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Monday, September 27, 2021

What Does a French Drain Cost to Install and Maintain?

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If you’re a homeowner or landlord who has a property where water slowly leaks into the basement or you have a soggy yard with damaged bushes or flowers, you may want to get estimates for a French drain cost and install it to help dry things out. This is a very simple setup that will help drain the water away and redirect if from your basement or yard to somewhere harmless like into the street or sewer drain. Having one can benefit your property in several ways because water damage is one of the biggest issues you could have that can cause foundation problems, mildew or mold issues, and flooding. 

Budgeting for your French drain cost and installing it can help alleviate all of these problems. If you’re looking into this system, it’s either to prevent damage before it ever becomes an issue, or you want to prevent it from happening again. Either way, it’s important that you know the French drain cost for installation and maintenance before you tackle this project. Doing so will allow you to get the system in place to protect your home while protecting your budget. 

One of the first things you need to know is that there are several different types of French drains available on the current market. The length, depth, and drain location will all impact your final French drain cost. If you want to install this system in your basement, you should be prepared to spend around $4,500 for 100 linear feet. The average French drain cost range starts at $2,800 and goes up to $6,500. To install 100 linear feet of drain in an exterior location, your costs can drop to $2,000, but a perimeter drain that is 100 linear feet can easily climb upwards of $10,000. They are roughly $45.00 to $60.00 a linear foot for an internal drain and $20.00 to $30.00 a linear foot for external drains. 

No matter which drain system you end up choosing, we’re going to break down the French drain cost for you in this guide. The goal is to give you everything you need to map out your project price, form a working budget for it, and get a professional-grade installation to help dry out your yard and protect your home. 

1 French Drain Trench


French drain costs have a large range because every situation is unique, and the larger drain you need, the more labor costs are involved. This is why it’s important to get a good idea of the project’s scope before you budget for it.
Trench for French Drain by Brett and Sue Coulstock / CC BY 2.0

Defining a French Drain

Henry French wrote a book about frame drainage systems in the1850s, and in this book he described a French drainage system. He brought the idea of a straightforward solution that involved digging a trench through any soggy or impacted areas, lining it with weed-blocking fabric and gravel, and laying perforated pipe in. Then, he proposed to cover the area with more gravel. 

Under this system, water entered the pipe before getting carried away to the selected emptying area. You can install French drains in shallow or deep trenches throughout your yard, inside your basement, or around your home’s perimeter. You can pair them with a sump pump for very wet areas or install them on their own. 

Common Types and French Drain Costs

You can put French-style drains into one of two categories, exterior or interior. Where you want them will impact your French drain cost. They can also break down into subcategories depending on what your specific need for the drain is. The French drain costs below don’t include the actual installation process, instead, they’re just the prices for the type of drain. 

Exterior

You can get footing or shallow exterior drains. Shallow drains are popular if you want to drain a soggy yard, and they typically have a lower cost. Footings will run around your home’s perimeter, and they’re very deep. Since they go down several feet, this increases your French drain cost. They’re visible, so you usually add a curb with some decorative stonework or pebbles to camouflage it. To install an exterior drain, your French drain cost will fall between $10.00 to $100 a linear foot. 

A more shallow drainage system works like the deeper system with the only difference being that the shallow version is much closer to the surface. You’ll usually only cover it with an inch or two of gravel. Shallow-style drains are great for areas that don’t have a significant amount of water like in the desert or dry landscapes, and they don’t do well in areas with a high water table. Your French drain cost will run from $10.00 to $15.00 a linear foot for the shallow option. 

To create an interior French drain footing, you’ll leave a gap between the wall and the floor to channel water down into the drain. This will help reroute the water from cracks in the walls or windows, and it can help combat high condensation levels. It’ll help keep your basement dry if it should flood outside. If you see regular water accumulation in your basement, this is a good option. However, it can clog, and your French drain cost will be higher at $80.00 to $100 a linear foot. 

