How Much Does a French Drain Cost?
Pooling water could be the first sign of a problem—fixing it requires rerouting the path of the water. French drain cost runs anywhere from $500 to $18,000, with $5,000 being the national average cost.
- The typical range for installing a French drain system is $500 to $18,000, with a national average of $5,000.
- The drain size, type, and materials as well as the installation location and labor costs can all impact the cost to install a French drain.
- Homeowners may need a French drain if they live in a climate that gets significant rainfall, experience water pooling in the yard or frequent basement flooding, are building a retaining wall, or need a drainage system to meet building code requirements.
- Some skilled homeowners may be able to learn how to install a French drain; however, projects that include excavation are best left to professionals with the proper experience and equipment.
Modern building practices incorporate methods to direct rainwater away from a home’s foundation. Unfortunately, some older houses may have been built without considering how water would drain. Or something may have happened over the years, like the collapse of a perimeter exterior drain tile that no longer carries water away, leading it to back up in the basement.
Pooling water in or around the exterior of a crawl space or basement can lead to structural damage to a foundation, and water in a basement can damage possessions and lead to mold growth. Installing a French drain (which is different from a basement drain) is the fix many homeowners opt for. According to Angi and HomeAdvisor, French drain installation cost ranges from a low of $500 for minimal repairs to as much as $18,000 for the installation of an extensive system. Most homeowners will pay a national average cost of around $5,000.
What is a French drain? How does a French drain work?
A French drain is a generic term that describes multiple types of drainage, and it goes by many names, including “weeping tile,” “trench drain,” and “channel drain.” In general, a French drain consists of an excavated trench where a perforated pipe is laid and surrounded by pea gravel that acts as a filter to keep sediment out of the pipe. Water collects in the pipe and then drains safely away.
So how much does a French drain cost? Prices vary by the extent of the excavation as well as the length of the drain itself. Homeowners can expect to pay between $10 to $50 per linear foot to install an exterior French drain. Basement French drain costs are often higher due to the need to break out concrete in a basement floor to excavate beneath and install the drain, so this type of drain runs an average of $40 to $100 per linear foot. In most cases, homeowners will want to hire a professional to do the job.
Factors in Calculating French Drain Cost
While the national average for having a French drain installed is about $5,000, the cost will vary from community to community based on the going price of labor and unforeseen issues the contractor might run into when installing the system. The cost of materials used in the construction of the drain and accessibility can all affect the final price. Some drain installers’ sites will include a French drain cost calculator to help customers understand these factors.
The cost to install a French drain in a basement runs approximately $40 to $100 per linear foot, so the longer the drain, the more it will cost. Relatively shallow exterior French drains (called curtain drains), such as those installed to drain the water from a downspout to a street curb or a catch basin in the yard, will cost less because there’s no concrete to break out. Homeowners can expect to pay between $10 and $50 per linear foot for an exterior French drain.
There are several types of French drains for homeowners to choose from based on their home and needs. The main types of French drain are interior, exterior, curtain, deep, and yard trench. The costs associated with these types of drains can vary, with interior being the most expensive and curtain drains being the cheapest. Drain types and their installation costs are covered in more detail below.
Materials and Resources
The cost of materials to install a French drain is relatively low; most of the cost is labor and overhead for equipment use. The total cost of the perforated pipe averages $50 to $200, and the cost of the pea gravel is about $500 to $1,000. For calculation purposes, the pipe itself typically runs about $0.50 to $3 per linear foot, depending on the quality and whether it comes with a “sock,” which is a nylon fabric cover that helps keep sediment from filtering into the pipe. Optionally, a sump pump costs $150 to $300 to install if a homeowner chooses to include one.
|Pea gravel||$500 to $1,000|
|Perforated pipe||$50 to $200|
|Sump pump||$150 to $300|
Interior French drains are more expensive to install than exterior drains because they require more labor to excavate through a concrete floor. On average, homeowners can expect to pay between $20 and $30 per linear foot to have a French drain installed in the yard. A drain that goes around the house costs $50 to $80 per linear foot. French drains in basements are also common and cost about $60 to $70 per linear foot. The required size of the drain will also play a role in the cost.
