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A Brief History of the Internal French Drain

Thursday, February 2nd, 2023 by Aaron Stull

A Brief History of the Internal French Drain - Image 1Have you ever wondered how the “internal french drain” got its namesake? As a second generation waterproofing contractor, this was a topic discussed as early as I can remember.  There are many myths about the origin of the name. Some are self-evidently foolish, whereas others are interesting. This article should shed some light on that.  An “Internal French Drain Systems” is a type of subsurface drainage system used to address water problems in residential homes and other below grade areas. The main purpose of an internal French drain system is to collect and channel groundwater away from the foundation of a home and prevent water damage.  This method is used the world around and, when installed correctly, has a high degree of success.

The history of internal French drain systems can be traced back to the mid-19th century when Henry Flagg French, a civil engineer and author, introduced the concept of subsurface drainage in his book "Drainage for Health and Beauty." French was a strong advocate of the idea that proper drainage was crucial for preventing soil erosion and maintaining healthy living conditions in urban areas. In his book, French described a system of subsurface drains designed to collect and channel groundwater away from homes, which later became known as the "French Drain."

Over time there were many changes and modifications.  Today the modern “French Drain” system consists of a trench filled with gravel or stone, which serves as a filter, and a pipe or conduit placed at the bottom of the trench. The pipe allows water to drain into a basin, where it is then collected and redirected away from the home's foundation.  In many cases a pump is used to pump the water out of the space.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the French Drain system gained popularity as a solution for addressing water problems in residential homes. This was largely due to the growing awareness of the dangers of water damage and the increasing prevalence of urbanization. As homes were built closer together and cities expanded, the need for proper drainage systems became increasingly important.  Pretty interesting, right?

In the mid-20th century, the French Drain system was further refined and improved. Advances in materials and construction techniques allowed for the use of lighter, more durable materials in the construction of the drain system. This made it possible to install French Drain systems in homes without the need for heavy excavation and construction. Additionally, the use of synthetic materials in the construction of drain pipes made them more resistant to corrosion and deterioration.

In recent years, the use of internal French Drain systems has continued to grow. With the advent of new technologies and materials, the construction of French Drain systems has become even more sophisticated. For example, some modern French Drain systems now incorporate the use of sump pumps, which automatically pump water away from the home.  Keystone Basement Systems actually uses the highest quality products and pumps to achieve an extremely high success rate.

The contributions of Henry Flagg French to the evolution of the internal French Drain system cannot be overstated. French's advocacy for proper drainage and his ideas about subsurface drainage systems helped to lay the foundation for the development of the French Drain system. Today, French Drain systems are widely recognized as an effective and reliable solution for addressing water problems in residential homes.

In conclusion, the internal French Drain system has a long and storied history, dating back to the mid-19th century. Over time, the system has evolved and improved, incorporating new technologies and materials to become more effective and efficient. The contributions of Henry Flagg French to the development of the French Drain system cannot be overstated, and his ideas about proper drainage continue to influence the construction and use of internal French Drain systems today. Do you have a basement issue? Give us a call at (800) 771-3244 or Click Here for more details!

About the author
Aaron Stull is a second generation foundation repair specialist from the greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.

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