We have water in our basement -- not pools of water but moisture stains on the concrete walls. A contractor says we need a french drain system around the uphill side of the house, which is 36 feet long. He estimates that it will cost $3800. Does this sound expensive?
Maria H. - Cleveland, OH
Maria, without actually inspecting your home and the surrounding site conditions, it would be difficult for me to accurately estimate the cost of installing the needed drain system. Depending on the severity of your water problem, as well as the depth of your home's foundation, $3800 may well be a reasonable price to pay for a french drain system. Digging the trench for the drain pipe would probably require a small excavator or backhoe for one day, plus you could also need a few loads of drain rock, some filter fabric, and a little top soil to finish off the job. Unfortunately, these costs add up quickly, not to mention the potential "unknowns" of any project that is underground.
Remember, the purpose of a french drain system is to move ground water away from your home's foundation and toward a lower elevation or a dedicated storm water collection area. This means that the contractor would have to dig a deep trench along the entire backside of your house in which to install the drain pipe that will collect the water and move it to the downhill side of your home. If your home is on a sloped lot with limited machine access or has a daylight basement with 8-foot high ceilings (requiring a deep trench), then you should probably expect the job to take at least a couple of days.
The best way for you to determine the competitiveness of your contractor's bid is to compare it with a few other estimates from different contractors who work in your local area. This could also be an easy way to compare possible solutions to your water problems, as not all french drain systems are built the same. Perhaps you could have three contractors inspect your home and offer you detailed work estimates. Then you can compare all three and choose the contractor that is right for the job.