Installing a French drain can be labor-intensive, especially if workers need to break out a basement floor with a jackhammer. The average labor cost runs about $50 to $100 per hour, and if an area is difficult to access, such as trenching beneath a concrete footer, it will take longer to excavate than digging in soft soil, so labor costs will rise.
Additional Costs and Considerations
Several unforeseen expenses may be associated with installing a French drain because the excavation process will damage a basement floor or tear up an existing lawn. Concrete repair work or landscaping services may be necessary, which will add to the overall cost. The following factors will apply in some cases and impact the final cost of installing a French drain.
Many communities require pulling a permit before doing any type of excavation in a basement or around a home’s exterior perimeter. On average, homeowners can expect to pay about $50 to $100 for a permit. When the contractor takes out a permit, it serves as an official notification of the type of work to be done. As a requirement, an inspector might check to ensure the trench is secure and that the gravel and drain pipe meet local codes.
Some areas require an inspector to sign off on the work before a French drain can be covered with gravel, soil, or concrete. The cost of the inspector might be paid by the community, in which case it won’t be an added fee for the homeowner. However, if a private inspector is hired to check the drain, it could add $150 to $250.
Digging through heavy clay or rocky soil can be a slow process, especially if a French interior drain is installed in a basement where it’s virtually impossible to use heavy equipment to dig. Digging by hand through tough soil will take longer than digging through relatively soft ground. Contractors typically charge $50 to $100 per hour for each worker, so the type of soil they’re digging through can affect labor costs. Another consideration is that down the road, French drains may become clogged if the soil is rocky or hard. French drain cleaning by the homeowner or a professional may be necessary to keep the drain in good working order, which can increase the cost.
Installing an exterior French drain requires digging through the existing yard, resulting in the need for various types of landscape repairs. The company that installs the drain is unlikely to repair the lawn, replant shrubs, lay sod, or do other landscaping tasks. Homeowners can expect to pay anywhere from $90 to $180 for overseeding grass, or up to $1 to 2 per square foot to have new sod installed.
A French drain will carry water away from the foundation, but if there’s no place to discharge the water, it could pool elsewhere in the yard. One solution for discharging the water from a drain is the installation of a drainage ditch. This may require resloping or changing the grade of the property. It’s a relatively simple project, however, that shouldn’t add more than $0.50 to $1 per square foot to the final cost.
Houses built on slopes and hills are prone to drainage problems as water naturally drains through the yards. If the home is in the path of storm runoff, it may be wise for a homeowner to consider installing a retaining wall to reroute excess water away from the yard. This could be a pricey fix, starting around $3,500 to $9,400 for a retaining wall plus $25 to $50 per linear foot to install a French drain behind it.
Vertical French Drain
Puddling and pooling water in a yard can kill grass and other vegetation. A shallow exterior drain can direct the water to a designated holding spot, sometimes called a vertical French drain. A vertical drain can be as simple as a catch basin filled with rocks or gravel that holds excess water, or it can be more elaborate and feature buried tanks that collect the water and then allow it to drain off slowly. A vertical French drain starts around $100 to $300 and goes up from there, depending on the type.
A sump pump may be required for an interior or an exterior French drain if the water cannot naturally drain away via gravity. A sump pump sits in a sump bucket, and when water from the drain fills the bucket to a prespecified level, the sump pump turns on and pumps the water to the ground’s surface. If a sump pump is necessary, it can add another $650 to $2,000 to the cost.
Dry wells typically are made of plastic, gravel, or concrete and can collect rainwater and release it back into the soil in a controlled manner. Installing one or more dry wells can mitigate potential flooding. Gravel and plastic-tank dry wells can cost $50 to $700, and a concrete dry well could cost up to $3,000.
Additional Drainage Projects
In some cases, more than one type of drainage system may be necessary. Yard drainage solutions like grading or gutters and downspouts can work in tandem with a French drain to deal with water pooling in the yard. Below are some common drainage systems and their costs.
|Drainage System||Average Cost|
|Catch basin||$20 to $130|
|Dry well||$50 to $700|
|French drain||$500 to $18,000|
|Grading||$500 to $3,000|
|Gutter and downspout||$150 to $350|
|Trench or channel||$30 to $150 per linear foot|
|Window well||$1,000 to $2,500|
|Yard drainage pipes||$1,200 to $8,000|
Types of French Drains
French drains are suitable for both interior and exterior use, and the price will vary depending on which one is necessary to correct the drainage problem. The best and most affordable solution is to install adequate drainage when the house is built. At that time, the contractor has easy access to the ground beneath the basement and around the basement’s perimeter. That’s also the time to grade the surrounding yard to encourage water to drain away from the house. The following are the main types of French drains and their costs per linear foot.
