How to clean and maintain a French drain

How to clean and maintain a French drain

clean french drain


French drains offer an effective way to prevent water from building up and accumulating in troublesome areas, such as around basements, garages, driveways, crawl spaces or areas throughout the yard. This simple drainage system can easily redirect the flow of water and prevent a water backup from leaking into your basement or otherwise damaging your home. 

With the name “French drain,” you may assume that the drains originated in France. They were actually developed by an American farmer with the last name French as a way to improve water drainage on his land. French discussed his drain system in a book he wrote and others quickly began to take note and employ the drains themselves. 

However, to maintain this yard drainage system, it’s important to understand drain cleaning and know DIY tips to prevent blockages from forming. This article will show how to take care of the French drains around your property.


How do French drains work?

A French drain system is basically a grate placed over a pipe that runs under the ground. French drains work by guiding and controlling the yard drainage, preventing water from sitting in an area where it could cause problems, such as next to the foundation of the house. A perforated pipe within the drain helps collect groundwater and then directs it away from the area where it could typically accumulate. 

The pipe is surrounded by gravel that the water can then drain into after it has been redirected. Some homeowners may also elect to connect their French drain to a rain barrel, which lets them collect the excess water and use it in areas where they need it, such as for watering a garden.

French drain installation takes place at the ground level and can be used in various locations. For example, some people might elect to place these drain pipes near a gutter downspout, particularly if the gutter system results in water piling near the rest of the home. 

It’s important to note the difference between a trench drain and a French drain. A trench drain consists of a drainage ditch dug along the surface that redirects water. A French drain is underground and can collect both surface water and groundwater that accumulates in the soil in that particular area. 

Since French drains operate underground, those laying the PVC pipes will need to carefully investigate where to place the drain and where to direct the water. For example, consider where your tree roots are located to avoid having a pipe disrupted by a tree root blocking it in the future. The installation will also need to take into account the slope of the land.


How to clean your french drain

Cleaning out a French drain can help prevent buildup in the system that could lead to a blockage that disrupts the flow of water. This can be particularly important before a heavy rain when you know that the drain will need to function optimally to pull the water away from the house.

To go through this type of project, you’ll need to secure some tools that you can usually obtain from a hardware or home improvement store. The most important one will be an electric sewer snake. This tool can help you reach far enough down the drain to find and dispose of any clogs.

Once you have your tools, you’ll want to proceed with the following steps to get the drain system cleaned and working well:

  1. Remove the drain lid or grate. You’ll need to remove any coverings, like the grate, to easily access the rest of the pipe.
  2. Begin by using a garden hose to try to flush the drain of debris or small clogs. You can also use a power washer to try to force clogs out of the system.
  3. If neither of the two previous options worked, you’ll need to feed an electric sewer snake into the drain. Snaking the drain allows you to get the tool around any debris or potential clogs that are starting to form.
  4. Maneuver the sewer snake further down the drain. You want to uncover any potential clogs and will need to go around bends in the drainpipe, so don’t rush this process. 
  5. Retract the sewer snake when you’ve reached the end of the drain pipe. This will begin to remove any debris in the system.
  6. Flush the pipe system out with water from your garden hose again.
  7. Patiently repeat this process until clogs and debris have been removed from the pipe. Keep in mind that it may take a few attempts to navigate this successfully.

Some homeowners with experience may attempt this task but many find that it’s a challenging and time-consuming chore to complete and prefer to hire a professional plumber instead. They often underestimate the challenge of successfully dislodging clogs and the length of time needed to get the drain fully cleaned out.

Plumbers have experience working with this type of high-pressurehome improvement project and can help get your French drain system clear significantly faster than if you did it yourself. However, you’ll need to make this decision for yourself. Think about your skills and strengths in the areas of home improvement and plumbing.


French drain maintenance tips

No one wants standing water around their home. It can cause water damage to the housing structure, damage the landscaping and even lead to a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Therefore, maintaining your French drain to properly manage your runoff is an important part of homeownership.

You’ll want to make sure that you clean out your drain regularly. The longer you allow debris to accumulate inside, the closer it will get to becoming a full clog and the harder it will be when you try to clean it out. When the drain is allowed to accumulate clogs, it also becomes more likely to back up and cause a serious problem before you take the necessary steps to clear it out. At a minimum, clean the drain out once a year. If you notice drainage slowing down at any point, that’s also a good indication that you should check the drain.

In addition to cleaning the drain regularly, you can also take steps to prevent debris from reaching it. Watch your household water flow, keep the yard clean of debris so that it doesn’t get carried down to the drain and regularly clean the area around the drain to keep it working as optimally as possible.


Protect your home systems with Cinch

As a homeowner, it’s important that you stay on top of basic home improvement projects and ensure your home is well cared for to keep it in peak condition. Cleaning your French drains might just be one home maintenance project you have to manage, ensuring they continue to direct water to where you want it to go. Failing to take care of these types of projects can easily result in a buildup of water and potential damage to your home or yard. This illustrates one of the central rules of homeownership: Taking a bit of time and resources to protect and improve existing home features now can help you avoid larger problems and higher costs later on.

As you navigate the complexities of homeownership, it’s important to consider the potential value that a home warranty from Cinch Home Services can offer. With several home protection plans to choose from, you can rest easy knowing a Cinch home warranty can help cover the cost of repairing or replacing covered appliances and built-in systems.

As a responsible homeowner, see if a home warranty might be the coverage you need to help you maintain your home and keep it in peak condition. Get a free quote from Cinch to help you stay on top of your home protection needs.


Taking care of your French drain can prevent water from backing up and damaging your property. Here’s how to maintain this drain.

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