3 French Drain Ideas & Designs

Effective drainage is an issue many people struggle with on their property. Water collecting on your lawn or in your driveway can cause great damage that can erode surfaces, kill plants, attract flies, and much more. The best way to deal with drainage issues is to install a drainage system, like a French drain. Here is what you should know about a French drain system and landscaping ideas.

What Are French Drains?

A French drain, despite the name, does not come from France, but from Henry Flagg French, who invented the system in 1859 to help drain water from farmland.

It is a relatively simple form of drainage that consists of trenches, where a perforated pipe is laid out and covered with rocks or gravel. Water trickles down through the layer of rock and into the pipe, which redirects it to a designated outlet, like a cistern or swale. It is a cost-effective form of landscape drainage that can help stop and prevent water from collecting in problem areas of a yard.

Common French Drain Applications

French drains have a few potential applications. They are a common choice for dealing with surface water on a lawn or near a driveway. You can also use a French drain around the perimeter of your home to keep water out of your basement and away from the foundation. The other most common use is along a retaining wall.

French Drain Design Ideas

While a French drain needs some basic components, you can have fun customizing it to make it more attractive so it seems like part of the landscaping.



Adding a waterfall is one of the more creative French drain ideas. This can make the system a focal point that adds beauty to an otherwise simple design. The sound of the waterfall can also make your backyard more of a relaxing oasis and help dampen street noise.


AdobeStock_331646911_webAdding a patio with a fire pit next to the drain is another idea to consider. It can take attention away from the drainage system while taking advantage of the now-dry yard to create a fun place to hang out and enjoy summer nights.


AdobeStock_370958991_webAdding decorative plants along the sides is one of the easiest and most cost-effective French drain landscaping ideas. The plants can either disguise the system if you'd rather it be less obvious, or help highlight the drain by bringing attention to it. Brightly colored flowers are popular too, but you can use any plants you enjoy.

Potential French Drain Complications

While French drains can be an effective solution, they are not great for everyone, and there are some issues to consider:

The Installation Process

French drains require extensive digging to create the trench. Not only does it take a lot of time, it can also mean that your grass, garden beds, plants, pathways, patios, or porches may have to be removed. There is also the concern of underground utilities being in the way.


Despite their simple design, French drains can quickly add up in cost. Property size and the project's complexity are significant factors in what you'll pay for French drain installation. Overall costs can range from around $500 to almost $10,000.


French drains require ongoing maintenance. Routine inspections are necessary to keep the system free from debris and mud that can clog or cause damage. Clogged pipes will prevent the system from working, which will cause water to puddle on the surface.

Requires Sufficient Sloping

For a French drain to work and be effective, the perforated pipe needs to slope downward towards an area where runoff can be deposited. Water will likely start pooling in areas without adequate sloping the entire way. This can be especially problematic if the pooling is close to your home's foundation. 

They Aren't Great for All Homes

A property can have one of three soil types: loose sand particles, loam (a mix of sand, silt, and clay), and clay soil. French drains work best in soil that allows water to drip into the pipe. This means they aren't always the best solution for every property. The best soil for a French drain is sandy soil, but if the area is poorly drained, the system may still not be effective because the underground water is too close to the surface.

A Different Solution to Consider


6000 PLUS Series Slot Drain-1

While French drains seem the best solution, others can better serve you. The LandScape Drains Slot Drain is a sleek, linear system. The opening is slim to prevent large debris from falling into the system, and it doesn't require any cover, which allows it to go virtually unnoticed once installed. A catch basin and strainer basket can help catch smaller debris and objects to prevent clogging. 

Slot drain systems are easy to install, and they require significantly less excavation than a French drain and provide flow rates of up to 27 gallons per minute per foot of drain. They are available in different materials and can be ADA-compliant. Best of all, the Slot Drain requires very little maintenance besides cleaning, which can be automated in some models with options like Flush Flo and Clean-in-Place. 

Getting Effective Drainage for Your Yard

When you call someone about drainage issues in your yard, they are likely to recommend a French drain. Instead of immediately agreeing, take some time to consider it, do more research, and consult different companies. While it may work for some, it will be ineffective for others. For a guaranteed solution, consider Slot Drain, an effective, easy-to-install system that will eliminate all of your drainage worries.

Contact us today to learn more about the Slot Drain system and how it can help your yard.