How to Install French Drains That Run to the Sidewalk


A French drain enables you to manage the flow of water runoff in your yard. Installing one entails laying perforated pipes in a deep trench and covering them with gravel. The pipes then do the work of collecting underground moisture and dispersing it to a safe outlet. If one side of your sidewalk slants toward a drainage ditch or storm water sewer, designate this area as your outlet, but space it far enough away so the drain water doesn’t affect the sidewalk.

Things You'll Need

  • Wooden pegs
  • Long rope
  • Tarp
  • Shovel
  • 4-by-4
  • Synthetic filter fabric
  • 3/4-inch gravel
  • Hoe
  • 4-inch rigid perforated PVC pipe
  • "T," "Y" or elbow connectors
  • Insert wood pegs in the yard where water collects after it rains. Lay a long rope on the ground from the wooden pegs to the drain outlet, adjusting it so the course is as straight as possible.

  • Spread a plastic tarp on the ground nearby and use a shovel to dig a 10-inch-wide drain canal that follows the course laid out by the rope. Dump the soil on the tarp and dig down 18 inches. From the beginning, dig a smooth, slight slope in the bottom by removing another inch of soil for every 8 feet of horizontal distance. Pack the bottom of the canal with the end of a 4-by-4 until it feels hard.

  • Lay down synthetic filter fabric over the bottom of the canal.

  • Pour 3/4-inch gravel over the bottom 6 inches of the canal and spread it with a hoe.

  • Place 4-inch rigid perforated PVC pipe in the center of the canal. Use "T," "Y" or elbow connectors to join lengths of pipe, depending on the angle at which they connect.

  • Spread another 6-inch layer of gravel over the pipes and cover it with filter fabric.

  • Scoop some of the soil you removed back into the canal until it's ground level. Replant the growth you removed and water it.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make sure you set the perforated pipe in the trench with the holes pointing downward. Otherwise, debris will filter in through the holes and clog the pipe.

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