8 French Drain Mistakes And Exactly How To Avoid Them?

You’re planning to invest in a French drain in your household. But, there are certainly a few other vital points that you need to wrap around your head like avoiding some common French drain mistakes before you attempt to install such a fancy device.

Sure, it might seem like a simple drain embedded in a gravel ditch but, you’d be mistaken if you think that’s enough to keep water diverted from your house.

Worry not; we’re here to explain some of those mistakes that you must understand and how to avoid them.

Common Mistakes of French Drain

French drain mistakes

Here is a list of those common mistakes:

  • Using wrong drain rocks.
  • Wrong exit point.
  • Using the wrong landscape fabric.
  • Not having enough slope.
  • Skipping drain pipes.
  • Disregarding zoning regulations.

Yes, it’s good to have a French drain to direct water on the ground. But it won’t do any good if you don’t do it right and make the above mistakes. More so, you can violate local regulations unwittingly!

Let’s talk about those common mistakes you should avoid at all cost in more detail:

  1. Using Wrong Drain Rocks

The proper fit of a French drain has multiple crucial checkpoints. But, one of the most staggering and misinterpreted issues could lie with the drainage rocks, which fail to drain throughout the pipelines adequately.

Therefore, the safest option in this matter would be to utilize naturally rounded stones that enable seamless water flow and don’t clog the drainage system.

Here are a few pro tips on gathering the best natural round stones for French drains.

  • Try to acquire natural stones of 1-1//2″ measurements.french drain rocks
  • Washed natural rocks are ideal for better drainage.
  • It’s better to avoid small, pea-sized gravels. When these gravels are stacked together, the space between them is smaller, minimizing the rate of water flow.
  • Avoid crushed rocks at all costs. These are finer in nature and will clog your pipe rather than draining it.
  • If your only available options are crushed stones, then we recommend utilizing a sock-wrapped pipeline. The sock acts as a barrier, preventing crushed rocks from clogging the drain.

Getting the right rocks for your French drain is important but there are other issues you need to think about beforehand.

  1. Wrong French Drain Exit Point

Notice any flooded area in your yard recently? It’s viable that one or two puddles of water here and there might lead you to unintended French drain exits and leakage.

This situation can be sought out better if you can comprehend the general direction of the water flow of your French drain before you install it.

It’s necessary that the water flow must be in the opposite direction and away from your house.

  1. Missing Drainage Fabric In Trench

Drainage Fabric In French Drain Trench

Another problem with improper drainage systems is withdrawing the step of lining the trench.

According to experts, if you align the channel with the help of non-woven geotextile fabric, it will act as a separator between the soil and the pipelines.

This technique will prevent debris and unwanted dirt from meshing with the drainage rock, allowing a free water flow and exit.

If for whatever reason, you omit out this crucial step, there will be no barrier between the sub-grade earth and the drainage rocks from mixing in together.

On the other hand, this is not only a faulty way of installing a pipe for French drain, but it increases contamination, reduces capacity, and hooks you up with unlimited clogs.

Worry not.

Here are a few ways to ensure that your French drain serves you for the longest time and for a good few decades to come.

  • Implement 4-4.5 ounces of non-woven, industry-standard drainage fabric.
  • Skim the market and choose a high-quality drainage fabric that can last you a long time.
  • Avoid using perforated sock-wrapped pipelines and the drainage fabric together as they clog the entire system quickly.

It’s very important that you get the above 3 points right to get the most benefit out of your French drain.

  1. Getting the Wrong Type of Landscape Fabric

french drain landscape fabricYou have to be extra cautious while selecting the correct kind of landscape fabric.

An ideal, highly functional, and long-lasting landscape fabric will indefinitely drain the sub-surface water and consistently continue to do so.

To ensure that you can acquire such definite, extended-lasting properties, you can opt for Woven fabric or Non-woven fabric.

The non-woven fabric almost replicates a permeable, felt-like material. In any case, both of these fabrics are top choices for geotextile landscapes.

Additionally, both of these materials have specific benefits and usage. If you want to drain water, you need a fabric that will let only water flush through but keep debris and dirt at bay.

