French Drains & Foundation Drainage

What is a French drain?

The French drain was actually invented by an American inventor named Henry French. It is basically a trench, usually with a perforated pipe laid in it, surrounded by gravel or rock, designed to direct ground water to or away from a desired location. French drains can be used to bleed water out of an area to prevent wetness and flooding. They are also used in the opposite way (as with septic systems) to direct water into an area so that it can filter into the ground. Unfortunately, many of the French drains that we see that are supposed to carry water away from an area actually cause more wetness in the area either because they are clogged or because they were not properly installed.

What is a foundation drain? 

A foundation drain is a type of French drain that is placed along the base of a crawlspace, basement or retaining wall foundation before it is waterproofed and backfilled.  This foundation / French drain system allows water that would otherwise build up on the outside of a foundation wall to bleed out to a desired location. The foundation drain either carries water away from the foundation to a lower point in the yard or into a sump pump so that it can be pumped out away from the foundation.

We use high grade PVC pipe with strategically drilled holes to allow water to flow into the bottom third of the pipe out to a desired location without leaking back out into the soil. In other words, if you run a garden hose into a typical French drain, hundreds of gallons may soak into the ground before any comes out the other end of the pipe. When you run a hose into our French drains, water immediately comes out the other end.

Waterproofing depends heavily on a proper, well maintained foundation drain system. This prevents dampness, water intrusion, mold, pests, unhealthy conditions & expensive foundation / structural issues.

Are there better alternatives to French drains?

In short, yes! French drains often clog quickly and are difficult and expensive to replace. That’s why we invented the American drain. American drains are the perfect use for recycled plastic. These perforated panels form a super strong underground “structural trench” with a drain cap on top that can be easily removed which means they can be maintained to stay as good as new for a lifetime. Because they easily let water flow right in through the top cap and in through the sides to be carried away by the PVC pipe below, they can handle dozens of times the volume of French drains and are typically cheaper and easier to install.

Check out our American Drain Systems – permanent & far superior to outdated, quick clogging French Drains at

How long do French drains last?

French drains using corrugated pipe may be ineffective or even cause more wetness soon after they’re installed. Most French drains use slotted corrugated pipe. This pipe holds water in the ridges and also allows water to bleed out of the bottom portion of the pipe into the soil causing excess subsurface saturation which attracts roots. Typically, French drains are covered over with soil or sod that does not allow water into the drain fast enough. 

Is a French drain the best solution for my wet, muddy yard? 

Most of the time, the answer is no. French drains can be a great tool for a flat area Or around the base of a foundation of a home or wall but typically standing water in a yard Is the result of a low spot that is often caused by too much water being directed into that area. finding the source of the water, collecting that water and directing it to a  desired location is often the best first step.  drainage is a process.  On many homes, downspouts dump  hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water that accumulates at a low point in the yard. Managing this water will often give you much more bang for your buck than a French drain and will often solve yard wetness problems while protecting the health of the home.

How do I clean or maintain my French drain?

All Drainage Systems require some maintenance. French drains should have an easy access clean out at the top/ high end of the system. When properly installed, you should be able to run water in one end and see it come out the other. This is true with PVC pipe systems with a trough in the bottom third of the pipe. The trough portion allows water that goes in to flow out of the outlet. 

Unfortunately, corrugated pipe systems often allow hundreds of gallons to flow in with little or no water flowing out of the outlet.  We always recommend replacing corrugated systems with PVC systems since corrugated has been proven to fail and often doesn’t work properly to begin with causing excess saturation that could lead to undermining to trees or other structures. At the very least, these inadequate systems cause excess subsurface saturation in the areas that they are supposed to be drying out.

What is the cost of a French drain?

Many factors affect the cost of a French drain. French drains can average around $100 per foot.  Factors that can significantly affect the cost of a French drain are the depth and length of the drain, the location of the drain and the ease of access to the location.

In other words a French drain near the driveway may be half the cost of one that is installed 200 yards from truck parking. A French drain that is 2 ft deep may be three times as expensive as a 12-in deep French drain. A deeper French drain may mean that there is lots of dirt that needs to be hauled away which also affects price.

How do I find the best French drain contractors near me?

We recommend finding a company who specializes in drainage and French drains and has great reviews. French drains are often installed by landscapers and other contractors that don’t really understand principles like subsurface water movement. I drainage specialist will have years of experience Excavating and installing systems in wet, saturated soils. Some aspects of French drain installation are not intuitive. for example, a French drain in clay soil often needs to be more than 2 ft deep to be effective. shallow French drains will only dry out areas within a couple of feet of the French drain where a French drain with a proper depth can dry out an entire yard quickly and efficiently.

