Dear PoP – French Drain Recs

Image via wikipedia

“Dear PoP,

Has anyone has hired a landscaper to do French drains? We’re hoping to do 3-4 small ones (the longest about 10 feet) to move rainwater off our property. Recommendations for landscapers? Expected cost?”

I had to look up French Drain on Wikipedia:

“A French drain, drain tile, perimeter drain or land drain is a trench covered with gravel or rock that redirects surface and groundwater away from an area. A French drain can have perforated hollow pipes along the bottom (see images) to quickly vent water that seeps down through the upper gravel or rock. French drains are common drainage systems, primarily used to prevent ground and surface water from penetrating or damaging building foundations. Alternatively, the French drain technique may be used to distribute water, such as that which flows from the outlet of a typical septic tank sewage treatment system. French drains are also used behind retaining walls to relieve ground water pressure.”

Anyone have one put in? Can you recommend a contractor and give a basic ball park of cost?

30 Comment

  • Do it yourself and save some money. It’s not hard.

  • I did this. I would recommend having your system drain into a sewer line or redirected away from your property somehow. Since we get torrential rains every now and then, the seepage type of drain is impractical. I put this in originally and had to redo it as it couldn’t handle sudden downpours.

  • Yes, DIY if you are remotely handy and don’t mind some strenuous manual labor. Some caveats:

    – Make sure you know what is under where you want to dig. Call Miss Utility if you are at all unsure. Any trees in the way that might cause root problems?
    – Save some trouble and have a landscaping supply company deliver the goods. It will still be cheaper than going to HD to get it yourself and a lot less hassle
    – Make sure you actually grade it *away* from your foundation and verify with a level. Stories of proud homeowners with their new French drains wondering why there is *more* water in the basement than before … oh my.

  • I did this by my back wall. The hard part is the digging and what to do with the dirt that’s leftover. Getting rid of large amounts of dirt is remarkably expensive and troublesome.

    Agree with everything else stated above.

    If you must hire someone, I’d talk to a landscaper who does construction as well.

  • Digging is hard work, but you can hire a couple of guys out of the HD parking lot to help.

    I would like to do one in my front, but the yard is elevated and has a retaining wall, so I’m not sure what to do with the drain. Punch a hole in the wall?

    • Yep. Rent a hammer drill and get a cold chisel and a heavy hammer. Make a hole (rectangle is probably easiest).

  • What makes it a French drain? Is it made from croissants and baguettes?

  • I’ve gotten several recommendations for a company called B-Dry for similar work. I’ll be calling them for an estimate sometime soon. I’m not sure this is work for a landscaper so much as for a contractor that specializes in basement waterproofing.

  • We had drains put around the entire perimeter of our basement and it probably cost about $8k when it was all said and done. I am handy, but I didn’t want to mess with the foundation of my home. We used a company called Aquaguard… we got estimates from 5 companies (including B-Dry) and they were the cheapest and promised the fastest work with the lifetime warranty. We haven’t had a problem with water since the drains were installed almost a year ago. In fact, now I look forward to the downpours so I can see my pumps taking the water to the street. I know… I am a nerd.

    • what do you do when the power goes out?

      • They can install a battery to your pump that will work in the event of a power outage.

        I got a quote for this service too. It was around $5000 and my basement is about 600 sf. The backup battery was about 200 extra

        • Yup, we used Aquaguard also. We had water coming in our basement during big downpours, so a French drain was the answer. They put it in along the whole front of our house (it’s a regular rowhouse on Delafield in Petworth). We haven’t had any water get inside since, and even hooked up a rain barrel to the pump so we can use the captured water to water the garden!

  • French drains can be very effective and relatively inexpensive, but not a one time thing.

    They do require regular maintenance, including the regular removal of sediment that collects at the bottom of the catch basin before the water rises to the level of the perforated distribution pipe.

    Without this critical sediment removal done regularly, the drain fails.

  • B Dry does basement waterproofing- which is kinda like a French drain, but much more extensive and expensive. I think the OP is just looking for french drains for their yards.

    I needed my yard graded and a large French Drain installed- I got a few estimates for this but had a hard time finding someone who really wanted to do the work. They would come by, measure and I would never hear back. I did get one estimate at 4K which I thought was really high.

