Picture of Installing a French Drain
yard b.jpg
If you live in a part of the world that receives a fair bit of rain, then you are probably pretty mindful of water and how it effects your property.

I live in the beautiful state of Maryland. My home is built on clay soils. And when it rains you can bet that not all of that water quickly percolates through and into the earth.  

The purpose of this "how to" is to serve as a visual reference for constructing a hidden drainage ditch in your yard if you have limited standing water issues on your property.

A common term for this kind of approach is a "French Drain

Oh disclaimer time: Before you dig ANYWHERE, make sure you contact your local utilities people. It can't be stressed enough that the danger of damaging a line in your yard is a real possibility whenever you dig (It also becomes your responsibility if you knock out your neighborhoods power, so call first then dig.) Also, do not do this procedure very close to your foundation. Check with a landscaping company if you don't want to get your hands dirty. A little bit of research and you can feel pretty confident to do this one on your own. 

Alright? Let's go! 

Step 1: Materials and Methods

Picture of Materials and Methods
Required Equipment
A muddy poorly drained yard. 
A cast iron constitution if you're digging this by hand. 
A long length of string/rope
A line level
A couple of round point shovels 
Iron tooth rake
Wheel barrow
Landscaping Cloth
Utility Knife
Water source
Grass Seed
Stones of various sizes, depending on your project you will need quite a lot of pea gravel, stones, rocks, etc. Usually come in 0.5 cu/ft bags. You can acquire a lot of stone from your local garden center. Just do your math. Length x width x Depth of your trench will be your total volume. Buy more rock than that and you'll be good to go.  

Thanks, I sharing this. I had a similar problem but it was two fold. I had to manage new trench for storm water and a French drain across a stretch of that pipe. Hard to picture but I used an unperforated flexible pipe(Novo coil) for the storm water section, and where the French drain was, I punched dozens of holes and wrapped that section as you described. That French drain portion now catches water from our unsealed driveway and feeds it into the new storm water.
falling_stone (author)  airborne pickle1 year ago

after the writing of this instructable, we had the property manager of the place next door help to tie into our drain line. We pulled the downspouts of the neighbor's roof into the existing drain and helped move the water out into the drain near the street.

pdxsrw2 years ago
Enjoyed your sense of humor in your instructions. Nice work!
falling_stone (author)  pdxsrw2 years ago
thank you! It was a fun project.
fredellarby3 years ago
This is an excellent project and can save an otherwise useless yard.
when i did it, i had a shed in the way of the view so we used a laser surveyors transit. we shot a line from each end of the drain to the back wall, drove in a nail where the dot landed. Between the nails there was a 4in drop. in the trench, i laid the black perforated plastic drainpipe covered with landscape cloth. it's lasted for years.
falling_stone (author)  fredellarby3 years ago
having that transit is an awesome bonus. I'm glad your project worked so well. We were a bit skeptical when we started, but the results have been very acceptable from our end. No unwanted backyard lakes!
I have a lot of odd tools and heavier duty tools. I keep them at the Home Depot Rental place near me!
falling_stone (author)  fredellarby3 years ago
LOL. that's a good spot for them. I hope your yard is doing well now!
All the contents you mentioned in post is too good and can be very useful. I will keep it in mind, thanks for sharing the information keep updating, looking forward for more posts. Thanks.

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falling_stone (author)  shansnv3 years ago
thank you
falling_stone (author)  shansnv3 years ago
thank you very much shansnv! My next one will be about Mead.
Just though of another point. It's already mentioned in the text, but it really needs to be in BIG GLOWING NEON RED letters - call before you dig!

There are areas where the lines are supposed to go but on our front lawn, when the guy tried to scan it, it looked like the installers had a very long cable and didn't want to cut it and add new ends. They just tossed the extra cable out of their way. There were loops of cable all over(under!) the lawn.They finally gave up, cut it and put in a new line.
Is that a rain barrel in the first photo by the shed?

p.s. I agree with your use of the french drain in your situation, and I am grateful for your post because my backyard is essentially in the same situation as yours.
The information provided here regarding the installation of french drain seems to be very useful for us.  This will really help in saving rain water as well as soil. Thanks a lot for this wonderful presentation.

Clogged drain
falling_stone (author)  dont_unplug_me3 years ago
that rain barrel is from my other instructable. Easy to assemble. I'm a big fan of capturing the water I need and then handling the water I don't. Make sure you have a helper. It's a big job. You might be able to mitigate the problem by simply improving the soil, but that didn't work for me. I've got clay so I needed this solution. Good luck don't_unplug_me.
I also live in an area with clay soil so this is a really good solution for me!
falling_stone (author)  dont_unplug_me3 years ago
good luck! i hope it's successful. Take before and after pictures so you can gauge how well your solution works.
gcooper-13 years ago
"A cast iron constitution". That is funny. True, but funny.
falling_stone (author)  gcooper-13 years ago
:D it's funny because it's true.
icanzu3 years ago
By adding at least a 4" perforated pipe would help any french drain system.

One I installed for a larger area that always flooded I installed 3 pipes that gave it much more capacity. Plus was able to dedicate 2 lines for the gutter & downpipes with multiple surface boxes also made cleaning out lines if needed.
falling_stone (author)  icanzu3 years ago
blkhawk3 years ago
Thank you for posting.
falling_stone (author)  blkhawk3 years ago
thank you for reading!
Wonderful! I was wondering what you were going to do to to cover the entrance to the drain my idea was to make a small Japanese zen garden over it and soil the rest. What you did was really cool!
falling_stone (author)  dont_unplug_me3 years ago
you can do a lot of different things for the entrance. Mine is actually topsoil and grass with a gravel pile under it. It just looks like grass, but the water runs through it.
caarntedd3 years ago
Nice work, I might do this as I have a similar problem.
falling_stone (author)  caarntedd3 years ago
Thanks! wilgubeast is right that you can get some helpful equipment from the big box places. Good luck!
wilgubeast3 years ago
That looks great. Love the pictures at various points in the life of the drain.

Some big box hardware stores sell pipe pre-drilled with drainage holes for a quick French drain, but you'll still need to do the digging, lay the gravel, and everything else you've done here. I prefer this old school method, and the results are awesome. No more mud pit.
falling_stone (author)  wilgubeast3 years ago
agreed. We just wanted a way to move that water. I may put my tomatoes where the mudhole used to be next year.
you had a problem...you sorted it, nice one pal,
falling_stone (author)  abitdifferent3 years ago
zazenergy3 years ago
nice job, featured!