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French Drain Installation Cost

French Drain Installation Cost

National average
$5,000
(100-foot interior perimeter basement drain)
Low: $1,000

(100-foot shallow exterior drain in the yard)

High: $10,000

(100-foot exterior footing perimeter drain)

Cost to install a French drain varies greatly by region (and even by zip code).
Get free estimates from foundation repair contractors in your city.

The average cost of installing a French drain is $5,000.

In this guide

What is a French drain?
Signs you need a French drain
Location
Types of French drains
Installation
Labor costs
French drains vs ground gutters
French drains vs curtain drains
Enhancement and improvement costs
Additional considerations and costs
FAQ

How much does it cost to install a French drain?

If you have a soggy yard or water that seeps slowly into your basement, you may want to consider the installation of a French drain 1 to dry things out. A French drain 1 is a very simple setup that helps water drain, redirecting it from where you do not want it to somewhere harmless like a sewer drain 2 or street.

Many types of French drains exist, and the size, length, depth, and location of the drain all impact the overall cost of the project. Most homeowners installing a French drain in their basement spend around $5,000 for 100 linear feet of drain.

What is a French drain?

Henry French first described a French drain in a book he wrote about farm drainage in the 1850s. It is a straightforward solution that involves digging a trench through the affected area, lining it with gravel and weed-blocking fabric, then laying perforated pipe and covering it up with more gravel. Water enters the pipe and is carried away to the designated emptying area. 

French drains can be shallow or deep and installed in your yard, around the perimeter of your home, or inside your basement. They can be installed alone or paired with a sump pump 3 for very wet areas.

Signs you need a French drain

French drains are most useful when you have slow-moving or slow-collecting water. If you have sections of your yard that are always soggy, water that seeps slowly into your basement or crawl space, or water that collects in your driveway, these are signs that you need a drainage system. If this is the case, a French drain may be a good solution for you.

Location

French drains can be installed in several spaces but are most effective when used properly, in the appropriate location, and at the correct depth. When used outdoors, they work best on slopes or downhill areas of your yard, as this assists with drainage.

If you have a small amount of water in your basement or crawl space, you can install the French drain around the perimeter of your home. This helps channel away any groundwater that seeps through your basement walls. The location may need to be fairly deep, depending on the height of your basement walls, and is often the most expensive ($10,000 on average) to install.

If you have water inside your basement frequently, you can also install a French drain inside your basement floor and pair it with a sump pump 3. In this situation, the channel will be installed inside your concrete floor, and the water will be directed to a pump pit, where it can be safely pumped back out of the house.

Types of French drains

Most French drains can be categorized as either interior or exterior. From there, they also break down slightly further into more specialized categories that address specific needs.

Type of drainProsCons

Interior 

($50 - $60/ linear foot)

Effective

Prevents water infiltration

Can be installed in existing homes

Invasive, involving cutting existing concrete and potentially moving walls

Expensive

Exterior

($10 - $20/ linear foot)

May be less expensive

Easier to install

Customizable

Good for soggy yards

Complete perimeter drains are very costly

Not effective at transferring large amounts of water away from the basement

Shallow

($10 - $15/ linear foot)


Very inexpensive

Easy to install

Good for groundwater in the yard

Delicate

May be visible in the yard

Footing 

($80 - $100/ linear foot)


Goes deep and can handle more water

Prevents basement flooding more effectively

Very expensive

May not be as effective as an interior drain


Interior drains need a sump pump to be truly effective. These cost between $550 and $1,100, and larger basements require two. They involve digging a small channel in your concrete to lay the pipe and then covering it with a thin layer of concrete. If interior walls are in the way, they need to be at least temporarily moved for installation. 

Exterior drains come in two types - shallow and footing 4. Shallow drains are most common for draining a soggy yard and are less expensive in general. Footings go around the perimeter of your home and are very deep, often several feet, which causes the costs to rise considerably. They will be visible, so it is common to use decorative pebbles and a curb to contain them.

Installation

Most French drains are installed in roughly the same way. A trench is dug in the affected area. The width and depth of the trench are dictated by its location and how much water needs to be drained at a time. Once the trench is dug, it is lined at the bottom with gravel and then covered with a fabric weed blocker. The drain, usually perforated PVC but may be flexible hosing, is laid in the trench and covered with more gravel. If desired, soil may be backfilled on top.

For basements, the process is similar, but the finished drain is usually covered with a thin layer of concrete with strategically placed drains.

Labor costs

Labor and material are generally grouped together by installers of French drains, with labor making up the larger share. For an interior basement drain, the average cost is $50 a linear foot, with labor making up about $35 to $40 a linear foot and material making up the rest. For 100 linear feet of installation, this makes labor about $3,500 to $4,000 out of the total $5,000 project cost.

French drains vs ground gutters

French drains and ground gutters are often discussed as being the same thing. There are, however, subtle differences. Ground gutters are generally more shallow, while French drains may be deep or shallow depending on the need. Ground gutters also typically run to a dry well for collection, which may be lined with a membrane to contain the water more effectively, or they may simply allow the water to drain naturally. French drains typically terminate at a sewer, street, or into an area that is better equipped to handle the water.

