Do You Need a Permit to Install a French Drain

A soggy lawn or a flooded basement can be a nightmare! One solution might be a French drain! 

However, do you need a permit to install a French drain?

french drain permit

Do You Need a Permit to Install a French Drain

In some areas, you’ll need to get a permit to install a French drain, especially if it involves diverting a waterway that is legally classified as a stream. 

You should also get a permit for your French drain if it affects or drains a wetland or affects navigable waterways. In this case, you need to get a full section 401 or 404 permits

These major permits require the approval of several federal, state, and local agencies, like the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the EPA. 

For this reason, getting these permits can be a costly and lengthy process because multiple professionals should assess and document the situation. 

If you get approved for the French drain, you would still spend a lot of money to guarantee the safety of wildlife and reduce the impact on any endangered or threatened species in the area. 

Other than that, you don’t actually need such an expensive permit to install and use a small French drain on your property. 

A small French drain doesn’t affect the flow path of runoff, so it has no effect on any other lands or water bodies, so you won’t need a permit. 

Nevertheless, if your French drain eventually discharges into public sewers, then you definitely need a permit from the receiving agency.

If it soaks into the ground that is considered part of your property, you won’t need a permit, regardless of the size of the French drain. 

You also don’t need a permit if the drain flows out but doesn’t affect the flow of the property line. 

In addition to the previous situations, you still need to get a permit in the following situations. 

  • Your French drain is discharging within 20 to 25 feet away from a well or a leach field
  • It passes within 20 to 25 feet of a leach field. 
  • You live in an area where there’s a shallow water table. The drain will penetrate the water table, so you need a permit just like you would need one for a well. 

What is a French Drain 

what is a french drain
Image Courtesy of Permagard

A French drain is a trench that redirects the surface and ground excess water away from a specific area. 

The trench is filled with rocks or gravel and the excess water travels through a perforated pipe, and then empties away from your home or yard. 

Depending on your situation, the redirected water moves through a pipe and empties away from your house. 

This is why the trench bottom should be sloped to divert the water into a lower area of land in your property where it doesn’t affect the foundations of your house, a drainage ditch, a dry well, the street, or the public sewer system. 

A French drain can be the only solution to save your property!

However, there are a few things that you need to think about before installing a French drain. 

What are the Pros and Cons of a French Drain

French drains are effective and can protect your property and help you save a lot of money. Here are some of the pros of installing a French drain. 

  • Compared to the cost of fixing your property, the French drain is inexpensive. 
  • French drains work well with poor soil conditions. 
  • Installing a French drain is a potent way of protecting your property’s foundation from groundwater.
  • A French drain can last for a very long time. 

Nevertheless, they come with some disadvantages that you need to consider. 

  • Installing a French drain requires digging the area around the house.
  • It takes a lot of work. 
  • In some cases, you might need to get multiple permits to have the job done. 

How Much Does a French Drain Cost

A French drain’s cost depends on the system’s location and size, in addition to the required permits. 

On average, a French drain can cost about $4500, but this cost differs according to where you choose to install it. 

A small exterior drain to remove the excess water from your garden can cost about $1000, but installing a drain under your flooded basement costs about $2000 or even more. 

In this case, you need a sump pump to remove the water from your basement and redirect it away from the foundations of your house, so the cost can increase up to $10,000. 

In addition to labor costs and equipment, you will have to consider the cost of permits. These differ according to your location, and your contractor should be able to handle them. 

It’s easier and less expensive to install a French drain while building the house. 

What Are the Different Styles of French Drains

A DIY French drain doesn’t work when you’re dealing with bad water damage in your property. In this case, you should consider hiring a contractor to install a professional one. 

There are three types of French drains that you can choose from. 

  • A shallow French drain extends across your property and channels the water away from your land. You can install this drain if you’re dealing with surface water. 
  • A deep French drain extends around the house and prevents the water from getting into your house. 
  • An interior French drain also prevents the water from getting into your basement by intercepting the water flow. 


If you have excess water in your land or basement, installing a French drain can solve the problem. 

You need permits to install a French drain if it affects the water bodies around your property. 

However, in most cases, you don’t need a permit to install a small French drain on your property. 

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