Interior

To make your interior system more effective, you’ll need to pair it with a sump pump. They can cost between $500 and $1,100 with larger basements requiring two. You’ll dig a channel into your concrete and lay the pipe before covering it with a very thin concrete layer. If you have interior walls in the way of this project, they’ll have to get moved temporarily. 

These style drains are very effective at helping you prevent water from getting into your home. They’re relatively easy to install in new builds or existing structures, but they can be invasive and expensive. Usually, they involved cutting straight through walls and concrete. Per linear foot, your French drain cost for this style runs between $50.00 and $60.00. 

How Location Impacts Your Price Points

You can install your French drain in several places around your home. However, they’re most effective when they’re the correct depth, in the appropriate location, and used correctly. When you have them outdoors, you’ll get the most out of your French drain cost by putting it in a downhill area or on a sloped area of your yard. If you want to keep water out of your basement, put them around the foundation’s perimeter. The average French drain cost hovers around $4,500, but the location and length can cause it to fluctuate. 

Along a Retaining Wall

If you have a retaining wall, installing a French drain will help protect the wall’s integrity and make it last longer. If you don’t have one, the water will flow downhill and build up behind the wall to apply unnecessary pressure. You’ll typically add your French drain behind the first stones or blocks that go into the base. The pipe will get put into the same concrete or compacted gravel base that helps support your wall. The French drain cost for this location will vary depending on the landscaping you have around it and the wall material. However, budget between $25.00 and $50.00 a linear foot. 

Basement

French drains can function to reduce the amount of hydrostatic pressure, and fluid exerts it due to gravity’s forces. This pressure builds up and it can cause any water around the basement to get forced in. This can lead to water damage or flooding. 

If you frequently find water inside your basement, you can install one of these systems with a sump pump to clear it out. You’ll install the channel inside your flooring. The water goes into the pump pit, and the sump pump will remove it out of your home. The French drain cost for this system costs between $60.00 and $70.00 a linear foot. 

Crawl Space

If you want to waterproof your basement to prevent mold or mildew growth and damage, adding one to your crawlspace is an important step. You’ll dig the trench in the ground, and this can be less expensive than other options. The French drain cost will go up if you have to remove any temporary structures or work around the crawl space. You’ll pay between $25.00 and $35.00 a linear foot. They’re great for areas with a high water table and heavy rains. 

Driveway

Your French drain cost to install it in a driveway won’t be as much as installing it indoors. However, it can rise quickly if your driveway is ready in place. The concrete removal and relaying will increase your costs. However, it’ll remove standing water from your driveway to prevent the concrete from wearing out quicker and poor driving conditions when freezing temperatures hit. The French drain cost for this location runs between $45.00 and $55.00 a linear foot. 

Garage

Your French drain cost for a garage installation will be very close to how much you’d pay to have one installed inside your house. The increased cost comes from tearing out the concrete and relaying it once you install the drain. Having this drainage system in place will prevent water from coming through your home’s foundation or garage floor. If you have a sloping driveway into the garage, you’ll want this system. The installation costs range from $50.00 to $60.00 a linear foot. 

House Perimeter

For small amounts of water seeping into your basement, installing a French drain around your home’s perimeter will help pull any water away from your home’s foundation. If you want to have a French drain along two or more walls, this is a great option. This location may have to be deeper, depending on your basement wall height. This French drain cost can range between $50.00 and $80.00 a linear foot. The utility lines, structures, and landscaping around your house will cause the price to fluctuate. 

Under the Deck

If you build a deck, it’s a good idea to install a French drain under it to protect your home’s foundation. It can also preserve your deck’s integrity and reduce the chances of water getting into your basement. Your French drain cost can be much higher than installing it in the yard because you’ll have to rip up part of the deck if it’s already in place. Your costs will run between $35.00 and $45.00 a linear foot. 

 Yard

Installing this system in your yard usually means that you’re going to put it around the home’s perimeter. You can put it in almost any area you need. For those that have water in front of the home, you’ll typically add this drain along the front of your home’s foundation with a path that’ll pull the water away from the home. This is one of the most cost-effective options available at $20.00 to $30.00 a linear foot. 