  • Non-woven type of fabric is also essential to eradicate any chances of clogged up drain pipes. Often these fabrics are also known as filter fabric or landscape drainage. And, if this is your primary goal, then the non-woven drainage fabric should suffice.
  • On the other hand, woven fabrics typically have more elasticity and increased pull strength. Unfortunately, these don’t provide a fluent water flow rate, leading up to inadequate draining systems. Woven fabrics are highly utilized for weeds as ground covers, road construction in need of strength, and beneath gravel driveways.

Pro tip: Weight 3-4.5 ounces of non-woven drainage fabric and utilize it. These are great for a seamless water flow, have the most robust construction, last you for a lifetime, and are most commonly used to lining up French drains.

  1. Placing Excavated Soil Back Into Trench

In order to place the excavated soil back inside the trench, there are a few methods that homeowners and contractors love to apply.

The most popular trenching technique is when the leftover excavated clay is laid on top of the brand new drainage.

However, adding clay back in the trench must be bypassed. Ideally, you need to excavate the track and install the drainage for the soil to drain adequately.

Safe to say, when more and more soil is added to these tracks of water flow, the capacity reduces, clogging the drainage system even more and snatching away the French drain’s sole purpose.

  1. Not Enough Positive Slope Of The Drain

Slope Of The french Drain

Here’s the best way on how to tell if French drain is working. If you notice a pool or puddle of water in the drain pipes, you need to prepare yourself for vital issues with the drainage.

But, not if you take care of it immediately.

On the contrary, the prevention of such scenarios is the best way to go. The slanting and slope of the water pipes can either break or make this deal, and here is why.

The Kinds of Slopes –

  • No Slants

In this case, the pipe is laid out flat with no angles at work. The water pressure needs to be higher than usual to keep the flow gliding. No slope systems do no allow the sub-surface water to drain through.

  • Lower Spots

Pooling can also occur when there’s a dip or low spot in the trench. The amount of retained water that settles within this low spot in the drainage line is extremely troublesome once it starts attracting tree roots.

As tree roots seek moisture, they will naturally get diverted towards the settling water in the drainpipe.

And bit by bit, as the roots start to enter the system, the drainage and water flow will be intervened.  A dipped drainage pipe will in evidently attract tree roots one day or the other.

This will eventually degrade the integrity of the French drain and get invaded by bugs or vermin.

  • Negative Slope

Another undesirable drain position is the negative slant, where the pipe or the trench has a contradictory grade. Loosely translated, water can never flow along the pipes in this condition.

The water level in the ground needs to advance into an unreachable higher level of saturation, allowing the water to flow smoothly.

When your goal is to drain the water, negative sloping is not even an option as it can undoubtedly draw water back into the foundation, jeopardizing the entire structure.

  • Good Slant

An ideal water flow can be promoted with a 1% grade slant. This ensures that the water drains properly, away from the foundation and inlet. Besides, when the slope is at 1%, gravity does most of the work for you.

  1. Skipping Drain Pipes

This readily common mistake can be made by many homeowners when they think that the addition of a drain pipe isn’t a crucial point while installing a French drain. No, no, no!

When you miss out on this highly effective step, the drain will lose the assurance and capability of managing a heavy flow, dramatically reducing the mitigation of idle water.

Moreover, the chief objective here is to keep water moving to avoid sub-surface and surface pooling and omitting out the passage of draining water rules out any chances of the waterway.

Pro tip: Use a 4 or 6-inch perforated pipe. Surround these with draining round rocks. These two in action will avoid water pooling and keep water away from the foundation.

  1. Forgetting Zoning Regulations

Lastly, keep a sensible plan for the French drains around your house. It must not hamper or invade the neighboring land or any other public arena.

Needless to say, you can effectively immediately spiral down into legal issues in such cases. Here’s what you can do prior to installing a French drain.

  • Check with the local building authorities.
  • Cross-check with your local area’s zoning laws, community rules, and building codes.
  • Ensure your French drain plans with the local homeowners, zoning, and local building authorities.
  • When all these specifics are regulated, the authorities will flag or paint over your signed property to evade any incidental digging in the buried utility lines.

