The differences between a French drain and a standard drain

There is often confusion about what qualifies as a French drain and what is just a standard landscape drain system. In this article I’d like to clarify the differences, both in design and use, as well as the significant difference in cost.

When it comes to yard drainage issues, most people refer to needing a “French drain” to resolve it. In fact, the term “French drain” has almost become synonymous with “landscape drain”. However, there really is a big difference. A French drain uses perforated pipe (pipe with holes in it) and also incorporates material like filter fabric and loads of 1″ gravel in a large trench which is about 12″ deep, even for the smallest of French drains. A standard landscape drain doesn’t use any of this – it only requires drain pipe – solid drain pipe without holes in it.

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A French drain can be used to collect water over a large area where a standard catch basin is not sufficient to address the standing water or runoff issues. While a French drain has its uses, it is not the most common solution. Most often, a standard sold drain pipe can adequately collect standing water and run it to a designated area.

Besides this, a basic French drain will generally cost around $35 per foot, whereas a standard drain system sits at around $25 per foot, making a standard drain the obvious preferred choice when available as a solution.

I hope this helps to clarify the differences between what is, and what is not a French drain!