What's the Difference Between Trench Drains and French Drains?

What’s the Difference Between Trench Drains and French Drains?

October 28, 2021

Do you need to install a drainage system for your property? If so, it’s important to understand the different types of surface drainage systems. Two of the main types are French drains and trench drains.

The main difference between French drain and trench drain systems are where they manage the water. French drains remove groundwater, while trench drains remove surface water before it enters the ground. Read on to discover how each system works in more detail.

French drains

Invented by Henry French of Massachusetts (not France), French drains are designed to remove groundwater. They feature a trench that is covered with rock or gravel. Because they are covered, French drains are not visible from the surface. Inside the trench is a perforated pipe. This plumbing directs the water away from the area to a designated drain field or tank.

French drains are typically installed around the foundation of a property or beneath the basement floor. During heavy rainfalls, the French drain directs the water away from portions of the property that are underground, so the water does not collect and cause flooding issues.

French drains typically last for up to 10 years without requiring any major maintenance. However, they should be inspected regularly. If they become clogged, flooding can occur, so it’s important to inspect them and remove any debris that might cause issues.

Trench drains

Trench drains manage excess water that collects on the surface. They divert rainwater and stormwater to prevent oversaturation and flooding issues. These drains are typically constructed of concrete. They are designed in a sloped fashion to use gravity to move the water away from the surface. The drain is covered with a filter such as a steel grate to prevent debris from entering and clogging the drain.

These types of surface drainage systems are great for concrete areas such as driveways, parking lots, pools and sidewalks. Commercial property owners often choose this type of surface drainage system for busy entrances, large parking garages and walkways.

Which type of surface drainage system is right for you?

If you’ve learned the difference between French drain and trench drain systems but still aren’t sure which type of surface drainage system is right for your property, contact your local structural engineering experts. These professionals can assess your setting and drainage needs and determine which drainage system will be best for your application.

Factors they will consider include your location, the amount of rainfall your property receives, any current drainage systems that are in place and the surrounding landscape. After carefully weighing these factors as well as future plans for your property, a structural engineer will be able to provide insight on proper drainage management for your setting.

Practical expertise for your drainage needs

To learn more about types of surface drainage systems and what would be best for your property, contact the experts at High Plains Engineering & Design. We provide sensible solutions for structural and environmental challenges. Contact us today for cost-effective, sustainable innovations for your drainage needs.

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