Interior and Exterior Drain Tile are two common and effective solutions for preventing water damage to basements. You should always install an external drain tile system when building a new home. But, you can also retrofit them to resolve water issues in your basement. So, what is drain tile, and when should you use it?
Let’s start by explaining what Drain tile is. Drain tile is a drainage solution adapted from the agricultural industry. It’s also known as weeping tile, footing tile or French drain. Basically, it is a system that attracts and collects water in a drainage channel before it can do damage to your property. Drain tile attracts water by providing a more accessible pathway than the surrounding subterranean material.
Although we still refer to it as drain tile or weeping tile, modern applications do not use tile at all. Modern drain tile is perforated PVC pipe, which is cheaper and more effective. It is also less prone to clogging.
Reasons to Install Drain Tile
Choosing to install drain tile when you are building a home will help prevent future moisture problems in your basement.
Preserve the Foundation – Water seepage causes damage to masonry structures. Over time the structural integrity of the poured concrete, cinder blocks, or stone can become compromised, and may require serious repairs to the foundation. Installing exterior drain tile alleviates this problem as it prevents water from reaching the wall and causing damage.
Masonry Foundation – The mortar that holds masonry together is more porous than the surrounding stone so attracts water resulting in leaks. Again time will cause the mortar to weaken and lead to structural problems. Weeping tile installation will remove the water before it can cause leaks or erosion.
Finished Basement – When you invest time and money into your basement to create an extra living space, you don’t want leaks and mold to spoil it. Unwanted water will ruin paintwork and carpets as well as lead to unhealthy mildew and a damp atmosphere. Exterior or interior drain tile and solve your water problems and ensure your basement is always usable.
Exterior Drain Tile
An exterior drain tile system is the most effective way to prevent water damage to your basement in the short term. Exterior drainage will not endure natural subterranean wear and tear over the course of 3 to 5 years. A correctly installed system will remove excess water from the ground before it has a chance to reach your home and cause damage and could last up to 10 years.
Modern building regulations require the installation of an exterior drain tile system around the footings of new homes. Some exceptions do apply, but installing an exterior drain tile system when laying the foundations is the simplest and most cost-effective method of installation. However, even if you live in an older home, it is still possible to retrofit exterior drain tile.
Retrofitting Exterior Drain Tile
Retrofitting drain tile is messy, laborious, and costly. Still, if your basement suffers from water damage, it is one of the few options available to correct the problem. First, workers begin by digging a narrow trench around the entire perimeter of your home, all the way down to the footings. You will need to move any plants and shrubs that are in the way, and store the excess soil from the excavations in your yard. Also, any patio, decking, and driveway will be removed for installation.
Once the trench is complete, workers will spread a layer of washed gravel along the bottom of the channel. Perforated PVC pipe (or Drain tile) goes on top of the gravel to form a circuit around the foundations. Depending on your budget, you can use a rigid or flexible pipe. Although more expensive, rigid PVC pipe is more durable and less likely to collapse with the weight of the soil. The circuit of drain tile will drain into a sump basin where you can then pump it away from your home. Another layer of clean gravel goes on top of the drain tile to prevent clogging, and then the excavated soil is replaced, and work is complete.
When retrofitting exterior drain tile, it is also advisable to apply a waterproof membrane and drainage board to the exterior of your home. Both help to prevent water seepage through the walls of your home and will help to divert water towards the drain tile. Applying a waterproof membrane is most effective for cement block and brick foundations. However, other materials still benefit from its use.
Interior Drain Tile
Basement weeping tile, also known as an internal perimeter drain system, is an alternative drainage method to the exterior drain tile option. In older homes, it is often the preferred retrofit option. In some cases, owners that have exterior drain tile will retrofit interior drain tile if they continue to experience water issues.
The way interior basement drainage works, it allows water to enter your home. The drainage channel does a great job of collecting water and diverting it back out of the house. This interior system does a better job of reducing hydrostatic pressure on the outside walls of the house. The best scenario is using interior and exterior drain tile together, but this is only feasible with new builds.
The interior drain tile system can cost significantly less to install. The installation itself is less messy and completed in a shorter period of time.
Retrofitting Interior Drain Tile
First, you will need to completely clear the basement of all furniture and appliances. Workers will then use a jackhammer to cut a channel into your concrete slab around the perimeter of the basement. After cutting the channel, it is necessary to dig a small trench to a depth of around 10 to 12 inches. If your basement walls do not have a waterproof coating, then now is the ideal time to apply one.
Much like the exterior drain tile trench, gravel is used to pack the drain tile inside the trench. The gravel allows improved drainage, and it also makes it easier to slope the channel towards the sump pit. A circuit of the corrugated, perforated pipe is placed into the trench and connected to the sump pit. Backfill the trench with more gravel until it is level with the bottom of the floor slab. A sheet of a 10-mil vapor barrier is laid over the gravel, then top up with concrete and level the floor.
If you are experiencing problems with water penetration in your basement, check for obvious issues including blocked downspouts. If there are no apparent water sources, then call in a waterproofing specialist for an assessment.
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