DIWhy: Replacing the French Drain

DIWhy: Replacing the French Drain

Last year when we purchased our new home we were aware of a problem with the backyard.   The yard had two levels, and while the upper level was normally firm and dry, the bottom level was a soggy mess.  Even in the home realty photos, you could see _property_52dd902f-4d83-48de-9552-9dbd8712eb15-635928688207505000-130th_14583_medium_18lines running down the yard where the lawnmower wheels had sunk deep into the soil.  When we first purchased the home we were heading into summertime and our focus was on a few high priority repairs, so we decided to leave the yard as a project for the next year.  Going through fall and into the winter rains, we watched as the backyard once again became a soggy mess.  When heavy rains came through, the water would flood the yard, drain across our patio and spill down our driveway – a less than ideal scenario.  Given the appearance of gravel lining the patio and several clean out drains, I was aware that there was a French drain present, albeit not functioning.  As I performed an investigatory dig of the drain, I found that there was indeed a pipe, but drainage fabric had never been installed so the gravel had been filled in with silt ending the drains usefulness.  During that dig I also discovered the presence of several sprinkler heads and PVC water lines within the trench making the project even more difficult.  Using a shovel and brute force were out, and using a hand trowel and weeding fork to delicately excavate the trench were in.

Going into springtime, I started looking for a several week window to complete the project.  We normally have a group of 25-30 people over for a Bible study twice a month, but when one of the dates fell on Fathers Day and couldn’t be moved, it gave me a one month gap in our schedule where having our backyard torn up and in shambles wouldn’t be a problem.  The project window had presented itself and I jumped on the chance.  The morning after homegroup I started the slow and steady archeological IMG_1868excavation of the existing drain.  The only problem was I had no idea where the drain lines ran to carry the water to an outlet on the street.  My only solution was to continue excavating and see what I would find.  In the first week digging out the gravel and pipe next to the patio there were no surprises, but as I started into the second week, there were plenty.  There was an unexpected drain line that ran to the neighbors fence, complete with a clean out that had been buried under six inches of soil.   The drain line that ran down towards the street had another clean out that was buried under four inches of soil.  And at the other end of the patio was a completely different drain pipe that had been laid directly into the soil and was broken in several places.  I had planned to add a drain line to that side of the patio and had questioned how I was going to connect the new line to a drain, but to my delight, the very end of the broken drain line was intact and did in fact connect to an existing drain.  By the end of the second week, I had finished digging out the trenches for the new drain lines, pulled all of the old pipe out of the ground, and  was ready to start installing the new drain.


On a run to Home Depot, we returned with 100 feet of drain pipe, 100 feet of drainage fabric, and several pipe connectors.  With the boys now out of school, I explained to them that the sooner we got this project finished, the sooner we could start on our fun summer stuff – biking, backpacking, swimming and the like.  They helped me lay in the fabric and piece together the new drain pipe.  The next day a delivery truck dumped two yards of
drainage rock in our driveway, and we set to work filling the drain with the rock – two five gallon buckets of rock at a time.  This time around we made sure to completely seal the drain with the drainage fabric to prevent soil from clogging the drain like the last one.  As I sit here towards the end of the third week, we are completely done with half the trench.  We have one last week to lay the final sections of pipe, use up the rock pile in the driveway, take a large pile of trash to the dump, and hose everything down before our next homegroup.


As I tested the completed sections of pipe earlier today, I was elated with how well it worked – quickly draining all of the water from a hose on full blast.  I’m hopeful that all of the hours of backbreaking work (aka chiropractor job security) will make a significant difference to our previously soggy lawn when the rains return in a few short months.  It feels good to get such a large project off the list and have the satisfaction that it was done right.  But as with any homeowner, the completion of this project marks the beginning of another – getting ready to have the entire exterior of the house painted in three weeks…

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Falling off the face of the Earth

