French Drains: Why They Are Important

French drains – did they really come from France? What exactly are they, and what makes them so decidedly important to so many people? The purpose this post is to bring some clarity to the common lack thereof on the subject of French drains. These important exterior setups really are crucial in many applications, and here, we’re going to explain why.

The French Drain – What is It?

In order to ultimately understand the importance and function of this particular drain setup, one must first understand the basics of what composes a French drain. The French drain saw its first recorded uses in the 1800’s when a man named Henry Flagg French began to install and write about them in Concord, Massachusetts ( The problem being addressed was an overabundance of damaging groundwater.

As designed by Mr. French, essentially, the French drain is an underground drainage system that is most often installed near structure foundations but that can also be found in many other locations as well. With a combination of rock, pipe, and a special filtering mesh, this drain collects moisture from within and on top of the ground. Once water makes its way to the drain, it is then carried away to a more ideal location.

How French Drains Work

So, how exactly does this work? First, a location and run must be planned out for maximum efficacy in moving the groundwater of concern. From here, a relatively light ditch, or channel, is dug along the run route. At this point, the stone, pipe, and filtering mesh are installed within the run of the ditch, creating an effective drainage route for the water. Once complete, the entire run can be covered over, and soon, the home or business owner has a 24-hour operational moisture removal system that no one would even know is there.

For those curious, the science of it is simple. Gravity always pushes water downwards, right where we want the French drain to be – just under the ground’s surface. In order to keep soil from washing down into the drain along with the groundwater, the rock material and filtering mesh are what surround the pipe in a sort of underground bed. The end product is a pipe that collects water only, and by slight angle incorporated throughout its underground run, carries the water off in the direction chosen by the installer. In short, it’s a very simple yet very ingenious and effective system that utilizes what is known scientifically as “leaching” (

When And Where French Drains Are Used

Now that we’ve covered the basics on how the drain works, we can get into the importance of this particular drain as well as the occasions in which it is most often utilized. Quite simply put, French drains save all kinds of structures from inherent doom as well as water-bogged land that would otherwise be unusable. On the ground’s surface it’s easy to see how excess water can be problematic. It can cause major foundational problems that will require a foundation repair company.

Beneath the surface, however, is where the real and very substantial structural degradation manifests. Within the ground, it’s normal for some shifting and slight changes to take place over time in even the most ideal situations. On the other hand, when there is an overabundance of moisture and at regular intervals, the ground becomes much more unstable. Shifting, erosion, settling, and all of the ground’s biological processes are then sped up. The result is sinking land and unsuitable support for a heavy structure including foundation issues.

This is why many people find cracks and dangerous signs of settling in their foundations. Subsequently, the home or business owner starts to notice door and window problems, floor issues, and cracking in walls and ceilings that was never there before. In short, as the weight of the structure pushes down on the foundation, the foundation sinks and settles continuously more and more into the unsettled, overly wet soil. The end result, without proper drainage installed, is a continuously degrading structure that will eventually be unusable. This is why the French drain can be found to provide suitable remedy in virtually any location where groundwater is a conflict.

Groundwater can make or break any property, and unfortunately can start to manifest even in locations where it was never a problem previously. The French drain is therefore your modern-day, simple, yet highly effective remedy to many such groundwater issues. Don’t let your land or structure be slowly taken down by the elements when something as simple as a French drain installations can save it all. G. L. Hunt is your experts on foundation repair for over 28 years.