2 Filling in the Trench


You can choose the material that covers the drain trench to help it blend in with your landscaping. Fine pebbles are popular, but you could also use larger stonework or concrete. Concrete is popular for interior drainage system construction.
Constructing the Rubble Trench by Brett and Sue Coulstock / CC BY 2.0

Figuring Out French Drain Costs Per Inch

Almost all French drainage systems use a perforated pipe that you bury down into the gravel in a trench to funnel the water in, capture it, and move it to a more ideal location where it can absorb into the ground. The pipes usually use plastic because it’s flexible and durable. 

These style pipes come in several diameters, and the best width for your project will heavily depend on how heavy the rains are in your area and how much water is in your yard. The most common diameters include but are not limited to: 

  • Two Inches – $0.70/linear foot
  • Three Inches – $0.75/linear foot
  • Four Inches – $1.05/linear foot
  • Six Inches – $1.80/linear foot
  • Eight Inches – $2.30/linear foot

Installation Costs for French Drain Systems

You’ll typically install most French drains in the same way. The contractors will come in and dig a trench in the impacted area. The location will dictate the drain’s depth and width, as will how much water it needs to drain and the location. 

Once they dig a trench, they’ll line it with gravel at the bottom and then cover it with a fabric to prevent weeds. Then, they’ll lay the perforated pipe into the trench and pour more gravel on. You can backfill soil on top. Per linear foot, your French drain cost ranges from $0.70 to $2.30 a linear foot. You use this same process for a basement install, but they use a thin layer of concrete to cover it. 

Sometimes, connecting your French drain straight to your storm drain is the best choice since this will allow the water to drain into an appropriate location with other rainwater. If you have a storm basin either on or just beyond your property line, it can be inexpensive and easy to connect. This will increase your French drain costs by $100 to $200. 

These costs include both materials and labor. Labor will make up the larger portion of your French drain cost. Contractors typically charge by linear foot, but they can also charge by hourly rates that range from $35.00 to $75.00 an hour. If you want an interior basement-style drainage system, the installation cost is around $50.00 a linear foot, and labor will make up $35.00 to $40.00 out of the $50.00 total. So, if you have 100 linear feet, your labor costs will range from $3,500 to $4,000. This pushes your average French drain costs to $4,400 and $5,000. 

French Drain and Sump Pump Installation

If you’re a homeowner that has a basement that routinely floods throughout the year, adding a French drain and a sump pump is a good answer. A sump pump is a smaller device that gets installed into your basement’s corner or in the lowest point of the space. 

Sump pumps sit directly in sump pits, and they’ll remove water from your basement to keep it dry. When you combine in with a French-style drainage system, the water will go into the pit before the pump gets rid of it using the French drain. It then goes out of the house. If you want to install a French drain and a sump pump, your total project cost will range from $6,000 to $10,000. The French drain cost depends on how many pumps you need to keep the water out. 

3 Installing French Drains


It’s important that you get your inspection done on your drain to ensure that it will work correctly. If not, you can be out a decent amount of money and have to have someone redo the entire thing.
Garage construction by Salim Virji / CC BY-SA 2.0

Inspection Costs for French Drains

When you decide to install a French-style drain, you’ll want to bring an inspector in to ensure that the contractors install it correctly. They’ll also check that it keeps in regulation and that it works properly. They’ll look and see if the water the system expels doesn’t impact your neighbors. They’ll also look for contamination and that it’s inside the lawful limits. Your French drain costs for inspection ranges from $150 to $250. 

Cost to Replace Your French Drain

Sooner or later, you’ll have to replace your French drain if it’s not working like it should. Even after you have someone look for potential clogs, replacement may be the best option if you see damage. If the pipes crack or break, debris and silt can make its way in, and this makes it more difficult for water to move through. Additionally, your drain’s depth might not be deep enough for the water table over time, and you may have to adjust it. 

