your time will have been wasted, and you will still be left with a soggy, unusable yard.

What if you tell your contractor what type of system you want, and they design it with that in mind?

Speaking frankly, if you are able to tell your contractor what system you want, why are you not doing the job yourself? When starting projects like these, we tend to let the contractor know what our ideas are, and what people have told us we should do, but really, why not let the experts tell us what we need? By telling your contractor what your budget is, and what PROBLEM you are looking to have fixed, ( in this case a drainage problem) they will be able to give you a solution that works to solve your problem (installing a French Drain) , and stay within your budget.

Can the contractor actually stay within my budget?

This is where your expectations of your French Drain system, and the price you can afford to spend come hand in hand. If you are serious about your budget, your contractor will need to have an open and honest conversation with you about whether or not they can give you the system you want, for the price you can afford. Sometimes, this is not possible, and you may have to either look at your budget and see if you have any wiggle room, or lower your expectations. In rare cases you may need to put the project on hold until you can save up to get the system you truly want.

What to think about when choosing a budget?

When choosing a budget for your French Drain system you have many things to consider.


  • What can I afford? (No project should put you in debt, or make you feel uncomfortable with the amount of money you are spending)
  • What are my realistic expectations for my project?
  • Will I be okay if my budget and my system do not provide me with everything I am wanting?
  • If my budget is not realistic, does my situation allow for me to put this project off? (In some cases, the project must happen, such as when a basement is flooding).


By providing a budget before having a French Drain system installed, you will be able to have a system designed for your own individual needs, and will ensure that you will get what you are looking for, at a price you are comfortable spending. Remember, if you are not comfortable giving a budget to a contractor, you may need to reconsider working with them!