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.

Trench dug to add a French drain in the yard
Digging a trench is a must if you want to install a French drain.

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.

Want to install a French drain yourself?
Read our guide: How to Install a French Drain in 7 Easy Steps

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.

Alternatively, 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 eliminated that way.

If you have gutters, extend the downspouts away from the foundation or toward the French Drain.

Further Information

Editorial Contributors
Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio,, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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