How To Deal With Pipe Holes?

It’s a grave mistake only to target the hole in a pipe when located. There’s undoubtedly proven logic behind this big no-no.

Water has its own mind; hence diverting the pipe holes away from your home wouldn’t necessarily mean that the water flow would get diverted too.

Another failed attempt at fixing pipe holes is thinking that settling the water filter away from the house would do the trick. Wrong! Again, you can control these unimportant elements, but now the rate of flow of water.

  • To eradicate and lower the chances of pipe holes doing further damage, the pipe’s holes should be faced down.
  • Keep the water levels low in the French drains as well. There’s only one way of achieving a lower water level, and that’s by pointing the pipe’s hole downwards.

Is It As Simple As It Sounds?

At this point, you already know the handful of scenarios where the installation of your French drain could go wrong.

These are faulty installations, but a few of them could be due to natural causes or such, where the consequences are dire and often unfixable by homeowners. What then?

The worst-case scenario is when you notice seasonal flooding in your basement or elsewhere inside the house. When the French drain runs exceptionally close and around the house, your home will inevitably be affected in the long term.

These dire situations need professional help. If there were a faulty installation or execution, it would do more significant harm to your house than the benefits.

During heavy flooding, professional help is needed to improvise the usage of heavy equipment and engineering skills. Yes, minor floods are plausible to tackle.

In retrospect, significant floods in the basement acquire professional tools to keep the water at bay and then get to fix the damage.

Moreover, suppose you want the absolute best, long-lasting results with the right professional help, equipment, and experience; in that case, you can manage to realistically achieve your desired landscape and the perfect French drain plan.

Why Is It Important To Install French Drain Around Houses?

You want your drainage system to be just right, don’t you? We all do!

Faulty installation of drainage systems leads to smaller and larger pools and puddles in multiple areas around the house. You will notice grass bubbles around your lawn. Not only is this an open-arm invite for mosquitoes but, pooling can cause many more severe issues.

Among other reasons, I showed you how to install the French drain correctly by utilizing proper sloping techniques of the pipes, comprehending the pressure and flow of water, what kind of stones to use, and much more.

As homeowners, you’re bound to make many mistakes. Furthermore, as you have finished reading this article, you now understand that the many ulterior consequences of French drains can often be impossible for amateurs to handle.

In any case, never hesitate to take help from professionals.

But more on that later. First, let’s take a gander at some of the most notorious mistakes and how to wash your hands free of them.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why do French drains fail?

Even if you avoid all the mistakes, your French drain may become clogged over time. There will be build-up inside the pipe from the clay granules and soil. The root instrusion fromt he shrubs, grass, and trees also may lead to such clog.

Can you put topsoil over French drain?

For aesthetic reasons, you can put topsoil over the French drain. There is no problem if you left it open either.

How do you tell if a French drain is clogged?

Run water down the French drain using your garden hose. If the water is backing up, it’s clogged.

What is the best fabric to use for a French drain?

Pure polypropylene soil fabric is best to use for a French drain.

How do I know if my French drain is not working?

When both the low and high areas of your yard is drya and firm, it’s working. But if the low area is flooder or squishy, the French drain is not working.

Closing Remarks

Now you know all that there’s to learn about some of the classic French drain mistakes. Indeed, these methods of implementation are needed for a better foundation build and water prevention system.

The trick is to know how to work with each of the elements intricately and never rule out the chances of mistakes. But, at present, you know better. Without further ado, you can go and get your hands dirty now!

About Author

2 thoughts on “8 French Drain Mistakes And Exactly How To Avoid Them?”

  1. You say “Avoid using perforated sock-wrapped pipelines and the drainage fabric together as they clog the entire system quickly.” How does the use of two fabrics clog more? I would have the sock-wrapped pipe at the bottom of a fabric enclosed trench of stone. The two fabrics might touch at the bottom but not higher.

  2. Should I install rodding points at change of direction? It is a new French drain installation using perforated 4″ rigid pipe on a bed of clean 18mm washed gravel protected by unwoven geo fabric with gravel on top with a final covering of unwoven geo fabric and topped with more washed shingle.

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