The French drain cost to replace it will vary, and it depends on what you have to do to it and the extent of the damage. If your contractor has to replace a damaged pipe, it can take up to six hours with a repair price tag of $1,000 to $2,500. If they find that they have to retrench the whole area and replace it, your French drain cost jumps to $2,000 to $8,000. 

Discharge Options and Prices 

Where do you want the water to drain out as it exits your French drain? If you live close to the street and the street has a storm sewer drainage system, you can direct it there. If you have an area on your property with heavy grasses, there is another option. Depending on your sewer line and septic system, you could even direct it into there. 

If none of the above options apply to your situation, you might have to create an area to drain, and this can drive your French drain costs up. Rain gardens are popular areas to direct the discharge. You’ll depress the area and allow it to collect water from the drain. You’ll plant flowering perennials, grass, or other plants that do well in wet and soggy ground. These gardens cost between $1,000 and $3,000. Irrigation ditches are another option, and they cost between $0.50 and $1.00 a linear foot. 

Another choice you have is to build a dry well. A dry well is a very large reservoir that will collect water, and there are usually several holes dug in it. You’ll dig them at the bottom of the French drain and submerge the area in gravel. The water will absorb directly into the ground without causing backups. You can use several materials for your dry well, including loose stone, concrete, or plastic.The material will dictate your costs, and it ranges from $1,500 to $5,000 on average. 

Cost to Clean Your French Drainage System

You’ll want to perform regular maintenance on your French drain to keep them working in top shape. To keep the drain in the best shape possible and working correctly, you’ll have to factor a professional cleaning once a year into your French drain cost when you figure out your budget. If it drains slower than normal, you may have to schedule two cleanings a year. 

It’ll eventually get clogged with debris, dirt, and silt from channeling water away. This can make it more difficult to move water through, slowing down the drainage and allowing water to remain by your foundation. If this happens, you’ll call in a plumber with an electric snake to clean the drain and pull out debris. 

It can take one to three hours to clean the system, depending on the length of the drain and how severe your clog is. Most professionals will charge you between $45.00 and $150 an hour. This means that your French drain cost to snake it starts at $75.00 and goes up to $500 a visit. 

Where to Find French Drain Installation Experts Near You

If you’d like to install this type of drain and you want to figure out your French drain cost, you’ll want to contact a few professionals in your local area. The following resources give you a good starting point to tracking down these companies. They include: 

Frequently Asked Questions 

4 French Drain FAQs


Knowing which types of questions to ask about your French drain project will help you get accurate estimates from the professionals you contact around your area.
Trench Drain 01986 by Omar Bárcena / CC BY-NC 2.0

1. Does homeowner’s insurance pay for French drain costs?

Most homeowners insurance policies don’t offer coverage for your French drain costs unless there is a special provision on the policy. Most policies also typically won’t cover flood damage unless you add it as an insurance rider to your policy. 

2. Which professionals can install French drains?

There are multiple contacting professionals that can install French drains without a problem. Basement contractors, waterproofing contractors, landscapers, and drainage contractors all have the tools and knowledge to complete this project. 

3. What is the average lifespan for a French drain?

On average, your French drainage system will last between 3 and 40 years. You will have to maintain them. If you let uncleared clogs go, have iron ochre in the soil, or you had a poor installation process, this can all shorten your drain’s lifespan. 

4. When is the best time to install this system?

You can do the installation work in almost any season, but you want to schedule it for a relatively dry and warm season like mid-summer or late spring. Fall can also work as long as you do it before the first hard frost hits. The season is especially important if it involves foundation work because it’ll get exposed during the project. This risks serious water damage and flooding if the weather turns bad. 

Bottom Line

Your French drain cost will depend on a variety of factors, and we outlined the biggest ones for you in this guide. You can see which ones will and won’t apply to your situation, and this can help you get a more accurate project estimate to help protect your property.

French Drain Cost 1

French Drain Cost 2

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