I hear people say “I need a French drain.” a lot. When in fact, nothing could be farther from the truth.
A French drain is a ditch wrapped in filter fabric with rock and pipe in the center. This type of drain is used to wick moisture out of the surrounding soil. It is good for situations when water is coming from below, like a spring. A French drain is used to catch water before it gets to the surface and gives it somewhere to go.
A “Drain”, “Surface water drain” or “Storm drain” collects water from low areas on the surface and takes the water away quickly through a pipe and pipe only. There is no gravel involved. It is just a ditch with a pipe installed.
If your water problem is caused by rain or sprinklers due to a low spot and poor drainage, you need a surface water drain. A French drain would be an unnecessary expense. Adding a catch basin in the low spot and a pipe to carry the water away would do. Unscrupulous contractors will gladly install a “French” drain for you at a “French” price and laugh all the way to the bank.
If your drainage problem is a combination of groundwater and surface water, then a French drain with the addition of catch basins will be in order.
Drainage can be a complicated issue and each case is different. Always make sure you are dealing with a reputable contractor and keep these things in mind when getting a quote. Make sure you are getting what you are paying for and only getting what you need.