Why are French Drains so important?
French Drains are a very important component to protect your home from moisture, mold, settling (foundation cracking/damage), and can provide a healthy usable yard for your family. Nearly all homes have a French drain installed (often referred to as drain tile) around the footer of the home’s foundation when the house was built to reduce the soil’s water saturation. When the soil has too much water saturation around a heavy object the soil can act “spongy” which can contribute to unwanted movement of the heavy object (home/foundation, driveway, sidewalk, patio, etc.). Also, during normal weather cycles (rain, dry, freezing, thawing) too much water saturation can cause the soil to expand and contract also contributing to unwanted movement and pressure (bowing) of the heavy objects.
Reasons why foundations need additional protection
In many homes the foundation/footer French drain (drain tile) is sufficient protection for a very long time, however, there are many reasons why it may fail or need additional protection. Some reasons include improper initial design/sizing/material/installation, soil composition (heavy clay preventing water reaching the drain (use gypsum to help break down surface clay), drain clogging/crushed, improper grading, extensive hydrostatic pressure (neighboring land higher or in an area with higher underground water concentration), foundation concrete composition and/or reinforcement failing, to name a few.
The good thing is there are solutions, and many can be simple or DIY!
Proper or better grading away from the home or low spot is always the first thing to evaluate. Whether it’s bags, dump truck loads, or earth moving with an excavator we can do that! Next, ensure window wells are high enough where water flows away. If not, a metal or plastic extension can be purchased at most hardware stores and screwed to the foundation with Tapcons or anchor screws (will need a hammer drill). This can also be a DIY, or we can do it for you!
Some window wells have drains in them and some don’t. Regardless, for most applications, we suggest installing window well covers which can be purchased at most hardware stores (these can be screwed to the foundation, window well itself, may have clips, or simply set in place). If more than just grading is needed look at where downspouts discharge (solutions discussed in the next paragraph). If another solution is still needed to keep the foundation/basement, yard, or other areas more protected from water then we would commonly look at installing one or more French drain systems to collect and move underground water and one or more surface drains/catch basins to collect higher volume surface water.
Use a schedule 35 piping
If you attempt a DIY French drain, we strongly encourage using schedule 35 (usually green color) piping as it will be long-lasting and the downward slope can be better controlled. We use schedule 35 (or thicker interior schedule 40 in special circumstances) in 99% of our French drain applications. Although, the thin black flexible pipe can be cheaper there are many potential and likely problems that can arise (humps, clogging, slower absorption, crushing, to name a few) and can lead end up being the more expensive route if it fails and/or need to be replaced. The good thing is we can do all of this work for you!