Understanding Residential French Drain Systems For Homeowners

If you have ever visited the Grand Canyon on vacation, then you have seen first-hand the destructive power that water can have on rocks and soil. While admittedly on a much smaller scale, the storm water runoff from your home's roof can pose a serious threat to your home's foundation if it is not given a safe route away from your house to the storm drain system in your neighborhood. 

If your home is having a drainage problem that is threatening to undermine its foundation, then your building contractor will likely recommend that you have a French drain installed. If you are unfamiliar with this type of drainage system, here is more information to help you decide if a French drain is right for your home:

French Drain Basics

The term "French drain" is simply a fancy way of describing a buried drain pipe that is used to divert storm water to a safe area. The drain pipe itself is perforated with small holes and is buried in a trench that is filled with weeping tile or porous rocks.

As storm water runs out of your home's rain gutters, it is directed into drains that feed into the French drain system. The water then travels down the drain pipe and the pipe distributes the water into the weeping tiles or rocks that are in contact with the surrounding soil. The rocks help to further disburse the water and help it to drain safely to the water table well below your home's foundation.

Excessive Moisture Areas

In areas with extensive moisture, a seepage pit or catch basin may be necessary to help clear away the water from your home's foundation during storms. Exterior waterproofing may also be necessary if your home has a basement. To waterproof the basement, the dirt is removed from around your basement and a thick plastic coating is applied directly on your home. The plastic coating comes in both sheets of plastic material and a paint-on type. 


Finally, now that you understand what a French drain is and how it works to protect your home's foundation from water damage, you will be able to speak with your contractor about the specific drainage needs of your home. Thankfully, French drains are fairly inexpensive to install and require little to no maintenance over their lifetimes. And, a properly installed drainage system will save you from having to make very expensive foundation repairs at a later date that could have been prevented.