What Does a French Drain Cost?

Installing a simple French drain may fix your waterlogging woes. Here’s a breakdown of the pricing before you go all-in on the project.

A trench dug in the yard along the fence to lay the French drain pipe.
Image: Kinek00/Getty

Struggling with a soggy lawn or flooded basement? A French drain may be the answer. French drains use a perforated pipe in a trench to collect, and efficiently drain water. You can install it yourself or hire a contractor to do it for you. If a French drain system is right for you, start by considering the costs of the project. Here's what you need to know.

French Drains Costs: What to Expect

While the average cost of a French drain is about $5,000 most people can expect to pay between $2,800 and $6,500, according to Fixr.com. Depending on the complexity of your project, you might be able to get one installed for as little as $500. Project costs vary based on material, labor, permits, and equipment.

French Drain Materials and Prices

You'll need a good-quality perforated pipe for your French drain to work its magic. Most homeowners choose plastic pipes, since they're durable and flexible. Expect to pay $1 to $1.50 per foot for a four-inch diameter pipe. Narrower pipes are cheaper (two-inch diameter pipes may cost 70 cents to $1 per foot) and wider pipes will be pricier ($2.30 to $3 per foot for an eight-inch diameter pipe).

Don't forget about the gravel. You'll need it to fill up your trench. Most types of basic gravel rock will set you back $1 to $3 per foot, according to HomeGuide. More expensive options are available depending on material, color, and design. But don't worry, since gravel serves only a functional purpose. So, a cheaper option can do the job done without breaking the bank.

French Drain Labor Costs

Labor costs can range from $35 to $75 per hour, depending on your location and the experience of the workers. These average prices typically include materials, since most professionals provide materials for a project. Get a few quotes before hiring someone for the job and confirm what’s included in the price.

Other Factors That Impact the Cost of French Drains

Several factors could affect the cost of installing a French drain, from the size and location of the drain to the soil type and landscaping concerns.

Size and Depth of the Drain

Your French drain's length and depth will impact material and labor costs. Shallow French drains are typically cheaper to install since this usually requires less time and effort than going deep. Homeowners living in freezing temperatures will require deep French drains so that they work properly even during a bitter winter. But someone living in a warm climate can make do with a shallow French drain, especially if its main purpose is to collect surface water.

Location and Accessibility

An awkward location like a crawlspace is tricky to reach and will increase labor costs. Similarly, a basement French drain job can add complications. Workers may need to remove a concrete floor or be unable to use large trenching equipment indoors, so they'll have to dig manually. This can increase time spent on a project and labor costs.

Soil Type

With outdoor drain installations, soil can make a difference. Clay and rocky soils are more compact and challenging to dig up than other lighter soil types.

Potential Add-Ons

Your French drain may require add-ons to function correctly. For example, the water collected in a French drain must go somewhere. A dry well to dispose of the water from an outdoor French drain costs between $500 and $3,000. A basement installation may require a sump pump to get rid of the water. This could cost you from $950 to $1,400. For a clear picture of the costs involved, you’ll need to fully understand the scope of your flooding issue and what you need to prevent flooding.

Landscaping Repair

An exterior French drain installation may require you to spruce up your yard once the drain is installed. French drain installation costs won't typically account for lawn seeding, sod installation, or laying flowerbeds. Expect to spend $1 to $2 per square foot on sod installation and $25 to $50 per plant for flowerbeds.

Cleaning and Maintenance

French drains are generally low maintenance, but an incorrectly installed drain may clog over months or years. Tree roots or debris could also affect the drain over time. Typically, stagnant water or a strong odor around the French drain system mean it’s time to for a cleaning. Professional cleaning can cost $80 to $500 depending on the severity of the problem. You can minimize the frequency of professional cleaning by regularly flushing the drain pipe with a hose or a pressure washer. Once a month or so is recommended.

Can I DIY My French Drain?

Thinking about tackling the French drain install yourself? Before signing up for home improvement projects, consider how much time the project will take, and the expertise and problem-solving abilities the project requires. If you have some experience with construction work, a simple outdoor French drain can be a breeze to install. But an indoor installation may require you to excavate the floor, which calls for specialty tools and skills. You'll also need to consider permit applications. Not every French drain requires a permit, but you may need professional help to determine if yours does.

While you'll almost certainly save money up front by DIY-ing the task, before you pick up that shovel, consider the risks and costs if your project goes awry. Check out our professional vs. DIY French drain guide to decide whether you need to hire a pro. Plus, read these tips on building an exterior French drain to see if you're up for the task.

How Much Does It Cost to DIY a French Drain?

Doing it yourself means you won't have to pay labor costs, but you'll still pay for materials like pipe and gravel -- and likely work up a sweat. You could pay $100 to $200 for permits if your project requires them. If the installation doesn’t interrupt the water flow to or from your existing runoff, you likely won’t need a permit. To be safe, check with your local permitting office before breaking ground.

You'll also need the right equipment for the project. Expect to pay $100 to $200 per day for trenching equipment. For an indoor drain, you may need additional tools to excavate a floor.

Amateur mistakes like placing the perforated pipe incorrectly may cost you later, especially if you need to hire a professional to dig up and rebuild the drain. Plus, a professional will typically guarantee the quality of their materials and the French drain itself, if the waterlogging continues. You’ll be glad you’ve got their number stored so you don’t have to go trudging through the mud.

Tips to Keep French Drain Installation Costs Low

Graphic highlighting money saving tips for French drains including to price it out, finish it yourself, keep it simple, and Pick DIY or pro.
Image: HouseLogic

If you’re budget conscious, these tips will help you keep your installation costs low and quality high:

  • Get quotes from different contractors or vendors and check out customer reviews before you commit. A low price may be enticing but the extra research at the front end could save you from poor quality service later.
  • Consider doing the post-project landscape repair yourself. If you’re up for a little digging and planting, straightforward tasks like building a flower bed or lawn seeding are easy for most people. You can even do lawn care projects with your kids.
  • Keep add-ons minimal. Don't get carried away with unnecessary features, since the costs can add up quickly.
  • DIY enthusiasts should be realistic about their abilities. A French drain is much easier to install for a soggy lawn than for a flooded basement. Make sure you have the experience and expertise to complete a French drain install before digging yourself into a hole. Plenty of beginner friendly DIY projects are available that won’t lead to flooding if they go wrong.

A French drain is a versatile solution to manage waterlogging and flooding in and around your home. With cost information in mind, you can make a choice that works for your lawn and your wallet.

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