March 28, 2022 by Jeremiah Sooter
Many homeowners say the most rewarding work is working in their yards. However, some yard work may require the help of an expert. One type of project is the French drain.
While a French drain may seem like a logical and aesthetically pleasing solution for surface drainage and an easy weekend warrior project, a great deal goes into a French drain installation to achieve a successful outcome.
The French drain installation is not for the faint of heart and not a weekend warrior job. It takes precision engineering to ensure proper installation. If you were to DIY, you could risk missing critical steps. In addition, it could cost you more money and more time than you would want to invest.
Most homeowners know that water pools around their homes after heavy rains, and failure to drain away are not good. So proper drainage is an excellent first step to understanding how to get surface water moving along.
Although for some homeowners, the French drain seems to be the go-to drainage solution. On the surface, a French drain looks quite simple.
There appear to be several gaps in this easy weekend project. So “digging” into the details is an excellent first step.
Most homeowners are aware they should probably contact their local city administrator’s office before digging. That way, someone from the city can mark spots where buried utility lines are in your yard.
Depending upon where you live, some cities may recommend you “call 811.” The awareness campaign got started by the Common Ground Alliance to reduce infrastructure downtime and drastically reduce injury or death. Each state also has a unique phone number and online portal for residents, even for Missouri state residents.
Homeowners should reach out to 811 before digging to ensure someone comes out to mark off buried utility lines. Call even if you plan on planting trees or building a simple garden design or outdoor space.
You can always reach out to a professional installer and let them contact the lifesaving national “call before you dig hotline.”
Aside from making that all-important call to 811, it also helps determine the slope of your yard. Generally speaking, the drain needs to drop 1-2 percent for every 100 feet of length and begin as close to the source as possible to be effective.
The biggest motivator to talking with a professional is to have them help you figure out the precise slope of your yard. After all, you want a practical solution that solves your drainage issue, not one that might make it worse.
Another area that can be a big motivator for homeowners to contact a drainage expert is money. Despite the idea that DIY might save you money, it might be easier to think of it in terms of rental fees, purchase pricing, and hiring expenses.
If you factor in how much dirt and rock you move against the time and cost to install, you might consider that hiring a professional to install your french drain is a far better option. A trench tool will dramatically reduce the time to dig it with a shovel, but it will cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $125 to $200 a day to rent the equipment.
Then there’s removing all that turned-up dirt from the trench with a shovel. An excellent way to save your back is to rent a backhoe and hire a backhoe operator for an hourly rate of $300 to $1,500.
But this cost only makes sense if you have more than 100 feet or more to dig and you have the means to get a backhoe onto your property. It’s also a heavy piece of equipment designed to tread across rough terrain and may destroy your yard if not operated properly.
In digging a proper trench for a French drain, it’s recommended you dig to a depth of 16 inches with a width of 18 inches. The perfect dimensions when working with the ground in the 4-states region. Generally speaking, topsoil weighs around 100 pounds per cubic foot.
Other factors impact the weight of soil, like standing water, which is likely to be the case since drainage is the very reason you’re looking to install a French drain.
One crucial factor to consider is lining the trench of your French drain with the proper material. There are two main categories of lining: woven and non-woven geotextile.
The woven material is ideal for use in French drains constructed throughout the region of southwest Missouri and surrounding areas. Costs vary by manufacturer but run between $350 to $1,500 a roll.
Next is the gravel. A homeowner needs 6 yards of rock gravel for 10 feet of uncovered drainage. Stone usually weighs around 2,400 pounds or as much as 3,000 pounds.
The costs can run from as little as $25 per cubic yard to $87 per cubic yard. Unfortunately, this is not a step worth skipping. The gravel serves as a critical component of how a French drain works. Acting as a sieve to catch sediment doesn’t enter the perforated pipe that the gravel rock encases.
Rest the perforated pipe onto the gravel and finish encapsulating the liner with the remaining gravel. Complete with wrapping the gravel rock with the overlaid geotextile and top with a layer of fresh topsoil.
Don’t reuse any excavated dirt. Around the four-states region, there is a lot of clay in the soil. If the dirt taken from the trench is reused, it defeats the purpose.
Because clay holds water, and you want the water to drain off. Instead, let a contractor remove the excavated soil for you.
If you’re thinking of installing a French drain, contact the professionals at Ground Up Services to help with your yard drainage solutions. They’ll come out and give you a free estimate and tell you if there might be a more affordable drainage system solution.
You may decide to hire the Ground Up Services team of professionals and discover it’s far more affordable than trying to tackle a home improvement project over a weekend. As a bonus, you’ll get a solution to your drainage problems, including a beautiful yard design, when you work with the experts at Ground Up Services.