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French Drain System
updated: Feb 03, 2014, 12:14 PM

By Edhat Subscriber

Years ago, we put in a French drain that goes around the back and side of our house. It runs out through a flex pipe at the bottom of our hill. Last week (before any rain), water was leaking out of the pipe. I turned off the outside water and it stopped. We have an underground sprinkler system that is probably the culprit, but there were no wet surface areas while the water was leaking. Yesterday, when it rained, the pipe had no flow despite the fact it is hooked directly to a roof downspout. Sooooo... I need someone with the knowledge and imagination to find and fix the leak and the French drain.

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 491790 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-02-03 12:30 PM

French drains are built to leak. Your drain is OK. You must have a broken pipe in your sprinkler system. That leak must be somewhere close to where the French drain is located.


 COMMENT 491791 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-02-03 12:30 PM

The pipe is perforated to allow water to drain out of the soil but it can also let water percolate into the soil when it comes from the roof gutters, this is possible when the rain is not heavy and the soil is dry down at the french drain level. Like the creeks around here, subsurface water can flow at any time and it doesn't always correspond to rain. Don't go digging anything up until you see some other evidence of failure.


 COMMENT 491795 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-02-03 12:50 PM

Agree with 790 above. You might test each line to see if a solinoid is stuck for one of the sprinklers that is near the french drain. The culprit certainly sounds like a break in a sprinkler line.


 COMMENT 491846 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-02-03 02:23 PM

Adding to the above comments. You might try putting a garden hose in the gutter down spout, or anywhere that directly feeds the French drain. If it backs up, or no water comes out the end of the drain it's clogged. The likely clog could be detritus from the gutters which hopefully can be flushed out with just the hose, if not get someone to run a mechanical drain cleaner down to the clog.


 COMMENT 491850 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-02-03 02:35 PM

French drains and roof downspouts should not be piped together. If the outlet of the pipe clogs, you would be flooding the foundation with excess water, exacerbating the problem.


 COMMENT 491924 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-02-03 07:04 PM

491850 is absolutely correct!


 FLICKA agree helpful negative off topic

2014-02-04 10:00 AM

If all else fails, call American Leak Detection. They will figure out what exactly is leaking. Tell the office manager, Susan, you are an Edhat subscriber. She loves Edhat!


 COMMENT 492054 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-02-04 10:59 AM

Turn off all the water in your house and then check your water meter. If it still shows water flow, you have a leak. It can't be very big if you can't see it. When I had a leak, it was a bubbling pool that drained into the street.

I agree, connecting a roof downspout to a french drain sounds like a really bad idea. It would be better to get that runoff away from your foundation as far as possible. Maybe into some storage containers to apply to your plants later.

The recent posting with Inspector info was for an illict discharge coming from a development. I doubt the water quality people have any interest in a water leak on your property


 COMMENT 492189 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-02-04 04:24 PM

I agree with 850. Rain gutter downspouts and French drains do not go together and are completely different operations. Your downspouts should be hooked to solid pipe all the way to the area that you would like them to drain if you pump your gutter downspouts into a French drain It is just going to percolate at the back of your house. And cause major water damage issues!


 COMMENT 492254 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-02-04 08:27 PM

The best drainage expert I know in the Santa Barbara area is Autumn Brook (that's her real name). Her number is 805-964-0442. She runs a landscape service company. She did extensive work on my property a number of years ago including French drains, roof drainage, recontouring the yard to allow for better drainage etc... She's pricey but meticuolous and very knowledgeable.


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