Fixing Foundation Drainage Problems with a French Drain

Help! We bought a great house, but soon learned that when it rains, the water runs toward the house and foundation, causing flooding. The cost of professional grading is prohibitive, but we aren’t physically able to do a major DIY grading job ourselves. Any ideas? -Brenda

A French drain around the perimeter of your house would be a great, inexpensive way to divert water runoff without having to regrade the entire yard. Think of a French drain as an underground “gutter” system that collects and drains water before it enters your home’s foundation.

Building a French drain involves digging a 12” to 18” deep channel, that slopes downhill to route water toward a chosen exit point away from the house (make sure you know the location of buried utility lines and pipes before digging). You then put corrugated plastic pipe in the channel, and fill the hole to the top with gravel. Water is lazy – it chooses the path of least resistance – so it will fall into your channels and be diverted before it reaches your foundation.

A French drain will require some heavy digging, as well as hauling and shoveling gravel. It also requires careful planning, as the channels must slope properly or water will collect in them without running off. However, once you’ve planned your design, you could enlist the help of friends, family, or even hired laborers to help with the physical work. Alternately, you could hire a licensed landscape contractor to build the French drain for you, and it would likely be much less expensive than regrading the entire yard or building retaining walls.

In addition to the French drain, make sure any rainwater from your roof is directed away from the foundation of your home – you’d be surprised how much water can be eliminate that way. If you have gutters, extend the downspouts away from the foundation or toward the French Drain.


Further Information


  1. What type of person do I call to get an estimate for a french outside drain? We also have irrigation system so I assume I’ll have to call the people that take care of that to locate and maybe relocate some fo the sprinkler pipes and heads? Do I need a gutter person or what kind of trade person? My husband passed away and I’m not much in the know about these kinds of things. I’d appreciate any help you could give me regarding this. I live in central Florida.
    Thank you in advance for your assistance.
    Pat LoPi

  2. Water is draining down the driveway partly dumping into my carport and down the foundation into my crawl space. Will a French drain help, and how costly, would it be? The home is in the Atlanta area.

  3. Do you need a “vent” on a French drain type system? Water flows well then backs up then flows well again. Have a 4″ pipe that will get half full during heavy rain.



  4. Previous owner put in French drain right at corner of front porch which is pretty much ground level there (25 years ago) overflow causing water get into house. Called around to get quote. My son began to dig it was only about 12″ deep and maybe 3-4 ft long with holes initial facing up drain was straight I have called to see what to do there any suggestions ? This is only area around house flooding,

  5. I am installing a French drain myself. It’s easy. Dig a trench. Place perforated plastic pipe ($6/ 10′ plus drain cover $10). Pour pea gravel over it ($7/20lb bag that covers 10′. Lowes has everything and photos. 25 feet should cost $40-$50.

  6. Water collects around the foundation with heavy rain. Brick walkway is coming apart as a result as is the mortar between the cinder bricks used for foundation. Is grading and French drain the solution?

  7. After a very snowy, long winter, I noticed a small ‘river’ draining from underneath our house in the back yard. I bit more than a trickle I thought, so…I made a small canal downhill to channel it better. A different smaller river started draining about a foot away from the original river, but it looked like it was draining snowmelt from located the side of the house, underneath the garden parallel to the house and was already making its way to join the other river. I cleaned this channel out also and checked it to make sure all was ‘ok’ every few days. This doesn’t sound like a normal drainage for a house, to me. The whole upper peninsula of Michigan is SAND, at least where we are, so i’m a tad concerned about whats happening under our garage. Our garage slopes downward from the street, directing rainwater/snowmelt right to our sidewalk on the opposite side of the house so that’s where the rivers are coming from. We had minor flooding in the basement this year (been here 5 years) and noticed previous owner had ‘paved’ over the cracks where the water was seeping out. We are on a limited budget, being retired, so we’re wondering what are our options…Thanks so much


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