Freezing French Drains: Five Tips For Keeping Your Water Flowing

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Freezing French Drains: Five Tips For Keeping Your Water Flowing

14 December 2015
 Categories: Construction & Contractors, Articles


If you rely on a french drain to keep water away from your foundation and live in an area where the temperature regularly falls below freezing, you have a few extra problems that you need to be concerned with. Freezing temperatures can damage PVC pipes. Additionally, water that freezes in the pipes can clog your drain, forcing other water towards your foundation, exactly where you do not want it. To prevent these issues, you should consider the following five tips. 

Do Not Tie Your Roof Downspouts Into The French Drain For Your Foundation 

Many people empty their gutter system directly into their french drain. This is not a good idea even during warm weather, as the extra water can overload your system. However, during winter the chance of getting frozen leaves and other debris caught in your system is an even higher risk. To avoid this, you should empty your gutters away from your home, either on the surface or into a separate french drain constructed specifically for that purpose. Your foundation french drain should only be used to manage surface water that might seep into your foundation from the soil surrounding your home. 

Consider a Dry Well At The End Of Your Drain

There are several ways that you can end your french drain. Most people end their french drain by running the piping above ground somewhere downhill from their home. This is fine in warmer environments, but for cold regions, you may want to consider installing a dry well instead. A dry well is a large hole, dug beneath the frost line and filled with concrete. The pipe from your french drain will empty into this well, which will give enough time for the water to dissipate into the ground water without ever rising above the frost line. 

For extra durability, you may want to install a large metal drum in the dry well and make perforations at its bottom. This not only prevents dirt from clogging your dry well but also encourages the water from your system to drain deep into the earth, ensuring that it stays away from your foundation. 

Create A Flare In Your System If It Runs To The Surface

If your system must run to the surface instead of to a dry well, consider adding a larger size of piping to the end of the system. This will allow water to flow around any small ice buildups and leave your system. 

Insulate Any Piping Above the Frost Line

Any piping that is above the frost line should be wrapped in insulation before it is buried. Keep in mind that the majority of your system should be below the frost line because insulating your pipes will make it difficult or impossible for water to enter them. negating the purpose of your french drain. Insulated pipes should only include vertical maintenance spouts and the final drainage pipe exiting your system.  

Add A Bit More Slope To Your Piping 

One way to ensure that water does not freeze inside your pipes is to make sure that it flows continuously as soon as it enters your system. Moving water requires lower temperatures to freeze than still water. Adding a slightly greater slope to your cold-weather system allows water to move continuously as opposed to resting at certain points and potentially creating an ice dam in your pipe. 

Generally, french drains need very little maintenance once they are installed. However, if you notice leaking in your basement or lack of a flow at your exit point, you may have issues with water freezing in your system. You should talk to a professional about the best changes you can make to prevent this.