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Thread: Drain tile vs. "Dry Basement" systems

  1. #1

    Default Drain tile vs. "Dry Basement" systems

    Like many other people I have water in my basement. My problem is that the home was sold to me with a "finished" and "Dry" basement, meaning there was humiditiy but no standing water or large amounts of water coming in (this turned out to be a lie). I had a company come out and do sodium bentonite injections and install a "pressure release system" inside with somewhat of a result but still with problem areas. I had friend of mine with some considerable landscaping experience come to look at the outside and he said the only way to fix this was with a new drain tile system. I went to the home show and everybody there had nothing but bad things to say about drain tile. Anyone got two cents to chime in that has no stake in the "dry basement" pitch of inside pressure release systems, or no stake in a drain tile system for that matter? I am going to do the work myself.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Western Wisconsin


    You have to find out WHY your basement leaks before you can solve it 100%.

    Do you have hydrostatic pressure? If you do...THAT is the worst. That means water tries forcing it's way up through any crack in the floor-wall joint, at cracks in the floor, etc., because the water table is high, and thus exerts pressure on the ground that is lower than this water table. (The original owners of their house used that interior waterproofing paint, but it didn't work under the pressure). My parents have this, as their house is close to a swamp and springs, and the hard sandstone, clay and shale bands in the ground causes the water to course it's way through the looser sand strata, trapped by the harder bands, until it gets to the dig-out of the basemsnt, where there it becomes similar to filling up a bathtub.

    I have never heard "drain tiles" bad mouthed before. I don't know if they are talking bad about the tile material?... joinery?.. or the theory of the tile? Anyway...with a hydrostatic pressure problem...not only do they have to put in perimeter tiles, but they have to at least "X" the floor with them, from my understanding.

    If you don't have severe hydrostatic pressure, but is more from the lay of the land, there are companies who bore holes through the concrete block at the floor level of the basement, insert these straws, and it allows the water, that has gotten in the dugout part when they made the basement, to drain through the block through these straws, into a sealed trough system and be carried away to a sump. You might call these a 'surface tile system' as it is above the foundation of the basement rather than about even with it. The theory is, that if you capture the water climbing up the block, trying to fill up the digout of the basement that is on the outside, then you cut down on the pressure exerted even at the slab. I guess this system is way cheaper and can be successful as long as hydrostatic pressure from a higher water table, is not the real issue.

  3. #3

    Default Definately hydrostatic pressure

    Its definately hydrostatic pressure. We are well past the frost date here and still have some water seeping in. The problem was really bad until we had a company come in and do a small section of french drain inside and sodium bentonite injections on the outside(at the recomendation of a co-worker). Surface water could be contributing but I think its more hydrostatic pressure. Clay soil, an extremely sloped yard, and gutters should take most of the surface water away before it gets to the footer. Yes I went to a home show yesterday and the only company that did not bad mouth installing a drain tile system was one that wanted to put some kind of vapor barrier on the outside of my foundation. All the ones that wanted to put a "dry basement" system inside the foundation had several reasons YOU DO NOT WANT to install drain tile.
    1: Costly (I don't understand this as they charge insane amounts for these things too)
    2: Hassle of digging up your yard.
    3: Hassle and cost of moving porches, sidewalks, fences etc
    4: It only works for about ten years (ie silt builds up in pipe)

    I had a response for each of these which they just kind of shrugged and said nothing, or "There is no guarantee it will last more than ten years". I said, gravel costs about 26 dollars a yard delivered, about 1500 dollars for my foundation, PVC can't be more than a few hundred -1000 dollars for the amount I need, tar and plastic can be no more than a few hundred, and renting a bobcat costs about 150 a day. So, if I am willing to do the work myself...no more than 5000 dollars for my foundation TOPS. I already spent 4K on sodium bentonite and an inside pressure release system that doesn't work well and only calls attention to the fact that we have a water problem (if I went to sell). Then, when I prodded about wrapping the gravel in cheesecloth or a similar material to filter silt they just turned around and acted like I wasn't there. This indicates to me that they either felt I was set in my way, or they know diverting water BEFORE it gets to the foundation is the best answer. Ideally I would think that a combination of a surface/storm water drainage system, and a foundation drainage system would solve %100 percent of any problem UNLESS the hydrostatic pressure was just too great to build in any location....ie living on an island in Lake Mead. I was just looking for some confirmation that the BEST way to get rid of surface water was a french/storm water drain system. While the BEST way to lower the water table was a foundation or curtain drain tile, and that these "dry basement" quick fixes were only really good for backup systems should the outside systems fail.
    Last edited by Skrimpy; February 12th, 2006 at 08:37 AM.

