Installing a French drain is an effective way to deal with standing water or rain runoff that might damage your home. The process is straightforward and can be accomplished by a novice do-it-yourselfer with the right tools. Water is directed away from a building through a sloping trench to an area where it won't cause any harm. Rent a backhoe, or find some helpers when you install a French drain when water seeps below the footer.
Things You'll Need
Shovel, backhoe or bobcat
Mark the outer edge of the trench you will dig by running a string line parallel to the footing. It should be 2 feet from the footing and extend beyond the building far enough for water to drain away from it, or at least 6 feet.
Dig a trench between the footer and the string line. It should be 6 feet deep if the building has a basement. If the building is on a slab, dig 2 feet deep. The trench must slope downward toward the area that extends beyond the building so that water is directed away.
Put a layer of gravel in the bottom of the trench several inches deep, then smooth it flat while maintaining the slope.
Lay perforated pipe on top of the gravel and cover it with a least a foot more gravel. Lay filter fabric over the gravel. The fabric will keep the pipe from clogging.
Fill the trench with topsoil to its original height. Tamp it down and cover with grass or other landscape elements.
A very simple French drain can be built by digging a trench and filling it with gravel or river rocks. A more elaborate drain has pipes sticking up out of the earth at both ends so that a tool like a plumber's snake can be used if it clogs. Multiple trenches can be dug and connected to drain water away from several sides of the building.