|Type of French Drain||Cost per Linear Foot|
|Curtain||$10 to $25|
|Deep||$30 to $70|
|Exterior||$10 to $50|
|Interior||$40 to $100|
|Yard Trench||$30 to $90|
Curtain drains have a slight slope that directs water away from the perimeter of a home. They are most effective at dealing with surface water and cost anywhere from $10 to $25 per linear foot.
Deep French Drain
While most French drains reach only 24 inches deep at most, a deep French drain extends much farther into the ground. These types are a good choice for homeowners who have problems with excess groundwater. A deep French drain system costs about $30 to $70 per square foot.
Exterior French Drain
During new construction is the best time to install an exterior French drain—also called drain tile—around the perimeter of the basement before backfilling. At this time, installing the drain is a simple matter of adding a few inches of pea gravel (local codes will determine how much), laying the perforated pipe in the gravel bed, and covering the pipe with more gravel. Installing a drain at this time can cost $10 to $50 per linear foot. Trenching to install a yard drain in an existing yard can run from $30 to $90 per linear foot.
Interior French Drain
While a French interior drain can be installed at any time, it’s usually installed in existing homes experiencing basement seepage or puddling. This is a significant project due to the need to break out the concrete floor and trench beneath to install the drain. The cost per linear foot to install an interior French drain ranges from $40 to $100, depending on the degree of accessibility and difficulty. Additional basement waterproofing costs $2,300 to $7,575.
Yard Trench Drain
A yard trench drain is another type of surface drain that catches water and melting snow before it has a chance to saturate the surface of a yard. Yard trench drains cost $30 to $90 per linear foot and are common in gardens and driveways.
Do I Need a French Drain?
Water and foundations don’t mix. Even in relatively dry climates, making provisions for occasional rain and runoff will prevent water damage down the road. The initial investment in a French drain varies. At the low end, it can cost as little as $500 to install a shallow exterior drain that will protect the foundation or other areas of the yard from puddling, making it an affordable and relatively simple solution.
At the other end of the cost spectrum, homeowners could pay as much as $18,000 for a French interior drain that eliminates basement flooding. In nearly all cases, the money spent on preventing water damage is an investment in the home’s value.
Homes in regions that receive substantial rain are at greater risk of damage from standing water and flooding, both inside the house and in the yard. While there are numerous ways to prevent a soggy yard and reroute water, installing a French drain is among the more common options. French drain costs range widely (from $500 to $18,000) and will vary based on where the French drain is located (inside or outside) as well as its length and depth. However, most homeowners will pay around $5,000.
Lawn Condition After Rain
Unless a rain garden is already established in a yard and filled with various water-loving plants, most homeowners are not fond of excess water pooling on the lawn. When grass and most plants are underwater for more than a few hours, it can increase the risk of root rot and fungal disease. Having the water diverted through the installation of a curtain drain averages $1,000 to $5,000, and it can improve the overall condition of the lawn.
Building a Retaining Wall on a Hill
A retaining wall can protect a house and yard from natural runoff if the home sits on a hill or slope, but the retaining wall itself can be impacted by lateral pressure from the water that builds up on the back side. In time, this pressure can damage the retaining wall, so some contractors may recommend installing a French drain along the rear of the retaining wall to ease some of the water pressure. The drain, usually installed when the wall is built, will increase the project’s cost by about $25 to $50.
The most common reason for installing an interior French drain is flooding in the basement. Flooding, even if it’s just an inch or less, can lead to high humidity levels, damage wood framing, destroy stored possessions, and reduce the home’s salability. This is one of the more costly French drain projects, averaging $5,000 to $9,000, but it could run as high as $18,000 or more, depending on accessibility and size. However, this cost is well worth it to avoid the cost and stress of flooded basement cleanup.