  4. #4


    Skrimpy; sorry to hear you are having 'drainage ' problems.
    but your dilemma is another classic example of..."pay now, or pay later.
    Drainage tiles, around the permimeter (at footing level) do work satisfactorily in preventing basement water problems. These tiles or perforated pipes are so easy to lay in when the excavation is open at the time of the foundation being installed.
    Now, without any having been installed, you would be best in the long run to excavate around the entire EXTERIOR perimeter of the foundation and 'lay-in some lengths of 4" big "O". and either run the pipe to daylight or to a storm sewer.(depends on wether you are in city or country )

    The bottom line is; Perimeter drainage systems do work and at the time of initial construction are very easy and quite affordable to install

  5. #5


    Problem is, either the guys that built the house didn't install drain tile, or they have since become clogged and there aren't any cleanouts. Also, if they did install drain tile, they never went to daylight, and they couldn't have gone to storm drains because there aren't any on my street (I checked this with the town forman). My guess is they never installed one. Sucks to be me, I guess. My thinking is I can do the work myself with a bobcat backhoe for less than 5K. Or I can go get a contractor to do it for 10K. Either way I'm in for a fun summer.

  6. #6


    I advise concerning flooding basements on a daily basement. I have resolved all of those problems but one where the county forbid subsurface water pumped to the surface at all. No answer for them. I do not do the work or make money at it, I am an inspector helping only no monetary gain same as replying here.

    The International Residential Code REQUIRES a perimeter drain to be installed when building a new home. Kind of tells you that they work.

    Problem is the lay of your land. You could be on top of a hill with your home and have clay say 6' deep with fast perk soil texture from finished grade down to the clay you then have an underground swimming pool that must perk horizontal right at your basement. This fact is true even from the bottom o that hill then with that underground water that followed the hill up to the top and all the way to the top of that hill and including on top of that hill. You would have the same underground swimming pool. What you need to do to solve the problem permenantly is to install a perimeter drain system just like the Code requires a new home. An existing home you would dig at least 5' from the home to put in the perimeter drain so you do not disturb your original foot print supporting the home.

    You are guessing right now whether you have a perimeter drain system or not. Best move for you is to rent or hire a backhoe and dig down at the corner of the home where it has the lay of the land sloped lower then the basement floor. Once you dig to the bottom of the basement wall and to the bottom of the footer there you should have hit the perimeter drain if they installed one. You will also discover if they installed the required 12" x 12" #4 stone or washed rock with a filter clothe on top of the stone to prevent dirt fines from plugging the stone bed. INside that stone bed you should find a 4" hose placed so the top of the hose was installed no higher than the basement floor. If you find the above discribed then dig about 2' around both side of that corner to find the drain outlet hose. If you find it then you can hire a person that has a video camera to run into that hose to find what is blocking the drainage. Many times when dirt if filled in over the hose especially in frozen weather the drain outlet hose is mashed. The video camera snake will fish down that pipe without digging it up further and tell you where it is mashed or plugged then repair that blockage and you are in business. If you find no perimeter drain system then you are at plan 2. install one all the way around the house as discribed above 5' out from the house as discribed above. The perimeter drain is the only correct repair. All other ideas are sales pitches. Check the IRC. I can testify to many many crawl spaces and basements that I have advised them to solve their problems successfully over the last several years. It works the Code requires it. Any other advice like water proofing is like dumping your money down a bottomless pit. There is a link "Building" on the right of this page click it then perimeter drain and you will find a copy of the Code rule in that chapter of a book I wrote explaining all the above and providing a copy of the Code rules as written in the Code.

    Good Luck


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    St. Louis, MO

    Default Great advice here!

    Looks like I'm in the same boat as Dan (Skrimpy) as I'll be installing a perimeter drain in the next few weeks.

    Prior to finding this forum I've spent the past year diagnosing the cause of my wet basement and researching how to fix it. Warren and the rest here are giving some sound advice. Glad I found this forum.

    I grew up in a house with a wet basement. I saw my parents try waterproofing company after waterproofing company, spending thousands of dollars for solutions that didn't work. Not one of them recommended a perimeter drain. I'm fairly certain it would have fixed the problem.

    After moving into my current house a little over a year ago and after a few heavy rain storms, I found a few trouble spots in the basement on the uphill side of house. I was determined to figure out why and how to fix it myself.

    Not only is Warren's Foundation Footing Drainage document a great resource, I thought I'd pass along another which was written by Russell Lanoie...

    Rural Home Technology: Wet Basement Drainage

    Here's the outline:

    Wet Basement Drainage
    High Water Table
    Keeping Water Out
    Perimeter Drains
    Effective Drainage
    Gravity Venting Alternatives
    Outlet Maintainance
    Foundation Leaks
    Surface Water
    Types of defects
    Conventional waterproofing

    Just like Warren, this guy knows his stuff.

    Time to rent a backhoe...


