French Drains vs. Gutters: Your Complete Guide

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If you’re experiencing problems with rainwater or snowmelt on your property, then you’re probably looking at drainage options. Too much water flowing around the exterior of your home can lead to damp patches, mold, or worse.

When it comes to moving water away from your property, it can often come down to french drains vs. gutters. But what exactly are these two options, and which is best for you? An expert, licensed contractor like can help.

French Drains

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Originally, a french drain was just a ditch, dug a little way from the side of your property, and filled with stones and a top layer of sand. They simply created space to hold water, rather than having it all seep into the soil around your home.

Modern french drains are more advanced. French drain installation still starts with a ditch or channel being dug, but that channel has a slope to it that allows you to direct the water where you want it to go. Adding in PVC or flexible pipe that is perforated with holes allows rainwater to be absorbed and channeled away to a nearby storm drain.

The Benefits of French Drains

While gutters are useful for handling water from rain or snow, if your property is on a slope or has nearby running water, you will need an underground solution to help keep your home dry. That’s where French drains have the advantage.

You can also install french drains inside as well as out; if you have a water problem in your basement, for example, then a french drain with a sump pump might be just what you need to solve the problem.


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You would choose gutters to control water that comes from the heavens; rainfall and snowmelt. Guttering runs around the roofline, collecting water that flows from pitched or flat roofs, and channeling it down to the storm drains.

There’s no digging involved in gutter installation, but it does involve working at height. If you live in a heavy snow area, it’s worth considering special guttering that can cope with the weight and volume of water that creates. Regular guttering can sustain damage during severe weather conditions.

The benefits of gutters

Gutters are helpful if you live in an area with high rain or snowfall. Rather than having water falling from the roofline to the ground, eroding the soil around your property, you can guide it away where it will not cause damage. Gutters also help prevent basement flooding and water staining on bricks or masonry.

French Drains vs. Gutters

These two drainage systems help to control water around your home. However, they do it in different ways. Gutters will help with rain and snowfall, but french drains are useful for runoff and melt. The reality is that rather than comparing french drains vs. gutters, you might want to use a combination of the two to create the perfect solution for water management in your home.

If you’re not sure which option is best for you, or you’d like some help with water flow around your property, please get in touch with a local expert in your area.