Tips on French Drains, Landscaping for Drainage & More by Alex Konopka, Landscape East & West

April 12, 2013

In places like Portland, proper water management is crucial. Otherwise, homeowners will suffer soggy, unusable yards and leaky basements. Our water management services offer several landscaping for drainage solutions, including French drains.

Basically, a French drain is a gravel-filled trench with a perforated pipe hidden inside. This unique drainage approach is not inspired by French landscaping practices; instead, it is named after a Massachusetts farmer, Henry French, who wrote about the technique in his 1859 book on farm drainage.

How French Drains Work

Garden Drainage SystemFrench drains take advantage of gravity and fluid dynamics to clear outdoor living space of excess moisture. Water is naturally drawn into the trench, since the gravel provides an easy flow route while the depression of the trench pulls water downward. Water then flows into the pipe, which diverts it away from the selected area.

French Drains: Installation Tips

A drainage contractor worth his or her salt should know to install the hidden pipe with the holes facing downward. This will prevent the pipe from becoming clogged.

Typically, French drains are installed at a standard depth of 12-18 inches, although this figure will change according to the lot in question. (A bigger lot with more to drain will require greater depth.) A 6-8-inch width is standard. Finally, we recommend including a catch basin, which will allow you to keep an eye on how well the drain is working. Catch basins also provide access for cleaning out the pipe if needed.

Experienced drainage contractors can partner French drains with sump pumps if a yard is too flat to facilitate gravity-driven drainage. French drains may even be installed in a home’s interior – say, around the perimeter of a basement that tends to flood. Finally, expert drainage contractors know to install this type of drain behind retaining walls, where water would otherwise pool and cause problems.

Portland’s luscious greenery is fed with near-daily rain between November and April. All that water can cause real problems – sopping wet yards that can never be enjoyed, structural weakness from water creeping into basements, plants dying from too much moisture. French drains are an affordable, effective way to overcome these drainage obstacles.

French drains are just one of our drainage management tools. We also design and install rain gardens as well as dry wells. If your yard tends to turn into a swamp during the rainy season, give us a call.


Alex KonopkaContributing author Alex Konopka is a Design & Sales Associate at Landscape East & West, Portland, Oregon’s landscape and design professionals. Alex has a wealth of experience assisting clients with French drains and installation, irrigation repair and more. Learn more about Landscape East & West’s water management services.