How to Install a French Drain with Waterproofing One

                                                   This post is sponsored by HomeAdvisor

As I mentioned in previous posts, John called HomeAdvisor who recommended Waterproofing One. Joe, the owner, is now offering this DIY waterproofing service that was arranged with us to other homeowners. As one of my followers said, “It’s a win, win situation.”

So if you’re strong, have spare time, have good knees, don’t mind getting dirty and want to save major money, you might consider waterproofing yourself. If you have a handy friend or relative who will assist, all the better.

The first step for installing a French drain is to break up the concrete pad in the basement with a jack hammer. The concrete in our basement is approximately 4″ thick. When it was broken up, the footing was exposed which the house is resting on.


The crock is placed at the lowest point where the water is gravity fed to the sump pump from all other locations. In our situation, we have the room above the basement which is on the garage/ground level (I call it the bonus room). It had water damage from lack of having gutters for 20 years, or rather, rotted out gutters. The bonus room also requires a French drain which will connect to the basement drain.

As Andy, the foreman, said, “Each basement is different, therefore each job is custom.”


This is the bonus room directly above the basement. The water damage occurred underneath the windows. The pipe will be pitched down and connect to the French drain in the basement. (The hand rail to the left leads 5 steps down and into the basement.)


After John broke up the pad, he put the concrete in old recycling buckets. Andy dropped off 35 five-gallon buckets on “consultation day” and John filled them with dirt. When Andy returns to drop off the 3/4 stone with the dump truck, he will take away the dirt-filled buckets.


After breaking up the concrete pad, John was flush with the footing, he then dug 6″ down into the dirt–adjacent to the footing–to allow the 4″ perforated pipe to lay next to the footing.




On all of the outside walls, John drilled two weep holes per block, each block is 8″x16.” (A battery operated drill won’t have the power to go through the block easily.) John used a Milwaukee 1/2″ drill a 1/2″ masonry bit ( 3/4″ masonry bit can be used as well). It was a little awkward drilling because John was low to the ground and applying pressure with the drill. (Wear knee pads.)


Because the block is porous, exterior water settles in it. By drilling weep holes at the lowest part of the wall allows the water to flow through the holes and into the perforated pipe. John drilled the holes along the entire perimeter of the basement, the next morning the footing was wet due to a heavy rain the night before. Before drilling the weep holes, it was almost totally dry so we now knew the weep holes had done their job.


After the weep holes were drilled, a black oozing-like tar emanated from them (since this had never been done since the house was built in 1954). John re-drilled all the weep holes to clear them out. He then used a high-powered Craftsman wet-vac to suck all of the black sediment out of the holes so they were clear and clean.

John then scrubbed the footing to take away dirt and debris that would eventually seep into the perforated pipe and sump. Once the footing was clean, any water will be clear, run down the wall, onto the footing and into the 6″ troth, and the 6″ perforated pipe.

Goal: A clean wall, weep holes drilled and cleaned out, a scrubbed footing and vacuumed clean.


Tools required for the job: Post hole digger, pick axe, sledge hammer, shale bar, shovels, hammer as well as the jack hammer rental. (Don’t forget knee pads, mask, measuring tape, drill and wet vac.)


NEXT POST: Installing the pipe, etc.



How We Saved a Couple Thousand Dollars Waterproofing with a French Drain

Before the framing construction begins on brickhouse319, John wants to have the waterproofing in the basement completed. While waiting for the building permit, this is the opportune time to focus on this particular job.

By installing a French drain, we’ll never have to worry about water in the basement during a torrential downpour or serious storm. Actually, if the power goes out during a storm and the sump pump fails, this will create a flood as well, so there is always concern about water in ANY basement. Fortunately, we have a generator so if and when the power does go out, the sump pump will continue to work and we won’t need to bail the pump out manually. (During Hurricane Sandy, we lost power at our house in NJ and bailed the sump pump out all night which saved us from having a flood.)


PHOTO: Andy, from Water Proofing One, consults with John on how to install a French Drain @ Brick House 319.

Our experience with flooding: In 2003, we had a horrific flood in our previous house, and after experiencing the damage and loss, we had a French drain installed. We literally never had a drop of water ever again in our basement. For us, it’s paramount to have a drain since we plan to store things in the basement, we MIGHT have the laundry room in the basement, or we might finish the basement down the road and turn it into some sort of an entertainment room with a large flat screen TV, etc. Regardless on how we’ll utilize the basement space, a French drain is mandatory. We can’t imagine doing all of this work to the house and skimping on something as imperative as a French drain.

In Pennsylvania, we get lots of rain and storms, so without a French drain, we would be taking a huge risk as well as becoming a nervous wreck every time a storm hit. As a matter of fact, last night when I returned from London, I drove home in heavy rain, which then turned into a torrential downpour with flood warnings on the local news. Of course, another perk in having a French drain is that it adds value to the house.

How our previous flood happened: It was February of 2003 and we went on a trip to New Zealand and Australia. During the time we were gone, three consecutive snowstorms hit and the temperature plummeted. Our old furnace failed, the radiator burst in our living room, which turned into a water fountain with a steady stream of water flowing out and spreading throughout our house for three entire weeks. By the time we arrived home, the inside of the house looked like a scene in a horror movie. We walked through the front door and stepped into water that was up to our ankles. When we descended the flight of stairs–about a dozen steps– to the basement, we were in three feet of water and everything that we had stored in the basement was FLOATING on the surface. It was frightening to say the least.

We couldn’t even sleep in the bed; the mattress was damp and the sheets and comforter were wet. It was late at night and we had no choice but to check into a local motel.

To make a long story short, when everything was cleaned out of the house, John rented a jack hammer and went to work on installing a French drain.  When the job was complete, we literally never had a water issue again. Besides, I liked telling people, “We have a French drain.” Their reply was almost always, “We need to get one.”

Because of John’s previous experience with installing a French drain, he is going about it in the same manner as before and has begun the first two phases of the job. It started with when he rented the jack hammer for the patio. He used it in the basement as well, which is the very first step in preparing for a French drain installation.

This time, John called HomeAdvisor (similar to Angie’s List) and asked for waterproofing businesses in our area; they recommended three for him to call. He decided on Waterproofing One which has an excellent reputation and is listed with BBB. John called the owner, Joe Soster, and set up a time over Memorial Day weekend for him to come over and give us an estimate. The first good sign was that Joe showed up for his appointment ON TIME and during a major holiday weekend. (You’d be surprised at how many contractors arrive late, if at all.)

John showed Joe Soster the basement and our particular water issue. After an hour long discussion, Joe said the job would be about $3800, however other companies would charge an average of $5000. We knew in advance that the job would be in this ball park range which is not in our budget. However, John is skilled in doing the grunt work and he and Joe worked out a way for us to save $2000 and get the French drain that we want. This arrangement was exactly what we were hoping for as it is the same arrangement we had when we hired someone at our previous house in NJ.

I’ll go into more detail in my next post, but in a nutshell, John is doing all of the labor. Joe is providing his waterproofing expert employee, Andy, to guide John on how to do the installation from beginning to end. Water Proofing One is supplying all the material for the job as well as removing all of the buckets of dirt and shale from digging out the perimeter of the basement floor/ground.

Next Post: Step-by-step French drain installation instructions and the total price that we paid!