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The Materials Needed to Do a French Drain

By Christina Teter ; Updated September 21, 2017

Homeowners place French drains in their yards to move excess water along a pipe to an exit — preferably to a street or sewer. French drain supplies are easy to acquire; the most difficult part of installing French drain is the labor used to dig the trench where you place the pipe. French drains are popular in areas that receive excessive amounts of water yearly. They are also popular with homeowners who do not have adequate water drainage in their yards.

Shovels or Spades

Digging the trench to lay your French drain pipe is the most critical step to making your French drain effective. Depending on the size of the pipe you want to install, dig approximately 2 inches deeper than the diameter of your pipe, using a spade or shovel. You must dig the trench from the point where the water stands in your yard to an exit location, usually a sewer drain or onto the street. The trench needs to be 6 inches wide. Be sure to dig the trench at a slope so the water properly drains from your property.


The pipe you use for your French drain must have perforated or punched holes in it to drain properly. You may also use rigid PVC pipe as a French drain. Flexible plastic corrugated pipe is not a good substitute for rigid pipes because if you have to clean out the drain at a later date, it is easy to scar and even tear the plastic with cleaning equipment. You should place the pipe in the trench you dug, and make sure the depth of the trench is adequate for the type of pipe you purchased.


You need to cover the installed French drain pipe with a fabric — usually geotextile fabric or roofing felt. The fabric keeps all foreign material, including rocks and dirt, from entering the pipe through the perforated holes. With the fabric installed, the only thing that can get into the pipe is water.

Rock or Gravel

Place gravel or small rock around the pipe to keep water flowing through the trench. You also need to place a layer of rock on top of the fabric to protect the French drain. It also makes the area aesthetically pleasing. The rock you place on the drain should match the rest of your home so it blends in with your landscaping. Each rock should be no larger than a silver dollar.


About the Author


Christina Teter is a business professional who began her freelance writing career in 2010. Her work has appeared on Leavr and other online publications. Teter has a Bachelor of Science in accounting from Truman State University.