December 06, 2016

Waterproofing: French Drains

Last week the waterproofing began downstairs in the basement of 120 Oakview. We made the decision to have French drains put in so that the basement will be dry and, more importantly, so that we can create a room for our kids and all of their stuff. The basement and its water issues have been a long time source of stress for me and just having made the decision to go ahead with the work made me instantly feel better.

After shopping around a bit we ended up choosing Gregory’s Waterproofing to do the work. All we had to do was clear out the basement so that the guys could get in and actually do the work… Talk about a process! It was a scramble the night before but we managed to make it just under the wire. Phew!

As the project was getting started I asked the lead guy a little bit about French drains – what they are exactly and why they are called French drains when I immediately think of the Dutch when I think of successful water management.

It turns out I had it all wrong. The “French” in the name refers not to the country but to a British man named Henry Flagg French who penned a book called Farm Drainage way back in 1859. A fascinating read, I’m sure. Anyway, the essence of a modern day French drain is a 2 foot deep trench along the interior of the house foundation, a bunch of gravel so that the water can drain properly and a perforated PVC pipe allowing the water go where it needs to – into the sump pump for removal.


First a giant trench was dug around the perimeter of the foundation and perforation holes were drilled along the base of the foundation. Having grown up in very old houses stuff like that makes me nervous… you never know when the foundation will crumble! But the foundation here at 120 Oakview is made from cinderblocks and was well done… so I had nothing to worry about! They had to jack hammer through the concrete floor and it was loud and noisy and dusty… but that part of the process only lasted a day. Once the workers had gone after day one I went downstairs to see what all the commotion was about This is what I found:


On day two they brought in the gravel, the pipe and some thick plastic mesh to line the base of the foundation which will help guide any water coming through the perforation holes into the drain to where it is supposed to go. Buckets and buckets of gravel disappeared into the basement and empty buckets came back out. The quantity was pretty impressive. It happened to be pouring rain that day and I couldn’t help but worry about the process… What they learned after a day of rain was that the pit for my sump pump wasn’t large enough… they dug it out and enlarged it without any fuss and it should be good to go from here on out. Here is what I found after the second day of work:


On day three they made sure all of the trenches were properly filled, the mesh was affixed to the foundation wall and then they broke out the concrete and patched the trench. All that is left is a one inch gap between the floor and the wall… that’s all. I don’t know what I was expecting but it was certainly something more dramatic than that! I was pleasantly surprised to say the least.


Now that the work is complete we are moving on to phase two of Project Creating Space… a wall is going up in the very near future to divide the play area from the utility room. I need to do some homework and figure out how to frame a wall… more on that after some YouTube tutorials. Fingers crossed!

Related Posts: Creating Space: The Coveted Basement Playroom