Lifespan of a Strata French Drain system in the Fraser Valley

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Natasha Maerz

Natasha Maerz

Owner/Office Manager

When having a French Drain system installed in a townhouse or condo complex, you want to make sure that this project is done once to avoid having to pay for another system, and deal with the mess and noise twice. Your residents are counting on their French Drain to work for the remainder of their time residing in the complex, and future residents will be ecstatic that they do not need to worry about drainage problems.

How long a French Drain lasts in a strata complex before it needs to be completely replaced is based off of what pipe was used in the system, if the system uses filter fabric, and what the French Drain trench is backfilled with.

 Table of Contents:

  • Lifespan vs Maintenance of a French Drain System in a Townhouse/Condo complex
  • Longevity of a Townhouse or condo French Drain System
  • Should I use Filter Fabric in my French Drain System?
  • Soil vs. Round rock for a French Drain installation
  • French Drain Drainage pipe: Big-O, Perforated PVC, Baughman Tile
  • How long does each system last?

Lifespan vs Maintenance of a French Drain System in a Townhouse/Condo complex

While all French Drains require some maintenance, the “best” systems will need less, and will last substantially longer than others. Unfortunately, you cannot maintain a system indefinitely. When choosing which type of French Drain system you are having installed, keep in mind that each system is going to need to be maintained differently, and that the materials, and methods used to instal the drain are going to be what determines its lifespan.  

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Longevity of a Townhouse or condo French Drain System

Should I use Filter Fabric in my French Drain System?

Filter fabric plays a big role in how long a French Drain system will last. It is used to keep soil from getting into your trench and mixing with the round rock inside. This is important, because keeping the round rock clean is essential to keeping the void space in your trench open. Your trench needs void space to allow air to move openly around the trench, therefore creating an underground drying effect.

 If your system does not have any fabric, the French drain will run into an issue of its pipe being clogged with dirt and debris. This dirt clogs up the pipe, and water will have a harder time getting to its discharge area. Putting in a tested filter fabric will protect your pipe from getting clogged, and move the water in your trench faster.

Soil vs. Round rock for a French Drain installation

When backfilling a trench, the two materials that are typically used are soil and round rock. What you use to backfill your trench will determine how fast water will be able to get into your French Drain system, and to its discharge area.

Baughman- tile- and- round- rock- in-French-Drain

Using soil to backfill a French Drain Trench

If you are having water issues, it is fair to say that the soil you have in your yard is clay. Clay soil does not allow water to go through it, and if used to backfill your trench, will prevent water from ever getting into your system. If water is unable to get into your system, it will continue to cause your yard to have pooling water and mud.

Using round rock to backfill a French Drain Trench

When backfilling with 1 ½’ round rock, your system will have an ample amount of void space due to the size of the rock that is placed in the trench. Void space in a trench is important, because the greater amount of void space that is in the trench, the quicker your yard will dry. Void space allows both the surface and subsurface of your yard to dry out quickly by allowing air movement in the trench, creating an underground drying effect. The water that is on top of your yard is able to go through the round rock, and into the pipe. Once that water gets into the pipe, the pipe can take it to its discharge station, and your yard will be dry.

French Drain Drainage pipe: Big-O, Perforated PVC, Baughman Tile

The type of pipe used in your French Drain installation is a big component on how long your system is going to last for. The drainage pipes job is to carry any water that gets into the system and to a discharge station, and is the lifeline of your French Drain. There are three different drainage pipes that are used when installing a French Drain, Big-O, PVC, and Baughman tile. Each of these options of pipe will work for your strata French Drain instal, but have vastly different lifespans.

 

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failed-drainage-pipe-Big-O

Big-O drainage pipe

What is Big-O drainage pipe?

Big-O drainage pipe is made up of recycled materials, and has three small inlets sliced in every valley. This pipe crushes very easily compared to perforated PVC and Baughman tile.

French Drains installed with Big-O pipe

Most French Drains that are installed with Big-O do not have any filter fabric, and when there is no filter fabric wrapped around the drainage pipe, soil gets into the pipe and compacts. The compacted clay soil around and inside the French Drain pipe prevents water from getting into the system. Because Big-O crushes easily, it will not take long for the compacted soil to crush the pipe. Once this happens, the French Drain is unable to do its job.

How long do French Drains made with Big-O last?

French drains made with Big-O pipe last on average 2-24 months.

 

Perforated PVC drainage pipe

What is PVC Perforated drainage pipe?

White perforated PVC pipe is a rigid pipe that does not have any flex to it, does not stretch and only has holes on the bottom of the pipe

French Drains installed with Perforated PVC pipe

PVC pipe is prone to cracking due to frost heave, ground movement, and even traffic from above from lawn mowers or cars. Because PVC pipe only has holes on the bottom of it, it needs to be installed on top of 2-4” of gravel. Therefore, there will always be standing water in the trench just below the pipe. The problem with standing water is that it causes roots to infiltrate the system, and those roots end up clogging the pipe.

Smooth walled PVC pipe also allows debris to build up inside of the pipe, and the gentle smooth flowing water does not have the power to disrupt the debris. This debris can settle in the bottom or along the inside of corners of the pipe. This compacted soil around the French Drain pipe stops the water from being able to get into the system.

How long do French Drains made with Perforated PVC last?

French drains made with perforated PVC pipe usually last 1-20 years.

French- Drain- trench- pipe

Baughman drainage tile

What is Baughman tile drainage pipe?

Blue High-Octane pipe is purposed built French drainage pipe, and was designed for the clay soil that the Fraser Valley has. It is extremely flexible, fast to install, moves with the ground, and has an excellent crush rating.

French Drains installed with Baughman tile drainage pipe

Due to its 8 massive inlets in every valley, Baughman tile drainage pipe is placed on the bottom of the trench, and there is open air exchange that can dry out the subsoil much faster than any other option of pipe. This open-air exchange actually prevents roots from getting into the system since there is no water in the trench. This type of system is built with filter fabric that gets burrito wrapped around the pipe and round rock, keeping the drainage pipe free of debris. Because the pipe is corrugated, the water passes through it, it creates ripples that actually clean the pipe and pull any sediment with it.

How long do French Drains made with Baughman tile drainage pipe last?

French drains that are built using Baughman tile drainage pipe last forever (50-200 yrs.)

As you can see, different systems last longer than others, and the longevity of each differs quite substantially. Strata complexes can benefit from putting in a system that is going to last decades or longer so that this problem is solved for both present and future residents.

 

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