What can go wrong with a French drain?

As a DIY’er, there are many mistakes you could make when it comes to French drain installation. Even the most seasoned DIY’ers will likely fall into these pitfalls or mistakes.

Common French Drain Mistakes

In this article, we’ve identified several of them, including ways to avoid them. Mistakes are commonplace and not something to be ashamed of.

These mistakes enable you to avoid a repeat and do a more thorough installation job. So, are you planning on carrying out French drain installations anytime soon?

You’ll need all the help you can get as all that and more have been included here. All you have to do is read through the article for details.

About French Drains

To set the ball rolling, we provide an overview of French drains and how they function.

First, this is a simple drain consisting of a gravel trench covering a perforated pipe. The gravel is a porous material through which runoff water enters the tube and flows off the property.

Consider the French drain as a water conductor that helps redirect water, stopping it from pooling around a yard or close to a home’s foundation.

This simple drainage system helps prevent structural damage due to moisture penetration. This is as far as we’d go in explaining what it’s about.

French Drain Installation Mistakes

It’s common to find several mistakes made during French drain installations.

By identifying them, you’re able to avoid repeating the same. These mistakes include wrong drain rock usage, not calling about buried utility lines, and paying no attention to the area’s slope.

Additional French drain mistakes to avoid include the absence of a drain fabric, being oblivious to zoning regulations, and returning excavated soil into the trench.

More mistakes include having only gravel poured into the trench without a drainpipe and connecting downspouts directly to the French drain.

A wrong exit point can serve as a hindrance to normal functioning. Ignoring plant roots could also serve as a problem. With these mistakes pointed out, let’s briefly discuss each for clarity.

i. Wrong Drain Rock Usage

The wrong type of drain rock can cause problems to your French drain system.

Not all drain rock types are porous enough to allow the free water flow and prevent pipes from clogging. When choosing your drain rock, it’s best to use natural round stones measuring 1 and 1 to ½ inches.

Avoid small pea-sized gravel and crushed rock. All too often, people wrongly use these as their drain rock. It doesn’t take long before issues begin to develop.

ii. Not Calling About Buried Utility Lines

Installing French drains requires digging up trenches.

Now, people do not call to find out if utilities are buried underground. Haphazard digging of your yard could damage such utilities, which could attract costly repairs.

Examples of such buried utilities include gas and power lines. Apart from utilities, you might have to find out if there are local restrictions regarding water runoff.

iii. Paying no Attention to the Slope

Slope plays a central role in determining proper drainage.

A French drain requires the proper application of gravity to function effectively. However, people make the mistake of paying no attention to the slope of their yard. Areas of no slope or negative slope should be avoided.

Also, a dip or low spot location won’t be ideal for French drain installation. It would be best if you had a slope that slants away from your home to install your French drain.

This allows for easy flow of water away from your property.

iv. Absence of Drain Fabric

The absence of drain fabrics is one of the mistakes people make when installing French drains. Also, not every drain fabric will serve as you need only to use a non-woven type.

Using non-woven drain fabrics is to help improve permeability while preventing dirt and debris from getting into the drain.

v. Being Oblivious to Zoning Regulations

It’s essential to find out what local zoning regulations say about this project to avoid legal issues.

This is one mistake people make, which could lead to litigations. You might want to begin consulting with the local building authority.

vi. Returning Excavated Soil

One mistake you shouldn’t repeat when installing a French drain is returning excavated soil into the trench after placing your drain pipes.

Remember, only absorbent and porous materials need to be used. You’ll have to dispose of the dug earth and only use suitable materials.

vii. Having a Gravels-Only Trench

Another mistake people make during French drain installation is excluding a drain pipe.

Here, they cover up the trench with only gravel. This offers zero results when there’s a downpour, as the water remains static and messes your yard.

A perforated drain pipe measuring 4″ to 6″ should be laid and surrounded with appropriate materials like drain rock. Of course, the perforated sides of the lines need to face up.

viii. Connecting Downspouts to French Drain

One mistake to avoid is connecting your downspouts to the French drain. Your system might be unable to dump or dispose of the water quickly enough. This leads to a flooding scenario.

A better way to do this is to provide a catch basin where water from downspouts collects and flows off.

ix. Wrong Exit Point

Mistakes such as wrong exit points make a French drain system inefficient.

Here, the general water flow direction isn’t taken into consideration. You can correct or avoid the problem by studying the water flow direction and making your installations accordingly.

x. Ignoring Tree Roots

If you have trees around your property, you’ll have to be on the lookout for tree roots during installation.

All too often, DIY’ers overlook such roots, which end up causing problems like clogs and drain failures. Remember, water runs through drain pipes, likely attracting germs.

One way to avoid this mistake is to place a material at the bottom of the trench. This, coupled with a layer (several inches thick) of gravel, helps prevent root interactions with the drain.

These are common mistakes people make when installing French drains. With this knowledge, you’re able to avoid repeating the same. We also recommend calling a pro for problem-free installation.

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