  8. #8

    Default perimeter drain

    Hey guys great info in this thread! WGoodrich thanks for all your wisdom because of it I decided to stay away from the comercial interior drain system and put in a exterior perimeter drain on my 40 yr old house. One thing you mentioned is to install this about 5' away from the house which is something I haven't heard of before. I was planning on putting some waterproofing on the foundation walls as I don't believe this was ever done. So can you give me some advise as to killing 2 birds with one stone?

  9. #9


    Concrete is a sponge for moisture. However it takes time for the sponge action to pass through the basement walls. During this time of heavy rains you may have damp walls but if the perimeter drain is properly installed on an existing house you have permenantly conquered 90% of your problems without digging against your basement walls. Key thing is never disturb you original footing aka foot print supporting your house. If you dig within 1 foot elevation of the bottom of your footer the earth relaxes then your house will settle busting your concrete walls and footing due to the relaxed dirt created by you disturbing within 1' above the original footers. While is would be nice and is required to be done on new basement walls waterproofing and / or water resistant applications to an existing basement is VERY intrusive. Reason is your have to set your backhoe or excavator prependicular to the basement walls due to the design of the back hoe or excavator. If you hire a larger excavator that can reach 1/2 way across your long side of your basement then that would be much higher cost.

    The 5' away was to ensure you did not weaken the original foot print of your home. It will work the same way at artificially lowering the subsurface water table below your basement so you no longer have the hydrostatic pressure you are speaking of causing the basement to leak. The 12" x 12" #4 stone bed increases the 4" flexible slotted drain hose from about 16 square inches to about 144 square inches greatly increasing the influx of subsurface water into the hose draining away from the basement thus lowering the water table below the basement before it can attack the basement. This is a permenant repair of your wet basement problems the others you are being advised are temporary fixes at best. The building codes do not recognize any of those alternative temporary fixes such as water proofing the inside of the basement etc. Trying to install drains from inside the basement only invites the basement to flood. The drain system needs to stay outside not penetrating the interior envelope of the basement same as building a swimming pool backwards keeping the water out of the basement rather than inside the swimming pool. Would you punch a hole in the side of a pool to let the water into the pool as a permanent way to keep the pool full? Not really a logical question, then why punch through into the envelope of a basement to keep the water out of the basement.

    You can go to most tool rental places and rent a small excavator with a 12" bucket. Dig a trench around that basement yourself to the depth 6" below the elevation of your basement floor, lay your 4" perferatted flexible drain hose in the bottom of the trench all around the basement. Then install a solid drain hose to a location on top of the grass with an elevation to allow .2 of a percent fall to that daylight outlet. Fill the trench 12" high with #4 stone or washed rock same as a septic finger system and lay a filter cloth over the stone bed same as a septic finger system. Then back fill the trench with the same dirt you dug up compressing the dirt best you can as you fill the trench. You will no longer have wet basement problems.

    Many people sell cheaper fixes but the building code only recognizes the perimeter drain system for basements as is required for new basements, there is a reason for this. This same system installed 5' out from the existing basement will give you as close to new installation as you can create without risking the existing house.

    If you have sidewalks you can trench on each side then drive a pipe through and pull your hose through without disturbing that existing sidewalk to limit damage. A year later you yard is back with a dry basement.

    Good Luck


  10. #10

    Default Western Washington Drain Solultions.

    Fixed many mistakes from builders. Best thing I can suggest is redundency. Build so if one fails the other takes over and by that I mean waterproof your walls on the exterior and double up on drain tiles, and keep surface water away from your house.


    In no way use the black perforated coiled pipe. It's easy and it's cheap, but I can't tell you how many I've pulled up that were either crushed or full of dirt and roots. Use the 4" PVC holes at 4 and 6 o'clock and then use rock and a filter for the fines. Make sure you don't lay your pipe in anything other than rock, no muck. I've doubled up on the drain tiles paralleling each other at about a foot away, and connected by T's at 2 corners.


    Install two T's at the high point of your drain tile and bring them up to the surface for a cleanout. Make sure the sweep on the T's are facing the opposite directions. With the 4"pvc you can jet or clean out the pipe should it ever clog. You can't do that with the abs coils.

    Excavate around the top of your foundation 8" or so and lay in some 4' x 8' ridgid foundation insulation paralleling the walls and sloped towards a french drain, or lay some soil over the insulation to create a slope. This gets the surface water away from the foundation and into the french drain, and then out of the yard.

    Keep you downspouts exit point well away from the house, and preferably emptying past the frech drains.

    Also check around your foundation for any sinkholes. These collect water and politely deposit water into your basement without even letting you know that they're there.

    Drain to daylight if possible, and make sure that the exit point will never grow over. Plants love the water that comes from the drain tile and will grow into the pipe. If emptying into a sump pit, make sure the sump deposits the water well away from the house, on a downward slope.

    It's hard to have a leaky basement if there's no water around it. (excluding a spriing)
    Last edited by Fischer; September 15th, 2011 at 09:38 AM.

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