Water can be a problem to drain away. This is especially the case where people pass by regularly, and we don’t want to disturb foot traffic. French drains can solve this problem unobtrusively, and often cheaply too. We discuss this neat, sometimes-forgotten alternative with a somewhat unusual name.
What are French Drains and Why the Name?
French drains are trenches with a filling of gravel, stone chip, or small stones, arranged to allow water to filter through. They may be a French innovation. Although we favor the idea that one Henry Flagg French came up with them in Concord, Massachusetts in the middle 1800s.
History does not recall whether Henry Flagg French’s first drain was an open, or a covered-over one. But he probably had not discovered the trick of embedding a perforated pipe in landscaping cloth yet, or a ‘weeping tile’ as they called them, because that innovation followed later.
We Find Mr. French’s Idea in Many Places Today
These simple, effective devices have since become a popular alternative to open drains all over Canada. For example, we often find them at commercial strip malls, where fold-up extensions are not compatible with heavy foot traffic.
However, they may not be a good idea in a flat area where water gathers. That’s because French drains require a downward slope for the water to flow away. They also need a suitable place for the water to discharge too, or else it will simply accumulate in the trench.
If you can’t find a suitable, gently-sloping spot for a weeping tile, as they once called them, then this is not your solution this time. However, if you are able to meet the basic requirements, then please read on and discover what to do next.
How to Install a French Drain in Easy Steps
All French drains work the same way. First you dig a trench where you need water to flow away. Please make sure that you have a slope. The industry standard is one inch for every eight feet. Dig the trench one foot wide, and up to two feet deep. Make sure it is below the slab, or damp course of any adjacent building.
Add an inch or two of gravel, before laying two perforated pipes wrapped in a double layer of landscaping cloth. Fill the trench with more gravel before topping it over with earth. Cover your work as suits you best and voila, you have built a French drain Courtesy of Valiant Exteriors in Calgary.
French Drain with Pipes in Place (Scooter 123 BY Public Domain)