French Drains in Stockton, California

Written by Bill Stoermer on August 23rd, 2012. Posted in Blog

In a previous article, I discussed how excessive ground water can collect around our homes in Stockton, California causing soggy messes and potentially causing structural damage. That article recommended redirecting the water away from our homes with simple applications of plastic hoses or rain gutter extensions. In some situations it is impossible to redirect the water with simple solutions and we must turn to more sophisticated measures such as a french drain system.

Contrary to popular belief, french drains have absolutely nothing to do with France or the French. Back at the start of this country, a Massachusetts farmer, named “French”, made a fortune buying unwanted and soggy bottom land, digging a series of trenches that allowed the excessive water to collect in the trenches which he in turn redirected down into creek beds. Over time, farmer French filled his trenches with broken roof tile which kept them from falling in on themselves and yet still allowed the water to drain. Eventually he covered the tile with soil, eliminating dangerous open trenches and effectively reclaiming even more acreage! With time, his system became known as “French Drains”. Henry French went on to become an attorney and Assistant US Treasury Secretary. His design was popularized in his book Farm Drainage.

A French drain is also known as a blind drain, rubble drain or rock drain. It is simply a trench covered with gravel or rock that redirects surface and ground water away from an area. The common French drain today has perforated hollow pipe along the bottom to collect the water as it seeps down into the trench. Usually, the perforated pipe is then covered with gravel to prevent dirt from clogging the system. The system is directed by sloping it in any direction you want. Even the most subtle slope allows the water to be redirected great distances. The most common application in today’s subdivisions in Stockton are to simply redirect the water away from the house and out towards the street/gutter where a simple “bubbler” will allow the water to flow off into the street gutter.

In some severe situations it may be necessary to install a collection system and a sump pump which will enable you to pump excessive water away. In the typical system I install, I use a 30 gallon polypropylene tank which I bury in the ground and install a simple sump pump inside. As the tank begins to fill, the pump is triggered by a float valve – much the same way as the ball inside a toilet tank. Pumps are able to transport water through small PVC pipe great distances and are much less trouble to install than digging trenches all over your yard!

All the parts needed for designing and installing your French Drain are available in Stockton, California at Fremont Plaza Ace Hardware.

Bill Stormer

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