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4 Mistakes You Might Make When Installing Your Own French Drain System

by April Carlson

Are you having drainage problems around your home and planning on installing a French drain system to help keep your yard and basement dry? If so, here are 4 common mistakes to avoid when doing the job yourself.

1. Not Calling 811 Before Starting Your French Drain

The average French drain system should be buried at a depth of 8 inches to 2 feet. If you happen to hit and damage a water, electrical, or gas line that's buried within the ground while digging your trench, you could put yourself and your neighbors in danger and face steep fines and repair costs. Fortunately, there is a federal hotline number dedicate to making sure this doesn't happen. Call 811 before starting your French drain project (it's free to call) and they'll have local utility crews come out and flag any buried lines so you know where to avoid digging.

2. Using Corrugated Plastic Pipes Instead Of Smooth PVC Pipes

You've got a few options when it comes to what kind of perforated drain tube you use on your French drain, but you'll have far better success with one than the other. Corrugated, perforated plastic pipes are flexible with very small slits in them rather than holes. This creates 2 problems. First, the slits clog up easily, interfering with the efficiency of your French drain. The second problem comes when you try to clean those clogged pipes out. Generally, a roto-rooter would be used to clean them out, but a rotor-rooter can get hung up on the corrugated walls of the pipes and damage them.

Instead of corrugated plastic pipes, opt for smooth-walled, rigid, perforated PVC pipes. These pipes have holes instead of slits, so they won't clog up as easily as corrugated plastic pipes. Furthermore, the walls of the PVC pipes are stronger and more able to take a beating from a sewer snake if the holes do happen to clog.

3. Pointing Your Drain Pipe Holes Up Or Sideways Instead Of Down

It seems to make sense that the holes in your perforated pipe should be pointed sideways so that the water is filtered as far away from your house as possible, but this isn't the case. When you lay your PVC pipe, the rows of holes should always be facing the downward position. You want to keep the water level in your French drain as low as possible at all times, and you can't achieve this if the holes are facing upwards or sideways.

4. Not Buying The Right Drainage Stone For Your Project

You'll need to install drainage rock around your French drain pipes to promote good water drainage. When shopping for your drainage rock, keep in mind that there is a very big difference between clear stone and base stone. Clear stone is stone that has been washed or screened to remove all of the tiny particles of rock dust in it. Base stone is not washed; it still has a bunch of fine particles and stone dust in it. These particles can seep into the drainage holes of your French drain pipes and clog them up. If you don't clearly specify that you want clear stone instead of base stone when purchasing your drainage rock, you could be creating future drainage problems for yourself.

A French drain system offers a great way to keep your lawn and basement dryer by improving water drainage around your home, but only if it is installed correctly. If you plan to make your French drain a do-it-yourself project, be very careful not to make the above mistakes. For more tips on how to install your French drain correctly, contact a contractor like Perma-Dry Waterproofing & Drainage, Inc. in your area who specializes in French drain systems.