Does Drain Designs install French drains? 

Yes, Drain Designs installs the best French drains available, designed to last a lifetime with proper maintenance. We also install lifetime guaranteed American Drains which are far more effective as well as easier to test and maintain. You can literally take the cap off of the American drain and look straight down to see the pipe. You can see the water coming in through the perforated panels. When you run water into one end of the system, water comes out the other end – for life, guaranteed!

The photos below show the difference between a traditional French drain (Left) and an American Drain (right). Like the French drain, the American drain is nearly invisible when it is embedded in the grass. The American drain allows water to easily filter through the top And through the perforated side panels. The American drain can be easily accessed for inspection, testing or cleaning by removing the top cap. 

We take the time necessary to design smart drainage solutions & improvements with respect to your home, yard & budget.

Kevin Kondas

Kevin Kondas

Owner of Drain Designs

Primary Services Include:

  • Underground Downspout Systems – From existing rain gutter & downspouts.
  • American Drains – Our patented, far-better alternative to french drains with TRANSFERABLE LIFETIME WARRANTY option.
  • French Drains – Our improved versions of french drains, and variants like our Surface / French drains.
  • Driveway – Walkway – Sidewalk drainage.
  • Basement Waterproofing – Keeps water away from basement walls.
  • Foundation Damage Prevention – Foundations are often damaged by poor drainage.

We also perform Drainage System Diagnostics:

Testing, Inspection and Maintenance.

Our drainage systems cost far less than the repairs and depreciation they prevent.

Kevin Kondas

Kevin Kondas

Owner of Drain Designs
At Drain Designs we use the right tools for the job.

Why Every Home, Commercial Building and Landscape can benefit from our Smart Drainage Systems

  • They divert ~200 gallons of water per downspout, per inch of rain, plus other runoff to desired areas away from your foundation. This helps your landscape to better handle the rain that falls directly on it.
  • Our systems drastically reduce depreciation to your home and property caused by erosion, mold, structural damage, and loss of plants and trees due to excess wetness.

Fewer Insects Bugging You, Higher Home Resale Value

  • Our systems help minimize insect pests such as termites, mosquitoes and cockroaches. Good drainage = dryer yard = fewer pests.

  • Our systems increase resale value by providing you with smart drainage, and a Transferable Lifetime Warranty. We can also provide you with a photo gallery and drawing of the system for your records.

What makes our drainage solutions superior?

  • We stand behind our products with lifetime warranties and work hard to keep an impeccable service reputation.
  • We use commercial grade, smooth-walled, American-made PVC pipe throughout our systems – fast flowing, virtually self-cleaning and proven to last over 100 years!
  • Easy access clean-outs on every drain allow for easy testing.
  • We have worked extensively on research and development with engineers, landscapers and builders in the Triangle area to come up with the best drainage solutions for our unique soils & climate.


Just call us, or drop us an email.

We’ll be happy to answer your questions, and help you
determine the best drainage solution for your needs & budget.

*This product is covered by U.S. Patent No. 9,045,874 B1, & Patent No. 10,519,619, PCT No. Pending.

8-Time Super Service Award Winner!

BBB Rating: A+
As of 07/22/2024
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Why Choose Us

We lead the industry with smart, innovative improvements in drainage systems & foundation protection solutions. We work to ensure your satisfaction!

  • 25+ years of experience in rainwater runoff damage prevention.
  • We use only high grade PVC, smooth-walled pipe that is virtually self-cleaning.
  • We offer a transferable Lifetime Warranty.
  • Our systems are easy to inspect, test and maintain.
  • Five-time Angie’s List Super Service Award Winner
  • A+ BBB Rating and great reviews.
  • Our patented *American Drain is superior to french drains.

*This product is covered by U.S. Patent No. 9,045,874 B1, PCT No. Pending.

Service Area

  • Apex, Burlington, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Cary, Durham, Elon, Fuquay Varina, Hillsborough, Holly Springs, Mebane, Morrisville, Garner, Pittsboro, North Raleigh, NW Raleigh, West Raleigh, SW Raleigh, Central Raleigh, Wake Forest, Willow Spring & More.
  • Not sure about your location? Call us or email us. We travel farther depending on circumstances.