Sunday, May 31, 2009

Adventures in home improvement: the French drain

Ever since we moved into our house we have had some leaking in the garage when we get a lot of rain. Nothing crazy but definitely some cause for concern. It doesn't help that our house is at the lowest point in the neighborhood. You can actually see the water streaming down to our yard from our neighbors. Good times. Why our home inspector didn't catch it is beyond me...this could have been the previous home owners' problem instead of ours!

DH was getting frustrated with seeing moisture in the garage and decided to investigate the problem. Isn't that how it always starts? First you look into the problem and the next thing you know there is a huge hole and you are in over your head. Fortunately DH is very, very handy so once he starts a project he will finish it, regardless of how much time or effort it takes. This project took approximately 25 hours and a massive amount of effort. But it cost about $300 in materials vs. the quote of almost $10K we got from the drainage experts. Granted, that $10K involved a lot more work than DH ended up doing but it would have been at least $2K for what he ended up doing so we saved about $1700. I say we but really I contributed negligibly in terms of ideas and physical labor.

Our garage backs up into a hill. That meant DH was digging out a trench about a foot below the pitch of the roof and had to be careful on top of moving thousands of pounds of dirt and gravel. When the house was built a French drain was originally put in but DH determined there was some kind of blockage. First DH made sure the drainage was fine beyond the garage. It turns out that the drainage runs about 150 yards beyond the garage to end in a city sewer. Good thing he didn't need to replace the whole thing! I can't even imagine...

Once the area had been excavated sufficiently DH was going to wash all the old gravel and replace it. Apparently the drainage is better when the gravel is clean to start with. But he quickly realized that wasn't going to work and was able to have a yard of gravel (#5 - did you know there are numbers to tell the type of gravel? I sure didn't.) delivered. That is 2835 pounds of gravel. That needed to be shoveled into barrels, run up the hill to the garage (no access from the driveway because of the hill) and then dumped into the hole. So basically DH moved 2 tons of gravel. Pretty impressive!

This is a yard of gravel. Doesn't look to big does it? Go ahead and tell DH that!

DH tried to shovel directly into the wheel barrow but because of the slope of the land the first load spilled everywhere. So he switched to filling two buckets instead.Doesn't this look fun?

The steps to laying a French drain aren't that hard, just physically demanding. Dig out the trench, lay down gravel graded away from the house, put down new pipe, cover pipe with more gravel. We used the new and then old gravel to cover the pipe back up. The pipe was also covered with a cloth that I immediately dubbed the condom. DH had the brilliant idea of putting on some additional piping as "access points" to stick up through the gravel.

This is stage 1: DH removed all gravel from the top, exposing the old French drain.

After filling the trench with new gravel DH lays down the new (and improved!) French drain.

Heh, heh, heh. Yes, I have a dirty mind.

With new gravel on top of the French drain, the new access point is still exposed. Aren't you exhausted just reading about this project? Imagine how DH felt!

The worst part about this project is that when it's done, it looks like nothing happened!!

I am writing this blog post for a couple of reasons. First of all, it is a warning about home ownership. Be prepared for laborious or expensive project like this! Secondly it is to lavish praise on DH for all his hard work. So join me in telling him how fabulous he is!


Mommy, Esq. said...

Fabulous, Jeremy!

A. said...

Way to go, Jeremy!! I'm sure you just saved yourselves many future headaches had the problem not been fixed.

Amanda said...

Yea, good job jeremy. You want to come do our french drain we need now?

Gretchen said...

Ugh, I am exhausted just reading through it all. Can't imagine! Good job DH!

Donna said...

Yeah, we did this about 5 years ago and then my DH went up to his mother's house two years ago and did it again. Ugh! horrible work, and many kudos to your DH (and mine) for taking it on!

LauraC said...

Huge kudos for doing that!! I always talk Jon into outsourcing, although that is a LOT of $$ to outsource!

Scott Sweeney said...

If you hadn't gotten a metal wheelbarrow, the job would have half as hard!!! Heh, heh, heh...