Benefits of a French Drain

You spent a ton of money on landscaping but forgot to add a drainage system. If standing water is now causing problems, homeowners should look into a French drain. Why? Benefits of a French drain include that it prevents standing water, stops soil erosion, and protects your home’s foundation.

In this article we’ll cover these topics:

  1. What is a French Drain?
  2. Who Needs a French Drain?
  3. Benefits of a French Drain 
  4. Disadvantages of a French Drain

What is a French Drain?

It sounds a little ooh-la-la but a French drain is simply a trench dug into the ground for excess water to drain out of your yard. Built on a slight slope, a French drain can be 6 inches in diameter to a couple of feet, the wider the better. It functions a bit like the gutters on your house by forcing the water flow downhill and away from your home’s foundation. 

Most French drains now have a perforated pipe in the trench, although the original drains simply used gravel or small rocks on top of a ditch. The rock element is used whether there is a pipe or not, as it’s permeable and water flows through.

This underground drainage system works well for lawns with poor drainage.

Excess water from your yard flows through the French drain and into the street gutter or a dry well. And because a perforated pipe is used, water is collected throughout the entire drainage system.

Who Needs a French Drain?

If your yard repeatedly floods or you experience basement flooding, a French drain may work for you. If there is always standing water in your yard after a good rain, this may be a good drainage solution. Even if you have a sump pump in your basement, an interior French drain can help by redirecting excess water to the sump, where it can then be pumped out.

If you have a retaining wall or are building one on a hill or slope, a French drain system will keep water from pooling at the bottom of the wall or running toward your home. A French drain redirects surface water away from the retaining wall so it won’t undermine the structure.

Benefits of a French Drain

Here are four benefits of installing a French drain in your yard.

A French drain:

  • Prevents standing water
  • Stops soil erosion
  • Protects home’s foundation
  • Adds value

Prevents Standing Water

Mosquitoes love puddles. Standing water in your lawn becomes a breeding ground for the pesky and sometimes disease-carrying bugs. 

Excess water encourages mold and fungus growth on your grass and even kills it and other plants by drowning them. That, in turn, creates mud that gets tracked into your house. 

A French drain removes standing water by draining it downhill. It redirects the overflow to run through the trench, into the street gutter and down the storm drain. 

Stops Soil Erosion

Healthy soil is a must for a lush, green lawn. Too much surface water may cause soil erosion by washing away topsoil, the top layer that’s necessary for the growth of grass and plants. That may leave you with a muddy, grass-less mess. Adding a French drain to your yard keeps topsoil right where it needs to be, ensuring that your lawn and landscaping remain bright and healthy. 

Protects Home’s Foundation

A huge benefit of a French drain is the protection it provides for your home’s foundation and basement.

When water builds up against foundations, the hydrostatic pressure (the constant force the water puts on your basement walls) can erode the concrete and threaten the structural integrity of the foundation. How to prevent this? A homeowner or builder might include a French drain system in the basement waterproofing.

Wooden foundations and crawl spaces are also susceptible to damage from water pressure, as the wood can rot and crumble and concrete footings can crack.

French drains work particularly well in land with clay soil. This type of soil drains slowly, so adding a trench to the yard removes water before it can cause damage to your property. 

The same principle applies when building a retaining wall in your yard. A French drain removes hydrostatic pressure from the wall, keeping it stable and in place.

Adds Value

A French drain is beneficial beyond removing excess water from your yard; it can add value to your property by protecting your home’s foundation. Prospective buyers want to know that their home won’t be threatened by standing water and a French drain gives them that peace of mind. 

Depending on how decorative you make the trench, a French drain also adds a pleasant hardscaping element to your lawn. You can use colored rocks instead of gravel, smooth or rough and different shapes and sizes. River rock, for example, gives the look of a dry creek bed. 

Some homeowners use plants to camouflage the French drain. Flowers or other plants run the length of the trench, hiding the trench. You can also add borders around the French drain of concrete, pavers, or crushed quartz. 

Disadvantages of a French Drain

Here are some potential problems to be aware of if you’re considering a French drain for your yard.

  • Clogs
  • Backflow
  • Ignoring zoning rules


A clogged drain is an inefficient drain and can even cause damage. Clogging is the biggest issue French drain owners face. Water often carries sediment through the pipe, creating mud that may cause blockages. 

Clogs are also caused by the roots of trees, grass, and scrubs encroaching on the pipe and trench. When a French drain is clogged, water isn’t properly redirected. This leads to leaks that may damage your home’s foundation or create standing water in other areas.


Backflow is when groundwater seeps into the soil and the dry well fills up, leaving excess water with nowhere to go. This causes the water flow to go back up the drainage system and leave standing water in the basement or in the original problem area.

Homeowners with access to the city gutters and storm sewer system don’t usually have this problem. Those without that access may have to redirect the water somewhere else.

Zoning Rules

It’s key to know city zoning rules BEFORE you start a French drain installation, so check with your local zoning board to see if you need a permit.

Before You Get Started on Your French Drain Project

It’s imperative that homeowners not dig into utility lines. Call 811 and put in a utility line locator request before you lift that first shovel full of dirt.

There’s quite a bit of digging involved but a French drain can be a DIY project. Factors on deciding whether to tackle it yourself include the length and depth of the ditch and what kind of hardscape you choose to surround it with. 

As a bonus, installing a French drain won’t cost you a fortune or take much time, and your yard won’t be wrecked as a result. You only need to consult a professional to ensure the French drain is being installed correctly.

Main photo credit: Geograph | CC BY-SA 2.0

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!