Non-Existent Drainage System
While strict building codes require drainage provisions for newly constructed homes, houses were often built with substandard or nonexistent drainage systems before communities adopted those codes. If it’s possible to excavate around an existing home’s outer foundation, an exterior drain system can be installed at an average cost of about $1,000 to $10,000, depending on the depth and length of the drain.
French Drain Installation: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
Installing a French drain can be a DIY project in some cases, but because it involves excavating, most homeowners will want to hire a professional contractor. Professional installation is especially beneficial for an interior French drain when it will be necessary to break through concrete or when the soil is dense or rocky. Professionals will have the equipment and skill necessary to deal with these complications. Homeowners will want to remember that DIY installation doesn’t come with a guarantee, while a contractor will likely warranty the work for a year or so. It may not be immediately clear who to call for drainage problems in the yard, but looking into local French drain installers or one of the best landscaping companies is a great place for a homeowner to start.
How to Save Money on French Drain Cost
Installing a method of drainage is essential to prevent basement and yard damage, but at an average national cost of around $5,000, it’s a pricey prospect for many. A large percentage of the price of a professionally installed interior French drain is the cost of labor. In contrast, the price of an exterior drain can be impacted by the cost of using heavy equipment, such as trenchers, or the need for landscaping repair after installation. Consider the following factors, which can save on the overall costs.
- Prioritize the order of project steps. Have an exterior French drain installed before installing a sprinkler system. Trenching through a yard with an existing sprinkler system will slow down the project, which increases worker hours. It also increases the risk of damaging an existing sprinkler system. The cost to repair a sprinkler system can add $132 to $406 to the project.
- Keep the dirt, and relocate it on-site. A lot of dirt is removed while trenching to install an exterior French drain, and if you can use that dirt somewhere else on the property (perhaps to raise the grade near the foundation), you can save on dirt removal fees.
- Consider DIY. While most French drain installation should be left to the pros, an enthusiastic homeowner can save $50 to $100 per hour in labor costs by doing some or all of the work. Call 811 (the national call-before-you-dig hotline) before digging, and remember that you may still need to acquire a permit.
- Shop around. Get at least three quotes from drain installation companies to ensure you get the best price.
- Combine jobs. Having other drainage or landscaping projects done at the same time may help you save, since the professionals won’t have to make separate trips.
Questions to Ask About French Drain Installation
Most foundation and drainage contractors will come out to look at the situation and give the homeowner a price for doing the work. As with all major projects, getting two or more bids before hiring a contractor is a good idea. In addition, asking the following questions will clarify what type of service a homeowner is getting.
- Are you licensed and insured?
- Do you have any references?
- Do you warranty your work?
- What permits are needed for this job? Will you be responsible for obtaining them?
- How long will the job take?
- Do you offer free inspections?
- Why will this solution fix my drainage problem?
- How long will the project last?
- Does the system require any maintenance?
- Is this an estimate or a bid?
- Would you itemize the costs?
- Do you run specials?
Correcting drainage problems in a home or a yard can be pricey, and installing a French drain can run anywhere between $500 and $18,000, depending on the size and extent of the problem. While fixing the drainage issues is an investment in the property, homeowners are likely to have a few questions.
Q. Can I install a French drain by myself?
If the project requires only a shallow curtain drain, this may be a possible DIY contender. Most of the time, however, this is a project best left to the pros. On average, perforated pipe runs $50 to $200, while pea gravel costs $500 to $1,000. Renting a walk-behind trencher can cost $100 to $200 per day.
Q. Does homeowners insurance cover French drains?
Most homeowners insurance policies do not cover the cost of installing a French drain. Still, if drainage is a concern for the future, it may be possible to add a French drain rider to an existing policy for an additional fee. Home insurance may cover water damage, which could take some of the sting out of paying for the remedy to the water issue down the road.
Q. How long does a French drain last?
When installed correctly, a French drain should last at least 30 to 40 years.
Q. Where does water from a French drain go?
Depending on the rules in a given community, it may be permissible to discharge the water to a storm drain, an irrigation ditch, or a dry well.
Q. How deep do I need to dig for a French drain?
The average depth of the trench should be a minimum of about 18 to 24 inches below the area that needs drainage protection. That means below grade in a yard and below the floor in a basement.
Sources: Angi (1 and 2), HomeAdvisor, Fixr, HomeGuide, LawnStarter