What is a French Drain?

Offering reliable landscaping services to homeowners in British Columbia since 2013

Picture of Natasha Maerz

Natasha Maerz

Owner/Office Manager

One of the most exciting things about buying a house with a backyard is the prospect of BBQ’s, growing a garden, and watching your children play in the safety of your own property. This dream can be squashed if your backyard is constantly wet and mucky. You might even shy away from going outdoors so that you can avoid having to clean up wet and muddy footprints from pets or children, and avoid all the laundry and baths needed to keep your home clean. French Drains can solve this issue and avoid drainage problems, while letting you regain your backyard, and get you back to loving your property.

Table of contents:

  • What is a French Drain?
  • How is a French Drain made?
  • Why put in a French Drain?

    If we haven’t met before allow us to introduce ourselves. We are Back 40 Landscaping and our expertise is in retaining walls, hardscaping and French Drains. We also like to bring education to those looking for retaining wall solutions.


What is a French Drain?

There are many types of drainage systems that can be installed on a property including perimeter drains and downspout drains, and while the name French Drain sounds complicated, it really is just another type of drainage system that can be put in to alleviate a properties water issues. Simply put, French Drains dry out the surface and subsurface of a lawn. They transport water away from one spot and into a designated area (discharge station), making them a great option for anyone looking to fix a wet, soggy yard. By installing a French Drain, you can take your lawn from damp and spongy, and transform it into a dry space.

How is a French Drain made?

Since there are so many different ways and materials that French Drains can be made the answer to this question, “How is a French Drain made” can be answered in a lot of different ways. In this article we will be talking about how an ideal system is made, with superior materials that will allow a French Drain to last decades, and do a high-level job of getting rid of a water-logged yard.

Method of a French Drain installation

Steps of installing a French drain system

  1. BC1call is called to determine where underground utility lines are.
  2. A private company marks all underground utilities. This is a very important step as you do not want to deal with the headache and cost of someone hitting a utility line.
  3. Any obstacles that will hinder machines from getting into your backyard are taken down, or moved, such as fence panels or bushes.
  4. A discharge location is chosen. This is either by using a city storm drain/stormwater connection, ditch or other location.
  5. The ground and all surrounding areas are protected with a plywood road, limiting the damage to your yard.
  6. A sloped trench is dug with an excavator 16 inches deep and 16 inches wide. The trench is sloped so once the system is installed it can help the pipe do its job by bringing water to the discharge station.
  7. The excavated soil is hauled away in a dump truck and disposed of.
  8. Double punched filter fabric is placed in the trench, lining the bottom and the sides.
  9. Baughman tile pipe is put on the bottom of the trench, and 1 ½’ round rock is placed on top of the tile pipe.
  10. The filter fabric is “burrito” wrapped around the entire system, and pinned together.
  11. Top soil is placed on top of the trench.
  12. The top soil is either seeded, or sod laid on top.
  13. The plywood roads are taken away, and the grass is raked.
  14. The road and all areas that were used during installation are swept and cleaned.

How a French drain is made in pictures: 

A French Drain trench is dug  

Fabric, pipe and round rock are put in the French Drain trench 

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

The French Drain trench is closed 

Top soil is put on top of the French Drain trench, and grass seed is spread 


The layout of a French Drain

The layout of a French Drain is different for each yard, as many factors, such as how wet the yard is (how much water the system is going to have to get rid of), and the slope of a yard, change from property to property. The layout of the pipe installed for a system is important because the pipe that is in the ground absorbs surface and subsurface groundwater, and makes it disappear to the designated area. The more water that gets into your system, the dryer your yard will be. This means that the more pipe that is placed in your yard, the better the drainage system.


Why put in a French Drain?

French Drains are a fantastic way of helping you regain your yard space by drying up your yard, and allowing you to actually use your entire property.  Homeowners diligently save up to buy their dream home, and sacrifice to be able to buy a home with yard space. We have goals of watching our family grow in our forever home, where we can spend our summers relaxing in lounge chairs, and crisp fall days playing in the leaves with our children. If your backyard does not allow you to do this, it could be the right time to fix your water issues and start enjoying your home again.

Click here to learn about the cost of a French Drain system, or finally solve your water problems and get a quote!