French Drain Vs Catch Basin: Which Drainage System Is Better?

French drain VS catch basin; the different applications in these two options are the key to selecting the best solution. They are two separate water draining mechanisms used for different purposes. So, you can select what you need based on the discussion below. You can even combine the two methods to improve the rate of draining water from your garden.

What is a French Drain?

A French drain consists of a perforated pipe laid inside a drainage trench. It is these holes that make this drain different from the others. A solid drain pipe can take in water only from the top end. But water can enter a French drain along its length through these holes. Then this water flows along the pipe downhill to the expected location of discharge. The installation of a French drain requires a trench with a specific slope to transmit the water. It also needs landscape fabric and gravel lining along the drain.

When Should You Use a French Drain?

Using a French drain is advantageous for draining water over a large area of soggy grounds. For example, you can prevent rainwater from flooding your basement by installing a French drain which will direct the water to the desired location. You can also use a French drain along a driveway or a paved surface to prevent flooding. However, a French drain works relatively slowly as the water has to enter the drain through holes and gravel. So, excess stormwater can flood this drain easily. Therefore, French drains are not ideal for controlling surface water in concentrated areas.

What is a Catch Basin?


A catch basin is a box made of plastic or concrete with a grate at the top. It consists of an outlet where a drain pipe can be attached. This box is installed underground, and only the grate is visible on the surface. The surface water flows into the grate and is then directed through the drain pipe fixed on the catch basin. The box collects any sediment in the water to prevent it from entering the drainage pipe. Thus, it is extremely useful as it helps to prevent drain clogs. 

When Should You Use a Catch Basin?

Catch basins are ideal for managing large volumes of surface water that the French drains cannot handle. You can install a catch basin in a low spot of your garden that floods during rain. Install the catch basin and attach a drainage pipe to it. This will resolve your flooding issues. You can also capture water from downspouts and direct them to a drainage system. But catch basins are not for controlling groundwater or draining runoff over a wide area. A catch basin is also referred to as a surface drain since it works well in draining out the surface water efficiently. 

Which is the Better Option?

The better option depends on the condition of your land. So, before you select any of these methods, determine which of the following issues you face related to drainage issues.

  • Lake Forming: This happens mostly when water from downspouts creates puddles where the water does not disappear any time soon. If you have similar situations where water forms ponds in your garden, the best solution is to install a catch basin.
  • Swampy Ground: If water pushes up through your shoes as you walk in the garden, it surely is swampy ground. To drain this soil, you should install a French drain and direct it to a suitable discharge location.
  • Flowing River: This is quite a combination of the abovementioned problems. So, to fix this issue, you need to install both a French drain and a catch basin.

Can You Combine French Drains and Catch Basins?

You can combine the French drain with a catch basin to create a drainage system for your premises. It is very effective since you can drain water both underground and on the surface through this. The following steps show you how to install a catch basin with a French drain.

  1. First, add catch basins intermittently along the French drain. Since a catch basin has to empty into a drainpipe, you can use a French drain for this.
  2. Make sure to add catch basins beneath the gutter downspouts in low areas. Select the areas where surface water collects and also along the foundations that usually flood during rainfall.
  3. The catch basin will drain surface water into the French drain, which will then direct it to the desired termination point of the drainage system.
  4. The French drain will help in collecting groundwater over a wide area.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should You Install a French Drain or a Catch Basin?

A French drain is the better choice for draining moderate amounts of groundwater over a wide region. But if you have to deal with a large amount of surface water accumulating in a low spot in your yard, a catch basin is the best solution. Depending on your situation, you can even go for a hybrid system involving both a French drain and a catch basin. It will drain out the water from your premises efficiently.

Can You Install a Catch Basin Without a French Drain?

A catch basin should have some sort of a drain pipe. But it doesn’t need to be a French drain specifically. Install the catch basin under the gutter downspouts and use a solid drain pump to conduct the water to the desired discharging point such as a dry well.

Does a French Drain Need a Catch Basin?

It is not mandatory for a French drain to have a catch basin or any other surface draining mechanism. If your region doesn’t have much rainfall or storms, you can install a simple French drain as you are less affected by large amounts of surface water. But if you have to deal with both underground and surface water, it will be a good idea to have a catch basin installed.


Before you settle on any of the drain mechanisms, it is important to go through the local codes and legal requirements of your area. Some regions have restrictions on drainage practices such as directing the water discharge to storm drains. Contact a drainage professional in your area to clarify this and assist you in installing the most suitable draining system.