The woes of a French Drain

March 7, 2016

We’re downsizing. So we need to sell this home. It’s loaded with bells and whistles that we’ve enjoyed but would never pay for if we decided to build another home. The builder intended this house to be a Parade of Homes house and so added dozens of cool touches.

We scooped this house up as a great bargain after the previous owners had been relocated and it had languished in the hands of an absentee realtor. Our agent wasn’t certain that it was still for sale, and there was no sign out front. The yards were overgrown and neglected, but there was still a lockbox on the front door. Inside, it was pretty clean, although had the feel of vacant house, cold and empty. There were lots of cheerful spiders in the garage, (it’s heated, so they were living high!)

Now it’s time to sell. I cleaned the carpets and then had them restretched.  The carpet guy noticed water in the vent of one of the bedrooms. I assumed that I’d been careless when I cleaned the carpets and had sprayed water down there. I sucked it out with my carpet cleaner and decided to double check after several days. A week went by with a dry vent. Then I ran the sprinklers. . .

After about three weeks, I had narrowed the source of the water down to the sprinklers or rain water. If I dumped it only on that area from a bucket, 8 hours later it would be seeping into my vent. I changed the grade but it merely slowed it down. After watching many videos on Youtube, I had it figured out and the only permanent solution was to have a french drain in the flowerbed outside the window.

Unfortunately, there were mature box hedges, a mature shrub rose and bedding flowers in the culprit bed.

They had to go. I spent all of one day digging out the plants, (I think I salvaged the rose bush but replanted it along the perimeter of the lawn in the back yard.) TRENCH BEFORE I HIRED SOMEONEThis isn’t exactly the impression anyone wants to give when their house is for sale. It took me 8 hours to get this far. By then, the contractors were calling me back. I got a bid for $1945 to finish digging the trench (it needed to be about three feet deep at the far end where it tunneled under the sidewalk,) and install the French drain. It’s nothing more than a perforated pipe in a bed of coarse gravel until you get to the sidewalk where you don’t want it perforated.  The next guy bid $1440. Still way too rich for my blood. I called the realtor and asked if he could suggest someone. He did. Rodrigo Ponce bid $600. “Hired if you can do it tomorrow.” He could.  It took four guys about four hours. They hauled all the sticky red clay back to the edge of the property where nobody can see it and it will eventually melt into the topsoil, or grow grass on the berms.

finished drain without plantsThis is what I was left with. There were still chunks of clay mixed with the dirt, so I had to rake a lot of it out before planting.

FINISHED FRENCH DRAIN WITH BEDSIt’s early in the season, so I was glad to find these upright, evergreen little shrubs. These were the biggest they had, but they’ll grow fast and be an added interest in the landscaping. I won’t miss the box hedges. They’re pretty boring. The roses and salvia were pretty there, but I’m finding that the Knock-out roses grow so big so fast that they become unruly. They’re not prone to disease, but they’ll grow to be six feet tall and at least that big in diameter. They’re very thorny too, so not too B-ball friendly, let alone nice to kids on bikes.  The kids like to stuff their basketballs into the box shrubs rather than carry them into the garage,  but the conical shrubs will grow just a bit taller than the top of the arch and will look nice, I think. I might add some edible plants on the ends this summer, too, if we’re here long enough to do it.

FRENCH DRAIN EMITTERThere’s about a 12 inch elbow that leads to this emitter. I ran the sprinklers today, so it’s full of water. Best of all, the vent is completely, gloriously, dry!  Fortunately, there was plenty of slope to carry the water away. All of our property drains to the west and from our neighbors yard, continues to the north where it joins a little creek. It’s covered and spring loaded so it will seep when water is flowing, but no animals or mosquitoes will get in there.LAWN SCAR

Happily, this scar from the trench will fill in by early summer. Where the pipe comes under the sidewalk, it’s very deep. They had to angle it around the pier for the basketball standard that goes about three feet down. But soon it will be easy to mow over and will become invisible. I don’t regret hiring someone to finish the job. I could have done it, but it would have taken me a week at least.

Today I planted the vegetable garden in the plot behind the house. If we aren’t here to enjoy it, someone will surely like something I planted. So far it’s just snap peas, chard, spinach  red and gold potatoes and an exotic lettuce mix. In a couple weeks I’ll be ready to start with summer crops if the weather continues the way it has so far this year.

Now, all the windows are clean, every tiny thing we can find has been repaired or shined up. The listing goes live tomorrow night or Wednesday morning!

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1 Comment

  • Reply Ray Armstrong March 7, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    Nice work, Beth. Good luck!

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