The Difference Between a French Drain and a Trench Drain

Loading Standards for Trench Drains
There are many different types of drainage solutions that exist currently. Each works best in specific scenarios, making drainage decisions very important.

There are many effective ways of removing water from a property and directing it to the appropriate channels. French and trench drains are two styles used to move water offsite, but the variances between them are often misunderstood. Both are the first defense against onsite water collection, but one is a surface structure while the other is a subsurface structure. Knowing the difference between a French drain and a trench drain will help you understand why picking the versatility of a trench drain makes more sense.

French Drains

French drains are typically made of perforated pipes and are surrounded by gravel or sand and landscaping textile that prevents the drainage material from migrating. Additionally, the landscaping textile prevents soil and roots from clogging or entering the holes in the pipe. It can be made easily by hand but is best used for draining groundwater from gardens and around building foundations. French drains move trapped water toward a specified area and are best utilized in soil that is frequently saturated from rainfall and prone to flooding.

One issue that arises with French drains occurs in yards that slope toward a building’s foundation. In this scenario, a surface drainage system is more ideal if the slope is greater than one and a half inches. This is because a steep slope can cause excessive water to seep below your home if there are drainage issues, and the drain’s subsurface installation makes it harder to get to. Digging may disturb natural water flow, and weeping tile or perforated pipe is prone to clogging over time. Moreover, installing French drains can be dangerous if there are power, communications, or water lines buried nearby.

Trench Drains

Trench drains may also be called channel drains and are an above-ground drainage solution. Its materials are embedded in the ground within a long, narrow trench. It has a grated covering that may look like guttering. Residential trench drains redirect water to keep it away from areas where it could cause damage, danger, or erosion. After it’s laid, the trench drain is connected to a local storm sewer or waterway to keep the ecosystem intact.

Trench drains can be temporary or permanent with varying grate strengths and appearances to fit a property’s surroundings. Its exposure on the surface and its durable materials allow it to handle heavy weights without being disturbed. ABT offers pre-cast and cast-in-place products to provide a permanent and durable fixture for areas such as patios, pools, driveways, and sidewalks.

Aside from what we’ve listed here, the difference between a French drain and a trench drain is that a French drain is used for water that is underground while a trench drain diverts excess water from a surface. The trench drain is lined with concrete and slopes to take advantage of gravity while draining from your property. Neither should be installed before talking to professional drainage experts, as you risk disturbing other necessary lines laid underground and the ecosystem’s natural water flow, which could cause you new issues.