How to Unclog a French Drain

Can a french drain get clogged? Yes.

In this article, you’ll find information on how to go about unclogging your French drain. Before that, you’ll need to know about common signs that point to the problem.

Unclogging French Drain: Practical Guide

French drains serve the function of collecting and redirecting water away from a building or area.

While such a system might be installed to serve a certain timeframe, many issues might develop during its lifespan. Clogging is one of those problems you might encounter.

Here, we seek to discuss definite ways to solve the problem. Not all unclogging procedures are the same. Some tend to be more difficult than others.

French Drain Not Draining Fast Enough? – Causes

French drain installations are buried below ground, and it can be difficult to determine where problems lie.

Luckily, multiple signs help you figure out the problem and what solutions to apply. These include standing water and little water exiting the drain termination point.

Other symptoms of a clogged French drain include standing water in the drainage trench and basement flooding. Let’s explain each of these clogging signs for more clarity.

  • Standing Water

By its design, a French drain is supposed to collect rainwater and channel same away.

A proper installation job will lead to the normal functioning of the drain until a clog develops. When standing water appears around your yard, it’s a sign that your French drain isn’t working as it should.

It’s not enough to conclude that the French drain is clogged. Further probing is needed to confirm suspicions and also ascertain the extent of clogging.

A more thorough assessment and repair (unclogging) is best performed by a skilled technician.

  • Little to No Water Exiting Drain Termination Point

After a downpour, there should be no pooling water around your yard. If there is, you’ll need to inspect the drain termination point.

When standing water in the yard but no water exits from the termination point, it’s a clear sign that there’s a clog preventing water flow.

At this point, you might have to call for professional help to unclog your French drain. It’s also necessary to state that further inspections might be needed to identify the clogged area.

  • Standing Water in Drainage Trench

The only way to find out if there’s standing water in your drainage trench is by clearing a section of the trench to get to your drain pipe.

You’ll need a shovel for this job. Remove the gravel until you reach the pipe and check if there’s standing water. If there is, it’s a clear confirmation of the problem.

  • Basement Flooding

Where interior waterproofing is installed with French drains as part of such installations, basement flooding might signify a clogged drain.

You might have to check for water infiltration from leaks, wet walls, etc. Ultimately, calling for professional help provides ready solutions.

Different Levels of French Drain Unclogging

To unclog a French drain, you’ll need to figure out the seriousness of the clog.

This can be categorized into minor, medium, and major clogs. These different levels have to do with the difficulty in clearing or unclogging the drains.

Let’s discuss each of these for more understanding.

  • Dealing with Minor Clogs

Based on the level of difficulty, minor French drain clogs tend to be the easiest to deal with.

In other words, not many procedures are needed to dislodge clogged items. Situations that qualify as minor clogs include dirt or leaves found covering the exit or termination point.

Your hands or a stick can be used to clear up such clogs. This cleaning process is completed by hosing some water down the drain. There should be a free flow of any remaining debris in the drain.

However, when this action yields no such result, the problem could be more difficult than earlier.

  • Dealing with Medium Clogs

Medium clogging of a French drain tends to be more difficult to deal with compared to minor clogs.

This requires certain equipment like a pressure cleaner to help dislodge stubborn clogs. If you want to perform this yourself, you can hire a pressure cleaner if you don’t have one.

With this cleaner, you need to understand how to put it to good use. When connected and turned on, it fires water at high pressure.

As such, you’ll need to make necessary preparations before turning it on. First, to hide or keep away from splashing water, you’ll need to stand toward the side of the drain.

Next, position the mouth of the pressure cleaner in such a way that the water first hits the bottom of the French drain. Start the pressure cleaner and hold it long enough to flush out any clogs within the drain.

You might need some assistance observing the exit hole to see if there is any progress.

If the clog emerges from the other end, then you’d have succeeded in resolving the problem. If it doesn’t, then the clog is much more difficult than anticipated.

  • Dealing with Major Clogs

This is the most difficult French drain clog to deal with.

Here, it’s best to call for professional help for a more comprehensive unclogging of your French drain. Apart from a pressure cleaner, a sewer snake may be used to help with dislodging the clog.

Dislodging the clog alone won’t be enough.

To help prevent future reoccurrence, there needs to be an assessment of why the clog developed. If it’s due to the incursion of tree roots, an appropriate response will be provided to prevent that from happening again.

Other times, a drain fabric may be necessary for covering the drain pipe. This helps with better filtering of debris and dirt. All of these actions are best performed by a skilled and reliable contractor.

Avoid Cutting Corners in French Drain Unclogging

When it comes to fixing a clogging issue, many people will want to try out DIY approaches to cleaning.

This saves them costs while also giving them the satisfaction of fixing things. While that may be true, difficult clogging situations may prove too much to deal with.

You might end up worsening the situation when you handle the job yourself. It’s best to call the pros to handle all your clogging needs.

These are basic procedures for unclogging French drains. They include simple steps that enable you to get desired results.

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