Best French Drain System For Clay Soil – A Comprehensive Guide To Protect Your Property And Prevent Flooding

Last Updated on March 31, 2022

In this blog post, we share tips for choosing the best french drain system for clay soil. We also provide information about the types of soil and how to prepare them properly. We’ve gathered vital information from expert engineers and plumbers who created detailed instructions to help create the best French drain system for clay soil.

A French drain (also called a perforated pipe) is a system that transports water from one area of your yard into another area. There are a few vital points to get this drainage system up and running. Therefore, we have put together a comprehensive guide to show you how its done.

A French drain system is recommended when you have a lot of clay soil in your yard. It allows water to flow through the pipe, down into the soil, and then into your storm drain. Choosing the best type of French drain system for you would depend on the soil type that you’re using.

If the soil is heavy, a PVC pipe is recommended, and if the soil is light, you should install a concrete slab. In order for drainage pipes to work effectively, you would need to install the system correctly. We’ve included a video and a link to explain the details of the installation process.

What Is The Best French Drain System For Clay Soil?

If you want to avoid flooding, you need to have a properly installed French drain system. It has been proven that clay soil drainage systems work better than other types of drainage systems. Therefore it is vital to have the best French drain system for clay soil installed.

The best French drain system for clay soil depends on the shape and size of your property and the drainage needs you have. We’ll go over those factors in a moment, but first, let’s discuss the different types of french drains available.

French drains are basically trenches or pipes that you install to help keep water off your property. There are a few different types of them, each serving a similar purpose. The best drainage system for clay soils is an open trench with sloped walls.

The trenches should be at least 8 inches deep and up to 2 feet wide. This allows water to move away from the foundation and into the trench. The trench should slope at a maximum of 6 degrees for better flow and ease of construction. Keep in mind that clay soil needs a good cover of organic matter like grass clippings, wood chips, or compost to keep the soil friable.

Read more about Best Crops For Clay Soil

Why Is It Necessary To Have A French Drain System For Clay Soil?

Clay soil drains poorly. That’s why when you build your house in clay soil, you need a French drain system to prevent water from draining into your basement or foundation. Although a French drain system can be expensive, the benefits of having it far outweigh the cost.

You will have peace of mind that your home will be protected against water damage. A properly installed French drain system will not only help control the run-off from your garden but will also keep soil from washing into your basement.

Clay soil is more difficult to dig than other types of soil because it has small stones that are hard to break down. The small stones also form an impenetrable layer between the clay soil and air. It does not retain water as well as other types of soil however, it can be usable land with the best French drain system for clay soil. 

Follow this link to find out more about practices to improve drainage.

 How do you drain water through clay

How To Choose The Best French Drain System For Clay Soil?

There are 2 types of French drain systems, which include gravity-fed and pumped. Both systems have pros and cons; however, you need to understand them so you can decide which system will work best for your needs.

If you are building a home in clay soil, having the best French drain system for clay soil would be an ideal choice. The system consists of two components which include a perforated pipe with holes that allow the water to drain and a second pipe that transports the water.

When choosing a French drain system, there are three important factors to consider. These include the cost, size of land, and installation process. Keep in mind that the more you invest in your home and landscape, the better off you are. Your French drain system is an investment that needs to last as long as you own the property.

Do not underestimate the power of French drains as they are effective on any type of soil, especially clay to sand. For clay soil, it’s best to use a plastic pipe, instead of a metal one because metal drains can crack if the soil gets too moist.

In addition to using French drains, it’s important to have a reliable irrigation system for your plants. Remember, you will need to install your French drain system before pouring your foundation. Once you have the drains in place, you will need to backfill them with dirt or cement to ensure that they are not damaged.

Advantages and disadvantages of gravity-fed French Drain Systems:


Easy to install
Can prevent backwater
Lower cost
No extra piping required
Water is stored and used as needed
No waste
No chemicals
No electricity
Can be installed above or below ground
Can be installed for new construction or rehabilitation
Can use rainwater
Works well with clay soil


It will not work without gravity
Less effective
More labor-intensive

Advantages and disadvantages of pumped French Drain Systems:


Easy to install
Saves water
Provides an outlet for water
Keeps water out of the foundation
Protects against dampness
No digging needed
Does not require concrete
Saves time
Keeps the yard looking clean
Can be installed with any soil


Requires a pump to work
Does not work on gravel
Prone to clogging
Not designed for heavy rainfall

How To Install The Best French Drain System For Clay Soil?

Most people opt to use other drainage systems for their foundation because it’s cheaper. They also don’t need to be very creative with their installation and sometimes fall into problems when it doesn’t work properly. However, I like to use a french drain system in clay soil as it gives me much more control over the drainage.

Here are tips on installing the best French drain system for clay soil:

– Dig a trench the width of the pipe

– Cut the PVC pipe to the correct size according to the trench

– Line it with PVC pipe

– Lay the pipe across your foundation in the shape of a triangle for maximum drainage

– Cover it with gravel making sure they don’t block the flow of the drainage

 The following short video has some vital tips on installing the best french drain system for clay soil. 



In my opinion, the best French drain system for clay soil is a plastic drain. I have used perforated plastic pipes for many years and found that it is the most durable and flexible. This system is effective in the summer when there is no danger of freezing or excessive moisture.

In the winter, a french drain with an overhanging capillary mat is best, while in spring or fall, using a trench with an impervious membrane on top is effective. Clay soil is the most common soil type encountered in the United States.

These soils typically have a high clay content and a slow drainage rate. French drains are an effective method of reducing the potential for erosion when installed correctly. The key to installing the best French drain system for clay soil is by choosing the one that effectively suits your needs.

Do French drains work in clay soils?

Yes, French drains work perfectly in clay soils. They help prevent soil erosion and flooding by removing excess water from your home or garden. 

How do you install a French drain in clay soil?

To install a French drain in clay soil, you will need to dig a trench, cover the bottom of the trench with gravel, stone, or other stable materials to prevent water from seeping into the ditch. Then, lay your PVC pipes and cover them with concrete in a single pour to avoid kinking. If you want to improve the drainage, you can install a perforated pipe.

How do you drain water through clay?

If you want to improve water drainage through clay, you can install a perforated pipe in your French system. 

French drain detail

A French drain is a tool used to help control flooding and to keep water out of the foundation of a structure. They are usually installed at the edge of the house or garage and do not require digging. They are an effective means of keeping a foundation dry. They can be purchased pre-cast or poured on site.

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