    A contractor friend in NC told me he does the French Drain for 10 per foot, so 40 feet long= $400. But that’s NC so it might be double as much here.

    I ended up doing it myself with some hired help from the neighborhood. The grading took 2 or three modest days of work, lots of tilling, shoveling, moving, dumping, raking etc.

    For the french drain we dug a trench almost 3 feet deep and 3 feet from the side of the house where water was going. Home depot sells these pre-fabricated French Drains with 4 inch perforated tubes wrapped in styrofoam gravel and encased in fabric. They are expensive at $45.00 per 10 feet, but well worth the labor saved and efficiency. You also need the rubber hose connectors. I connected 4 of these, simply placed them in the trench and covered them with dirt. My drain points towards a weep hole in the retaining wall. When it rains the water pours straight out of the weep hole, into the street and away from my foundation.

    I would say if you have 2 people to help you you could bang it out on a Saturday and Sunday of 6 hour days. And it will probably cost you about $50 per 10 feet in material and whatever you pay your help.

    • Did you cut the hole in the wall? How big did you make it? I think I need to do the same to my yard.

      • I just had the retaining wall replaced soon before this project and I made sure they put the weep holes in it. (otherwise your wall will lean and crumble over time like my old one) The weep hole tubes are probably only 1 1/2 inch thick. But they do the trick. I ran the french drain right up to the retaining wall.

        I would consult someone who does brick work about putting a hole in the wall but I think you could probably do it after the fact.

  • Excess runoff carries pollutants and artificial nutrients into the rivers and Chesapeake. A cheaper (and more environmentally friendly) solution is a rain barrel or ran garden. These devices catch water coming out of your downspout to help catch the rain that would otherwise make your yard squishy. you can use it for your gardens during a dry spell.

    If done right, they’re just as effective, cheaper, and help restore the Chesapeake.

    The DC Dept. of the Environment subsidizes rain barrels and rain gardens in DC.

    • It’s just rain water. I think the bay can handle it.

      • In downpours, there’s too much concrete in the city, and our sewers can’t handle all the runoff, thus causing sewer overflow – which is what harms the Chesapeake. (never mind some of the floods we’ve gotten in neighborhoods),

        a rain barrel and a rain garden (both of which I have) can only handle so much water – a good plan for handling water from the gutters and away from the foundation may still be needed. I’m also thinking of a french drain.

    • I think this is key, and everyone should take responsibility for it. I wish PoP would have known this when he posted this article.

  • I had B Dry do some waterproofing in my basement. I was very happy with the work and the price.
    The system they installed is a form of french drain but the advantage over other systems is that they install metal channels, not plastic. I was told that the holes in plastic piping can become clogged with sediment, which kills the whole “drain” part of the french drain. So you should ask whatever landscaper you use to explain the pros and cons of plastic versus metal drainage channels.

  • I used this contractor:

    It came out to be about $600-700 and about a full day of work for two guys to dig a trench that was about 25 feet long and lay down all the pipe and materials.

    • How is the french drain working?? Would you recommend that contractor?

      $600 for a french drain is 90% less than what I was quoted.

  • The storm drain behind my rowhouse keeps overflowing. I broke up the concrete around it to investigate. The box is about 2×2′ and 3′ deep. The water remains stagnant for days after a rainstorm. Should I hire a plumber to snake it? Or is DC Water responsible?

  • Interesting topic. My basement gets water after heavy rain despite having a sump pump. In the summer when it is humid, mold grew in the basement.

    I had ValuDry out to my house for an estimate. They wanted to tear out all the shelving and the half bath in the basement and install a french drain for $7,000. they have no reviews on Angie’s List, so I’m hestitant to use them (Aquaguard and B-Dry were both highly rated).

    Anyone else have experience with ValuDry?

  • We had Value Dry do mold remediation and install an in-basement French drain system leading to the sump pump. They were great. They offer a guarantee that they claim will transfer with the house if we sell, and they seem very into honoring it. Nice people to deal with, and very responsive.

    Ours was about the same price for the basement. And if you do your research, the right thing to do when you have mold is just rip it out before it gets worse. It sucks, but mold isn’t something to screw around with.

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