A French drain is a pipe that runs underground from one area of your property to another to help minimize excess water that can cause flooding. They can be attached to your gutter system, placed right below your downspout, or run along the outside of your yard. Regardless of placement, the design allows water in while filtering out dirt and other debris. It typically slopes downhill to allow gravity to transfer the water. Over time, however, materials will find their way into your French drain so you should check them annually, preferably before the rainy season hits. Once the rain arrives, heavy water flow can force more debris into the pipes or create issues with a partially-clogged drain. Before that happens, give your French drain a little TLC.
Step 1 - Locate Your Drain
The easiest way to locate your French drain is to start at the street. Most suburban houses will have one or two in front of the house. Look for a tube opening in the side of the sidewalk or curb. Since the goal is to flow the water towards the storm drains, the French drain will be close to the ground.
Step 2 - Clean Away Debris
Even if leaves and dirt haven’t traveled through the tube, it may have collected in front of it from road debris or trees dropping leaves. Remove any gunk from the front of the French drain, along with anything you can reach inside the opening.
Step 3 - Test the System
Unless you’re standing in front of the drain during a rainstorm, you may be unsure how effectively it’s working. To test it, go into the back yard and run a hose directly over the area of your French drain. Wait a minute or two and head back to the street to see if the water is running out. If you have good flow and the water looks clean, your drains are probably fine.
Most French drains are covered by gravel so make sure the pipe is still protected and redispurse or lay down more gravel for protection if it is wearing thin.
Step 4 - Snake the System
When your French drain become bogged down with grime, you’ll want to clean it out completely. The easiest way to do this is to run a snake through the system. Start at the downspout by disconnecting it and run the snake through the system, having a friend watch the exit on the street.
Step 5 - Call a Professional
There may be times that you will need to call in a professional to complete the job. If you aren’t comfortable running the snake, allow them to handle the task. Another common issue is tree roots that push into the system and block the water from exiting your yard. Although you could tackle it as a DIY project, in this situation it might be best to let the pros remove the roots and repair the French drain. Eventually, portions of your French drain may crack or break and require replacement. This is another time that you will need to decide whether to hire a pro or tackle the project yourself.