How Much Does a French Drain Cost?

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Updated December 6, 2022
brick house with cement steps
Photo: Nankirkpatrick / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

A French drain costs $9,250 to install, on average

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Installing a French drain costs $9,250 on average, though it can range from as low as $500 to as high as $18,000, depending on the size, type, and location of the drain. A gentle spring rain or a good summer thunderstorm can be the perfect excuse to cozy up inside, but when that water pools up inside your home, it’s a different story. French drains use simple yet highly effective technology to send excess water away from our homes to storm drains, rain barrels, or sewer systems.

Low CostAverage CostHigh Cost
$500$9,250$18,000

French Drain Installation Cost Breakdown

Here are all the expenses and cost factors that go into French drain installation.

Size

Bigger French drains cost more from both a material and labor standpoint. A standard-sized pipe fitting for most residential French drains is 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Expect to pay $10 to $100 per linear foot for your project, depending on depth, length, and material costs.

Type

4 main types of French drains compared by costs, with exterior French drains ranging from $10 to $50 per linear foot

The main types of French drains you’ll see in homes are:

  • Interior French Drains: Built around the perimeter of a basement into concrete; costs $5,000 to $13,500 ($40 to $100 per linear foot) on average.

  • Exterior French Drains: Built around the perimeter of a yard; cost $10 to $50 per linear foot on average.

  • Curtain Drains: Sloped underground trench built in a more shallow hole than traditional French drains; cost $10 to $25 per linear foot.

  • Yard Trench Drains: Helps divert surface water instead of water that penetrates an area; costs $30 to $90 per linear foot.

  • Deep French Drains: As the name implies, sits much deeper than the standard 18 to 24 inches of a regular French drain. These cost about $30 to $70 per linear foot.

Location

Interior French drains, because they often require concrete removal to install, cost more than exterior French drains or trenches dug into a yard or near a crawl space. If your home is located on a hill or rocks and other obstacles must be moved prior to installation, you may pay more for labor. 

Labor 

You should call a local French drain installation company for this job. Landscapers and some plumbers may also handle the installation of French drains. A fee of $50 to $100 per hour for this type of work is considered standard, although plumbers may charge more.

Permits

Many states require building permits for any type of drainage system, whether it’s external or internal. $50 to $200 (a one-time fee) for a permit to build French drains in or around your home is pretty standard.

Additional Costs to Consider 

Inspection Costs

On top of state or county permits, you may need to hire an inspector to check out your drainage project once it’s complete, even if you do the installation yourself. Check with your local office before digging.

Digging deeply into your yard in any capacity can also be dangerous if you're unsure of electrical, gas, or water main lines. Always call 811 (Dig Safe) before you dig.

Soil Content

Rich, moist soil that’s easy to dig makes DIY or contractor-installed French drains a pretty simple project. However, certain types of soil, like clay, can pose a challenge.

It’s not impossible to install French drains into soil with high clay content, but it’s much more difficult. Labor costs will be more if excavation in your yard is difficult.

Sump Pump Installation

In a home where flooding is persistent, some homeowners might choose to install a sump pump in conjunction with their new French drains. The sump pump collects the channeled water and removes it from the home. Sump pump installations cost $640 to $2,000 on average.

Landscaping Repair 

Do you have to remove an old tree or dig up grass to install your drains? This may also require you to hire a local landscaper to replace grass or plant new bushes where old obstacles were removed. The average cost for landscaping work is about $140, but varies greatly depending on the scope of the project.

Irrigation Ditch Installation

In some cases, connecting an irrigation ditch to your new French drains can channel water that might end up in your home to existing water sources nearby, such as a stream.

A local irrigation system specialist can give you a quote on how much that type of project might cost.

Retaining Wall Installation

Sometimes, French drain projects are done in conjunction with a retaining wall. This is common when building a driveway (or extending an existing one) to prevent water buildup from damaging your new wall. Quotes on these projects are highly specific to the work that needs to be done.

How Much Does It Cost to Install a French Drain Yourself?

While the basic science behind digging a trench, adding gravel, and laying a French drain pipe is on the simpler side, we don't recommend the project without a professional for a few reasons. 

Besides the need for permits and an inspection, installing French drains yourself even slightly wrong could lead to seriously expensive repairs due to flooding or structural damage in and around your home.

Lastly, the slope and placement of your French drain can be more complex than meets the eye. Professionals understand the exact length and angle to lay the pipe to send water—but not too much water—away from your foundation and yard for a healthy landscape and foundation.

Cost to Hire a Pro vs. DIY French Drain Installation

Building your own French drain could save you thousands if you’re willing to do the prep work, measurements, and labor to accomplish it properly.

Using PVC pipe and basic excavation tools, you might be able to tackle your French drain build for under $1,000—a great savings when you consider the national average is around $9,000.

How to Save on Costs to Install a French Drain

1. Keep Your Dirt

Some landscapers or excavation companies will remove the dirt when they dig your trench. This could wind up costing you more, as you’ll need to have new dirt brought in to replace the grass or bare patches created. Designate an area for workers to place the dirt so you can replace it yourself later.

2. Tackle What You Can DIY

Installing French drains isn’t just about digging a trench and inserting PVC, especially when other projects are being done at the same time (a sump pump installation, retaining wall project, etc.). Work with your contractor to divvy up the project—you’ll save money by completing certain tasks yourself.

3. Consider Installing Curtain Drains

Because curtain drains are built using a more shallow trench than traditional French drains, labor costs are lower. You may be able to save a couple hundred to $1,000 dollars by opting for curtain drains over French drains.

Frequently Asked Questions

French drains are relatively straightforward and cost-effective ways to keep the pressure of standing water from affecting your foundation and remove standing water from your landscape. The installation should last between 30 and 40 years, all the while redistributing both underground and surface water safely away from your home. 

When paired with proper basement waterproofing, a drain protects your home from long-term damage and major flooding during large storms.

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