How Long Do French Drains Last?

Question from YouTube Viewer: How long do french drains last? Do all french drains clog over time as fine silt settles in the rock and pipe, even when wrapped with fabric? I read somewhere that the average lifespan for french drains is only 8 to 10 years.

What is a French Drain?

A french drain is a perforated pipe that’s installed between 6 inches and 10 feet deep to help move surface water and groundwater. The french drain is installed to move water away from the desired area to help reduce flooding. It can be used in residential and commercial applications to address standing water in your flower bed to draining professional ball fields. Granted, there are some cons to french drains. But it still seems to be the best solution for addressing standing water in crawl spaces and around your home.

Why Do French Drains Fail?

Typically, most french drains fail due to a combination of inadequate materials used and poor installation practices. Perforated pipes are installed with and without fabric or socks. Some installers use gravel, while others use synthetic aggregate. All of these install combinations lead to confusion and shortcuts.

Another problem is matching the amount of water to the proper pipe size or installing the pipe too deep. Failed french drains could be overrun with water. Also, the water may not reach its destination due to lack of proper connections. I did a video about tips for installing french drain pipe in clay soils or hard soils on our YouTube Channel.

Tree roots can also damage perforated pipes over time. Trees and shrubs planted too close to drain lines should be avoided when possible. But even the best placement of trees may not help because it seems they find them eventually.

Numbers Vary Greatly

Many companies and blogs online state that french drains last from 10 years to 30 years. Again, I feel the longevity is directly related to the materials used and installation practices. I have seen failures happen in a day because the contractor did not understand the concept of gravity and tried to make the water run uphill.

Some install them without socks or aggregates, allowing debris to enter or the pipe to become clogged. I have seen perforated pipe installed on the surface of the crawl space and not buried, so it could not move any water.

If the drain pipe is not connected to each other or the sump pump, water never makes it to the exit point. I have seen the perforated pipe placed in a loop with nowhere for the water to go.

All of these variables can certainly have an effect on the life duration percentages of french drains. If I install a pipe that lasts 50 years and you install one that lasts 1 year, the average life expectancy is 25.5 years.

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What Next?

If your french drain has become clogged, there are some companies and maybe plumbers in your area that can offer a solution by using an electric snake to remove the clogs. If you have had a french drain clog repaired, please let us know in the comments below on what you did to remove the clog.

Do you need help with controlling humidity or address moisture in your crawl space and you live in Alabama, Georgia, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, or Kentucky? If so, please contact us to schedule your assessment. Also, let us know in the comments below if you’d like to suggest a future blog post.

Perhaps you’d like to tackle your own crawl space repair. Visit our DIY Store.

Contact us if you need help fixing your crawl space or yard drainage by clicking here.

Learn about Crawl Space Ninja Franchise opportunities.

Watch This Video About Crawl Space Moisture

This video covers many specific ways to identify crawl space moisture problems without a moisture meter, but basically it boils down to using your eyes and nose.

What can be seen is wall discoloration; plastic with condensation drip marks or dirt/rust lines under HVAC ducts or metal straps; plastic dislocated by water movement; rotting wood; bowing or warped floors; and pests like cave crickets, centipedes, silverfish, rodents, and snakes. Not everyone is up for a trip into the crawl space to see issues firsthand, but often a homeowner will be told what’s going on down there by an electrician, plumber, HVAC contractor, or a Crawl Space Ninja.

What can be smelled is often more readily apparent as crawl space odor travels into the living space where it may affect indoor air quality, and the cause of the odor can affect the health of residents. Many folks are sensitive to mold, particularly children and the elderly and those with allergies or immune issues. In the last two years, most of us are spending more time not only AT home but INSIDE our homes than before, and many will continue to do so. Circumstances which may have been relatively easy to brush aside before may become more important to address with longer exposure.

Lucie Woolery, Owner, Crawl Space Ninja of NW Atlanta/Smyrna GA

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