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4 French Drain Mistakes to Avoid

A key tool to keep water out of your home is drainage. There are many different kinds of drainage: interior, exterior, French, etc.

It’s easy for homeowners to think of French drains as drainage installed in their basement. However, while basement drains are often called French drains, this is actually a misnomer. French drains belong outside, and drainage in your basement is known as interior drainage (which is pictured here).

In this article, we explain the differences between different types of drainage, explore the common mistakes homeowners make with French drains, and offer tips on how you can avoid them and effectively waterproof your basement

closeup of interior drainage installed in a basement

Exterior vs. Interior Drainage Systems 

It’s important to note the difference between exterior and interior drainage systems since they have differing functions. 

A French drain is specifically an exterior drainage system, used in landscaping and around the exterior of structures.  

Alternatively, interior drainage systems specifically help to redirect water away from the foundation or crawl space. For foundation and basement damage, an interior drainage system like the AquaStop Basement Gutter™ is installed around the perimeter of the basement. In the case of crawl spaces, the CrawlDrain™ is installed in the trenches of the space to provide water filtration. 

What is a French Drain? 

closeup of exterior drain in the ground

A French drain is a drainage system designed to redirect water away from an area prone to flooding or water accumulation. It consists of a trench filled with gravel or rock and a perforated pipe that allows water to flow into it. The French drain then directs the water away from the desired area, preventing water damage to structures or landscapes. 

Benefits of a French Drain 

Homeowners use French drains for a variety of purposes to manage water effectively around their properties. Some common uses of French drains include: 

  • Managing Surface Water Runoff: French drains are often used to manage surface water runoff from heavy rainfall, melting snow, or irrigation. They help to collect excess water and channel it away from vulnerable areas, such as slopes, low-lying areas, or areas prone to erosion. 
  • Improving Yard Drainage: Poor drainage can result in standing water, soggy soil, and waterlogged areas in the yard, making it difficult to maintain landscaping and enjoy outdoor activities. French drains can be installed to improve yard drainage, ensuring that excess water is effectively removed, and the yard remains dry and usable. 
  • Protecting Landscaping Features: French drains are commonly used to protect landscaping features, such as flower beds, shrubs, and trees, from water damage. By directing water away from these areas, French drains help to prevent soil erosion, root rot, and other moisture-related problems that can harm plants and landscaping. 

While French drains have their uses, they are not the most effective solution for managing water around homes and properties. Instead, interior drainage offers the necessary protection needed for maintaining a safe and healthy living environment. 

Avoid these 4 French Drain Mistakes 

These are some common mistakes we see homeowners make when it comes to French drains: 

1. Not Differentiating Between Exterior and Interior Drains

As mentioned above, French drains are specifically used for exterior drainage. French drains don’t help in foundation related water issues. While this is a common misconception, it is important to know the difference to assess which solution fits your specific needs. 

2. Thinking a Sump Pump is Unnecessary

crew installing basement wall vapor barrier, interior drainage, and sump pump

A sump pump is necessary in certain situations to help manage groundwater and prevent water from accumulating in spaces like basements or crawl spaces. By keeping these areas dry, a sump pump helps to maintain the structural integrity of a home, keeping problems like mold growth and wood rot at bay. 

3. Neglecting Waterproofing Measures

Waterproofing helps to prevent water from seeping into foundations, walls, and basements. Implementing comprehensive solutions like a vapor barrier and dehumidifier ensures structural integrity. 

4. Failure to Remove Blockages

Obstructions like tree roots, sludge, dirt, and debris are common culprits. It’s advisable to have a local professional, such as the contractor who installed your system, inspect your drainage. They’ll likely use a drain snake to clear any blockage. If a tree root is the cause, some excavation may be necessary to rectify the issue. 

Waterproofing measures are necessary to protect buildings, occupants, and assets from the harmful effects of water infiltration and moisture-related damage. By implementing effective waterproofing strategies, property owners can ensure the long-term durability, safety, and value of their investments. 

Contact Tar Heel for Drainage Solutions 

Tar Heel inspector greeting a homeowner

Properly functioning drainage is essential for keeping your home safe from water buildup. It’s essential to understand the difference between exterior and interior drainage systems to make the best decision for your home.  

To avoid the stress that comes with exterior and interior drainage issues and waterproofing measures, schedule a free inspection with Tar Heel Basement Systems. Our professionals will inspect your home and identify the necessary solution, guiding you through every step of the process. 

Phillip Mazzotta

Phillip Mazzotta

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