French drains vs curtain drains

Curtain drains and French drains also work in similar ways. The biggest difference is that curtain drains are always very shallow, dealing mainly with surface water, while French drains are usually deep enough to handle groundwater or surface water. They are installed in the same method.

Enhancement and improvement costs

Rain Gardens

Rain gardens are a popular way to end a French drain. The area is depressed and collects the water from the drain, using it for plants that do well in these conditions like grass and flowering perennials. They cost around $1,000 to $3,000 depending on size.

Irrigation Ditch

Irrigation ditches are also an option for giving water a place to go, rather than allowing it to seep into your yard or home. They may be used alone or with a French drain and cost around $0.50 to $1 a square foot.

Retaining Walls

If you have a lot of water in your yard, it can cause soil erosion. If this is the case, you may want to install a retaining wall to assist. Retaining walls can be constructed in several ways, and a dry stack wall starts at around $4,000 to $6,500, while a poured wall that is 6-feet in height typically costs between $10,000 and $13,000.

Vertical French Drains

Some yards with water issues can have a dry well installed, which is a hole filled with gravel that collects and drains water. These are sometimes called vertical French drains. They have lower costs but are less effective at keeping water away from your home. They start around $100 to $300.

Additional considerations and costs

  • Interior French drains may require permits. Check with your local town or city hall for more information about what may be needed in your area.
  • If your property is lower than surrounding properties, or if your foundation is lower than the surrounding land, a French drain may be necessary to direct water away from the foundation.
  • Always call your utility company or 811 before digging in the yard to find out if you have utility lines nearby. The drain may need to be relocated if this is the case.
  • The best slope for a French drain is 1 inch for every 8 feet, but it should not go less than a 1% slope total.
  • French drain depths can be anything from a few inches to several feet. The location, the amount of water, and your needs determine the depth.

FAQ

  • What is the average cost of installing a French drain?

The cost of a French drain varies depending on depth and location, but most people spend around $5,000 on an interior drain.

  • Does a French drain need an exit?

A French drain needs a termination point where it directs water to. 

  • How long will a French drain last?

French drains last roughly 10 years before needing replacement. 

  • What is the difference between a curtain drain and a French drain?

Curtain drains are usually more shallow and installed outdoors, while French drains can be deeper and installed indoors.​

  • How much area will a French drain cover?

This depends on the size of the drain. Install larger and longer drains, if needed, to cover bigger areas.​

  • Where does the water from French drains go?

This is up to you. They can drain to a sewer, a dry well, the street, a trench, or a rain garden. ​

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Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
glossary term picture French Drain 1 French drain: An outdoor buried drain line that leads water away from the house. Water runs through a trench filled with gravel into a perforated pipe underneath, which leads the water downhill to a safe area
glossary term picture Sewer Drain 2 Sewer drain: Exit-point for the removal of waste materials from a home or building
glossary term picture Sump Pump 3 Sump pump: A mechanical device used to remove water from wet areas such as basements and crawlspaces in order to help prevent flooding
glossary term picture Footing 4 Footing: A support for the foundation of a house that also helps prevent settling. It is typically made of concrete reinforced with rebar, but can also be made of masonry or brick. It is usually built under a heavier part of the house like a wall or column, to distribute the weight of the house over a larger area.

Cost to install a French drain varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

Exterior french drain

credits

Labor cost by city and zip code

Compared to national average
Antioch, IL
+9%
Athens, GA
-9%
Barrington, NH
+5%
Belleville, NJ
+27%
Bellflower, CA
+9%
Bloomfield, NJ
+27%
Brentwood, CA
+45%
Burbank, CA
+12%
Chattanooga, TN
+1%
Chicago, IL
+40%
Decatur, GA
+9%
Denver, CO
+1%
Draper, UT
-6%
Durham, NC
-1%
Fort Lauderdale, FL
+2%
Fremont, CA
+35%
Gadsden, AL
-23%
Hudson, FL
-31%
Lagrange, OH
-21%
Lewisville, TX
+17%
Little Rock, AR
0%
Livermore, CA
+35%
Los Gatos, CA
+36%
Madawaska, ME
-33%
Madison, CT
+9%
Malden, MA
+36%
Marshall, MN
+9%
Milwaukee, WI
+12%
New Orleans, LA
+35%
Newport News, VA
-12%
Oakland, CA
+36%
Plainfield, IL
+25%
Plano, TX
+24%
Portland, OR
+11%
Portsmouth, OH
-20%
Richmond, CA
+27%
Richmond, VT
0%
Sacramento, CA
+8%
Saint Louis, MO
+16%
Saint Paul, MN
+20%
Salt Lake City, UT
-6%
San Angelo, TX
-26%
San Antonio, TX
-4%
San Francisco, CA
+53%
San Jose, CA
+33%
San Rafael, CA
+25%
Smyrna, GA
+10%
Spring, TX
+24%
Woonsocket, RI
+12%
Labor cost in your zip code
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Methodology and sources