Knowing the Difference Between Surface Drains and French Drains

surface drains and french drains

Drainage can be a major issue in both residential and commercial settings. If you own property, you have probably had to sort out a drainage issue at one time or another. This is especially true for those who live in places that get lots of rain each year.If you have a standing water issue, there are a variety of ways to resolve this problem, but the two most common solutions are surface drains and French drains. These two types of drains are the most commonly used solutions to handle standing water. 

Each type of drain has a unique function, and you will want to know what they are for before you decide on a drainage system for your standing water problem.

French Drains Are for Ground Water

French Drains are commonly used in places that have groundwater issues. Groundwater is linked to the water table, and it can increase and decrease as precipitation increases and decreases. The water involved can also come from increases in volume in a nearby stream or lake. In this situation, the water will likely affect your property if the property is below the level of the stream.

A French Drain is basically a trench with a perforated pipe connected to it. The trench is filled with rock or gravel, and the water is directed away from the area through the piping. French drains are commonly linked to septic systems or to a large drain field that can diffuse the water away from the area that needs to stay dry.

One of the benefits of French Drains is that they are easy to make attractive, so they are a good fit for areas that will be visible. If you have a drainage issue at the front of your home, for example, a French drain can easily be incorporated into your landscaping. The drain will just look like part of the décor of your home if it is neat and filled with attractive rock.

Surface Drain Redirect Water Accumulating Above the Ground

Surface drains or trench drains are the drains that people automatically think of when someone says the word drain. These drains are usually linked to a slope that is intended to carry the offending water down to the drain. Everyone has seen these drains along city streets, at the edges of industrial park properties, and at the base of sloped yards.

Surface drains are harder to make attractive and the best option to hide them is to try and keep them below eye level and covered with a decorative grate. In industrial or street usage, they are typically just covered with a practical grating that can be removed easily if there is a need to access the drain.

Surface drains are often linked with gutters, which funnel water into pipes and send it to the surface drain solution that has been selected for the area. Employing a surface drain on your property often means that you will need to create a sloped surface for the water to run away from. 

While this style of drainage can be more expensive to put in place and harder to make cosmetically attractive, in places where water from runoff and rain collects, there is no better solution.

How To Select the Right Kind of Drain

Drainage has been a part of human construction since the first farmers were growing crops. While the advent of new technologies has made drainage easy to install and maintain, the basic principles have not changed much over the centuries. This means that there are clear-cut rules about which kinds of drains belong where.

If you are trying to decide what you need to do to resolve your drainage problem, here is a great set of rules to help you to sort out what you need to do to eliminate that unwanted water.

1.       You can’t see where the water is coming from

If you walk out onto your property on a dry day and there is water standing somewhere on it, you will probably need to create a French Drain. Water that is pooling up when there is no precipitation is a solid indicator that you have a groundwater issue that is causing your standing water. You may still need to make some alterations to the slope of the property, but a French drain will not need much in the way of gravity to help it to attend to your water issue.

2.       You can see where the water is coming from

If you can tell that the standing water is pouring off the roof, or it is flooding down to a flat spot from a higher location whenever it rains, then you will need to use a surface drain. This will involve building up, or leveling out the slope and making sure that you have a good drain field for the water that needs to be removed.

3.       The water seems to be there when it is rainy or when it is dry 

In these cases, you might have a mixed problem going on, and you will have to change the slope of the property and employ a mixed drainage solution. For properties that have contact with a lake or a river, for example, there will likely be areas on the property that have both groundwater issues and surface water issues. 

These cases will probably require the help of a professional to make sure that you are not working against yourself as you create your drainage solution.

Always Do Your Research

Drainage doesn’t have to be a complicated problem to solve and with a little bit of planning, you can eliminate all of your standing water problems. Always make sure to take your time with the project and plan it out thoroughly before you get started working on it. 

There is nothing worse than digging a ditch you didn’t need to, or placing a bunch of drainage piping in an incorrect manner. If you take the time to verify where the water is coming from and make a good plan for where it needs to go, you will be able to enjoy a dry and usable yard or property in no time!

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