How to Install a French Water Drain in a Yard


French water drains can help drain water from low-lying areas of your yard. A French drain is a trench filled with gravel and a perforated drain pipe. Water that normally would collect on the surface of your yard drains through the gravel, where it is carried away by the pipe. For severe flooding problems, try to design your French drain so that it empties into a nearby gutter or culvert. However, for minor drainage issues, simply moving the water away from the affected area and allowing it to naturally drain into the soil under the drainage system may be sufficient.

Step 1

Stake out your drainage system using wood stakes and string. The width of your drain will depend on the amount of water that accumulates in your yard. Wider drains tend to last longer without clogging than narrower drains.

Step 2

Dig the trench. If you are using 4-inch drain pipe, dig your trench 8 inches square. If you are using 6-inch drain pipe, dig your trench 12 inches square.

Step 3

Add washed gravel equal to 1/2 the diameter of your drain pipe to the bottom of your trench. For example, if you are using 4-inch pipe, add 2 inches of gravel. If you are using 6 inches of pipe, add 3 inches of gravel.

Step 4

Lay your perforated drain pipe in the center of the trench on top of the gravel you just laid. Place a fabric drain pipe sleeve around the pipe to keep dirt from clogging the holes in the pipe. Connect sections of pipe with the appropriate fittings. Using fittings designed for your pipe will make cleaning the pipe easier in the future. Be sure the perforated pipe is centered in the trench.

Step 5

Cover the sides and top of the perforated pipe with gravel.

Things You'll Need

  • Wood stakes
  • String
  • Shovel
  • Hoe
  • Perforated drain pipe
  • Drain pipe fittings
  • Fabric drain pipe sleeves
  • Washed gravel


  • Easy Digging: How to Install a French Drain
  • Grounds Maintenance: How to Install a French Drain
  • Drains & Plumbing: Learn to Design, Build and Install a French Drain Yourself

Who Can Help

  • Ask the Builder: Linear French Drains
Keywords: yard drainage, French drain, yard flooding

About this Author

Christopher Earle is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colo. He has been writing since 1987 and has written for National Public Radio, the Associated Press, the Boeing Company, Ford New Holland, Microsoft, Active Voice, RAHCO International and Umax Data Systems. He studied creative writing at Mankato State University in Minnesota.