Falling off the face of the Earth

This past winter in Portland was rainy – really rainy.  The rainiest winter since records started being kept in 1940.  The upside to all of the rain was plenty of incentive to stay inside and focus on work.  Over the fall and winter months I spent my days working on writing or video editing and even got an extra hour of work time in the afternoon while the boys were doing their indoor sports.  But the downside to all of the rain was pushing off a large swath of life “until the weather gets better.”  Home projects, task list items, workouts, and spending time with friends could all wait until the dreary weather improved.  Weeks of delay turned into months and my to do list steadily grew longer with the rainfall record.  Then came spring break.  Heading down for a week of sunshine in California, I took a break from work and purposed myself to get organized and ready for the impending summer.  Then the panic hit.  I had a long list of things to do that needed to be completed before the boys were out of school, and a whole other list of fun adventures and not so fun chores that needed to get completed during the summer months.  I wrestled with how I was going to get everything done that I needed to and still meet my work goals.   I figured I would be super efficient with my time and try alternating my to do list items with work, but it didn’t seem to work out that way.  The main problem was that we purchased a new house last spring and had decided to complete only essential repairs that first year.  So this spring, repairing the long list of problems we had noticed in our new house were coming due.  Finding a painting contractor and sampling colors to replace the well faded exterior paint.  Pressure washing ten years of grime and moss of the patio, driveway and sidewalks.  Digging out and replacing the silt clogged French drain in the back yard.  From the subfloor to the roof shingles, there were dozens of major and minor repairs or improvements to be done.  As with any project, once I got started fixing one issue, I found two more hidden behind.  Projects that were supposed to take several hours or days bloomed into taking several days or weeks.  In addition to working on projects, I started working out, meeting up with friends, and ferrying to boys to their now outdoor sports.  At the end of the day I would look back on a long and productive day, but guilty I hadn’t gotten any of my writing or video editing done.  I consistently told myself to give it another few days until the workload decreased, but it never worked out that way.  I wanted to provide an update to my predicament, but without a firm commitment of when my posts would recommence, I didn’t know what to say.  With summer break only a week away, it is finally time to face the facts.

I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth, or given up on either of my writing or travel videos.  I still have years of stories to write and dozens of videos to edit. Life just got busy for a season.  And with the boys being out of school for the summer, I will be busy for a while.  So here are my goals: to stay connected on Facebook, Instagram and continue my Weekly Writing posts.  If I should happen to have time to work on my writing or videos, I hope to get some of those posts up too.  If all else fails, I will return with more writing and videos this fall, with the benefit of having completed my projects and summer adventures.

I wanted to say thank you for following along and hope you all have a great and safe summer!


The Legacy of Paper

The Legacy of Paper

A few years ago, I was one in the crowd of people that thad switched over from carrying around a bulky Bible and journal and replaced them with my iPhone or iPad.  I had my app, my highlights, and my notes – all in one easy to reach spot that went everywhere with me.  My pastor was not fond of this technological change – lamenting the lack of collective page rustling when turning from one verse to another, and listing off several reasons why pen and paper were better in a decidedly prejudiced side track to his sermon.   There were advantages to the app as well – access to different translations, Bibles in other languages, word studies, and did I mention portability?  Unswayed, for the next year I tapped away at my cold glowing glass screen.  That is, until the sentences that changed it all… Continue reading “The Legacy of Paper”

The day I met my wife

March 12, 1998

Instead of finishing out my senior year at the local high school, I had decided to enter into a program where I could finish my senior year of high school and freshman year of college at the same time down at the community college.  During my second semester, I was taking Statistics 101, and my college professor had done the math and pointed out that the chances of someone in the class of 60 having a birthday on that day were actually pretty high.  Myself, having a distinct lack of social grace and care about my reputation, decided to put the theory to the test and begin saying “Happy Birthday” to everyone I met.  Friends, classmates, strangers and passerbys were all greeted with a “hey, happy birthday.”  There were some that walked past avoiding eye contact, some that gave strange looks, and some that replied “ummm.  It’s not my birthday.”  My responses were varied and equally awkward.  “Well, happy birthday when it comes” or happy un-brirthday then.” Continue reading “The day I met my wife”