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French drains are needed in situations where a yard is constantly soaked, or when there is a wet basement. Where there is water, it will take the easiest way to flow downhill, which is where a French drain comes in. A French drain consists of a trench that is slightly sloped, and is filled with round gravel. Inside the trench is a pipe, which serves to divert water away from the home or area of concern.

The basics behind a French drain

French drain is simply a convenient channel through which water can flow. A trench is filled with gravel, allowing the water to run freely through it, and into a perforated pipe located at the end of the trench. The water is then emptied at a distance that is deemed to be safe, preventing the buildup that leads to saturation and flooding.

The actual bottom of the trench should have an ideal slope of approximately 1 in per 8 feet in the desired water flow direction. Where the water should be diverted to is dependent on the property. Some common areas are:

  • Streets
  • Drainage ditches
  • Dry wells
  • Area of the property that is low-lying


If you have or are building a retaining wall on a sloped area of the property, or a problem with wet basements or saturated yards, then you will definitely need a French drain to properly divert the water. Different types of French drains are used for different situations, for example:

  • Curtain drains, or shallow French drains intercept the water and divert it around the wet areas. These types of drains run horizontally and directly uphill from the area. As they are shallow, the most common size is 2 feet deep and 1.5 feet across.
  • Deep French drains are generally used when water is leaking into the basement. This type of drain is installed at the footing level of the house, running around the perimeter to intercept the water.
  • Interior French drains are the best way to prevent water from entering the basement. If the basement is finished, interior walls will need to be removed in order to properly install the drainage system.


If you are experiencing water in your basement or around your property, contact the French drain experts at 20 Landscaping right away. The professionals at 20 Landscaping have the tools and the knowledge to ensure that your yard and your basement stays dry, and have successfully installed many French drains in and around the Pittsburgh area.