We are going to take you along on a project and cover how to build a French drain DIY. We’re going to show you that not all drain systems are created equal and why our blueprint will get you the highest results in yard drainage.
7 Steps to Build a French Drain DIY
If you’re considering installing your own French drain, follow these 7 simple steps with tips from the pros to build your French drain DIY.
1. Cut Sod and Dig Trench
The first step for building your French drain is cutting the sod before digging. Set the sod cutter to the deepest notch to cut out a thick piece of sod and all of the roots. Make sure to keep the sod in order and intact.
Notice how we set our sod up in the picture above. This method allows us to place the sod back over the completed French drain like pieces in a puzzle.
Once you have the sod cut, you can start digging. If you plan to dig by hand as a DIYer, it’s easiest to dig in the spring. That’s when the soil is the most saturated and your shovel will cut through the clay like a knife cutting through butter.
2. Haul the Dirt Away (Don’t Put it Back in the Trench)
One really important detail to building the very best French drain system is to remove all that poor percolating soil. You do not want to put any of that soil back in the trench. Too many times, a trench is dug for a French drain system and a pipe is put at the bottom of it. Some stone covers the pipe and then the dirt is pushed right back in. You don’t want to do that. You want to get rid of all that dirt. It’ll only slow down the drainage process and compromise your French drain system. For this reason, we do not use a trencher. We use a track hoe or mini excavator. We scoop the dirt out and we’re putting it right into a skid loader bucket to run it to a dump truck, to get it hauled off the site.
3. Line Trench with Non-Woven Geotextile fabric
When lining your trench with fabric, you want to make sure you’re using a really good non-woven geotextile filter fabric. We recommend using a heavy-duty drainage fabric that has been double punched. That’s different from a weed barrier and literally designed to be a long-lasting solution that helps leech water away from your system.
Double punched non-woven geotextile fabric will add to the cost of your build, but it’s necessary to make sure your system works at the highest efficiency. The fact is a good drainage fabric comes at a cost and there’s labor involved in installing it. A lot of contractors fatten their bottom line by eliminating this labor process at the expense of a good French drain system. As you build a French drain DIY, it’s important to build your system with the highest quality materials.
4. Lay Pipe on Fabric in the Bottom of Trench
You may be wondering why you need to lay your pipe at the bottom of the trench. This placement allows all of the water to drain out of your system.
Moving that water away from your French drain is key because trees and shrubs sniff out water and roots will fill your system. Once that happens, your French drain has an expiration date.
Another problem you’ll run into if you don’t lay your drainpipe at the bottom of the trench is that the soil will granulate over time. Those granules will work their way into the voids of the stone.
Once the stone is plugged up, you’re not going to get any water in the pipe. If the drainage aggregate that’s assisting the water to the pipe ends up plugged, you’re done. However, the pipe doesn’t have to be plugged. Setting up your French drain correctly can prevent the issues that take out a French drain system.
5. Cover with Stone like Round Rock
Now that you’ve prepped your French drain and placed the drainpipe, your system is ready for the stone.
You’ll want to use an inch and a half round rock. If you can’t find round rock, you can use an inch and a half crushed rock. Just make sure that crushed rock is screened.
6.Don’t Forget to Burrito Wrap
The next step is to burrito wrap your French drain system. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t overlap the filter fabric. The fabric is designed to move 140 gallons of water per minute. A heavy overlap of fabric could slow that movement of water and in turn, slow down your system.
Instead, make sure to pull the fabric together and avoid wrapping extra filter fabric around it. This ensures you keep dirt out of your French drain without slowing the flow of water throughout the drain.
7. Place the Sod You Saved Earlier
Lastly, place the sod that you saved earlier over your French drain system. You’ll want to put them down one by one to make sure they fit snuggly like pieces of a puzzle. Remember, the sod will be heavy because you cut them as thick as possible.
The roots and dirt from the sod are more than enough to cover your French drain. In fact, adding any more dirt will only slow down your system. Instead, haul any remaining dirt you dug out of your yard.
What to Expect After You Build a French Drain DIY
Now, as long as you have an automatic irrigation system, you can grow turf grass right on top of your system. The roots will grow through the fabric and any surface water will drain into the French drain through capillary action. The large inlets and high octane eight-slots allow for mineral buildup. Where other perforated pipes would be plugged and compromised, this will keep working for decades. That’s how you build a French drain DIY with the highest results in yard drainage.
Build a French Drain DIY and More with Tips from the Experts
French Drain Man has a plethora of tips about yard drainage solutions. With over 35 years of experience in the drainage industry, French Drain Man uses only the best techniques and materials. They’ve crafted purpose-built drainage supplies that provide low-maintenance solutions to ensure your system lasts decades. Along with providing the best materials and tips for DIYers, French Drain Man provides the best professional drainage services to homeowners.
If you want it done right the first time, give French Drain Man a call at 248-505-3065!