How to Build a Maintenance Free French Drain
Welcome to the French Drain Man YouTube Channel. I want to go over how to build a French drain that’s maintenance free, where the pipe never ever gets any debris in it. Literally for the life of the French drain. And we’re talking about a French drain that’ll last forever because of the way we build them a big channel of stone is not gonna go anywhere over time.
So we excavate using a backhoe or excavator and we take all the dirt out. We don’t put any of that dirt back in. That’s one of the biggest keys to a good French drain. You want to bring the stone right to the surface.
You can see that there is no pile of dirt to the left or the right. It’s just a nice clean. We really ditch out a nice channel for our French drains. They all vary in size because they’re spec’d out for however much water they have to move and handle. This one wasn’t machine accessible. It was all done by hand.
All right. There’s our, our eight slots. I’m sorry, that’s not staggered. Eight slots all the way around in each valley. Okay. So after you ditch out your channel for your French drain, you want to take a felt, it’s not plastic. A lot of people call me and they ask, what does that plastic in your drains. That’s not plastic, that’s a felt. It’s a non-woven geotextile filter fabric. It separates the soil from the stone so they can never mix.
Now right here is a failed French drain system. This was put in without the geotextile, non-woven fabric and also the pipe wasn’t put at the bottom. Here in Michigan, the frost will actually lift that pipe. So, the pipe came to the surface, the gravel all mixed in with the clay over time and it just quit. It failed. So, they had to have this done a second time, which is unfortunate because if it would have been done right…
So, there’s a nice shot and you can see all the aggregate all the way to the top. We’re going to wrap, we’re going to wrap this and it’s impossible for bark grass blades, dust, dirt leaves to get into this system. It’s impossible.
Now the whole length of our system is an inlet. It’s just taking in the water and I’ll explain what I mean. You will see a lot of guys using inlets every eight feet is usually what they do. That’s it. You’re limited to just that area to take in the water. Where our system actually takes in the water the entire length.
Here’s a great shot. All this stone, the water would just run right through this filter cloth through this stone, this whole thing, this entire length, the whole length of the French drain is just taking in water. Then you lay the sod on top. This will work fine if you have sprinklers. It’s not an issue.
Here in Michigan where we are located, July and August, your grass will dry out on top of our French drain systems. I mean that’s their job, you know, is to pull moisture from the subsoil as well. You do have to water when people don’t have sprinklers. A lot of times we’ll do like a landscape treatment of a dry creek so that it’s decorative and they have the drainage they need.
Again, notice this is all stone underneath the filter fabric and then you go, you know right into the stone. This is kind of good anatomy shot. You can see the pipe. Then you can see the stone and you can see how we burrito wrap it.
The entire system, the entire length of this system is taking in water. You can’t move water faster than that and you have a hundred percent coverage down the line of your French train system and you never have to clean the pipe. The pipe and the stone are wrapped so there’s never going to be debris, no leaves, no bark, no grass blades, no dust or dirt.
These fill up with dirt, bark grass blades. Over time, there’s so much organic material that goes through these inlets and they end up clogging the pipe, slows the drain down. The drain or the French drain will get slower over time until one day it won’t work anymore at all. So that’s the problem with inlets. That’s why I’m always preaching, never put an inlet in your French drain system and don’t let any other contractor tell you otherwise.
Armed with this knowledge that I’m giving you in this video, you now can tell them, look, I want the aggregate coming to the surface. I want a French drain that’s going to take in the water all the way across the yard.
Here’s another issue with the inlets. You got to keep the grass cut out or the grass grows right over him real quick, so you got to be vigilant. You know, these are things you just never hear guys talking about. But our systems aren’t built with inlets.
This sod will go right back over this system. All the dirt has been hauled away. We’re not putting the dirt back on. We just took the sod off with two and a half inches of root and it’ll grow over the French drain. No problem.
So this is a maintenance-free French drain system. This is the correct way to build a maintenance-free French drain system that doesn’t need to be cleaned and it’ll last forever.
If you’re looking for this service in North Oakland County or north Macomb County, Michigan, give us a call at 248-505-3065.