6 Best French Drain Alternatives (2023 Update)

There are a few alternatives to French drains in case you need to try something different. Most people find French drains more costly and unappealing. It requires digging and laying a drain line which requires a lot of time and labor. You can find more powerful solutions that drain the water quicker than a French drain among these options. You may also find it difficult to use a French drain if you have to conduct the water uphill to the discharging point. Here are some practical solutions that you can use instead of a French drain.

1. Sump Pumps

alternatives to french drains

A sump pump is the most popular alternative discharge option for a French drain. You can drain out a lot of water within a brief time using a sump pump. It will prevent your basement from flooding even during a heavy storm. Since it has an electrically driven motor, the pump will work continuously to remove the water. This is the best option, especially if you need to pump water to an elevated location. Since it runs on electricity, you cannot pump out the water during a power failure. But it may be quite expensive to install and maintain due to the same.

You can also combine a sump pump with a French drain to increase the water removal efficiency. Before you pick this option, you can compare sump pumps vs French drains to get a better understanding of the differences between the two options.

2. Dry Wells

A dry well is a perforated well installed underground. It collects water from a trench and then disperses it underground to prevent forming swampy spots in the land. A lining of gravel stones and landscaping fabric is used in a dry well. Dry wells are convenient as they do not use electricity or sewage system.

This is a practical solution that can discharge unnecessary water systematically without causing trouble. People who live in areas of major flooding often use dry wells as an effective solution. Installing a dry well requires intense labor unless you use digging machinery. Although it might be a little costly, it will serve as a good alternative to French drains. Compare more features of a dry well and a French drain.

3. Bog Gardens

If you want to find a solution for draining water in an aesthetically appealing manner, creating a garden is the best option. This works best if you have a specific spot in your yard that is relatively low and gets soggy when raining. Naturally, plants will grow better in areas with more moisture and access to sunlight. Add more plants that can survive dampness and add tall grass or flower beds that absorb more water.

It adds more beauty to your land while creating an effective alternative for French drains. The only downside to having a bog garden is that it can be a breeding ground for insects and especially mosquitoes, as any swamp would be.

4. Valleys or Ditches

Valleys work very similar to French drains as they conduct water through a trench. The difference is that a French drain uses a perforated pipe installed inside the trench. A valley does not have any pipes, but simply conducts water along it naturally to a remote area. But this may not be effective for all situations as they work slower in draining water. But valleys are very useful for places that have occasional flooding. You can easily create a valley by adjusting your landscape since there is nothing to install. Hence, this is a cheap alternative to French drains.

5. Fixing Gutters

Installing gutters is another alternative solution for French drain discharge options. Fix gutters to the roof of your home to lessen the impact of rainwater on your basement. Then direct it towards a suitable location to discharge the water. Drain pipes also prevent standing water from creating puddles in your garden. 

6. Adding Steps

Terracing or adding steps is another method you can try on a sloped landscape. It even makes the land more attractive with the multiple levels. It may be quite similar to the idea of a valley, but the water drains downwards using the steps. If you install the steps correctly, you can prevent your land from soil erosion. Steps have many flat spots where the water can sit for some time before moving down. So, it will prevent washing down the soil or causing puddles. This may not be a convenient option if your land is mostly flat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do French Drains Increase Home Value?

Yes, adding a French drain increases your home value since you are making a long-term investment on the premises. It should definitely increase the value of your house as you will be spending something between $5,000 and $13,500 on the project. A properly maintained French drain can last up to 30 – 40 years. It reduces the impact of water damage caused by adverse weather. If you are trying to resell your house, the buyers can take the weight off their shoulders in having to find water discharge options. 

How Often Should French Drains Be Cleaned?

French drains should be cleaned about once a year to keep them in good condition. It is because, despite the best designs, French drains could be clogged by dirt, debris, and silt. The best way to clean your French drain is using an electric sewer snake. You can use it for basement French drain cleaning and interior or exterior French drain maintenance.

How Do I Know if My French Drain is Clogged?

Let the water level rise in the trench for about 1–2 minutes and then enter the drain pipe. If water starts to flow out of the pipe end, you can assure that the French drain is working. But if the water does not flow out of the pipe end, the French drain is clogged and should be cleaned immediately.


A French drain may not always be the best option for everyone. Therefore, you can try different alternatives to French drains that suit your situation and personal preferences. But it is important to compare these options and select the best since you will have to spend a good sum of money regardless of choice. Learn more about catch basins which you can use along with French drains to increase the water discharge rate.