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Drain Tile vs. Yard Drainage for Chicago Basement Waterproofing

May 20, 2013 • By Matthew Stock.

Foundation Waterproofing Basics: Exterior Drain Tile

In the basement waterproofing business, drain tile is one of the most useful and versatile tools available to solve basement water problems.  It can be installed inside or outside the foundation (or both), can be done during new construction or after the house has been standing for decades and it rarely, if ever, needs maintenance.

Of course, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution and there are other ways to fix a leaky basement…or prevent one.  Quite often, a Chicago homeowner facing an inconvenient and costly repair to prevent seepage in his or her basement will suggest an alternative and one of the options most often suggested is managing surface water outside the house, known as yard drainage.

While both are effective means, homeowners often ask if one approach is better than the other.  Let’s find out.

Drain Tile vs. Yard Drainage

Drain tile and yard drainage are two different approaches to the same problem, water in the basement, but they differ considerably:

Drain Tile – Drain tile is a bit of a misnomer that dates back to days when terra cotta roofing tiles were used to create sub-surface drains.  Modern drain tile is plastic pipe that is perforated to allow ground water to seep into it.  It is installed next to foundation footings in a trench that is partly back-filled with washed gravel and performs best when the pipe is also encased in a tube of filtration fabric, known as a “sock,” to keep out solid particles.  In a complete system, the pipe is connected at both ends to a sump basin where a sump pump removes the water it collects.

When installed on the interior, the drain tile lays beneath the basement floor and collects water from under the foundation thereby relieving hydrostatic pressure.  On the exterior, drain tile collects water from the surrounding soil and relieves lateral pressure.

Yard DrainageYard drainage is simply managing surface, or storm, water outside the home.  This can be accomplished in several ways:

  • Clean and maintain rain gutters – On average, 1 inch of rain drops 1500 gallons of water on a roof and all that water has to be removed by a gutter system.  Otherwise, it will run off and soak into the soil right next to the foundation and, ultimately, seep into the basement.  The primary cause of gutter failure is clogging with leaves and other natural debris.Yard drainage
  • Extend downspouts – From the gutters, all that water is channeled into downspouts, typically four on the average home.  If the downspout is nothing more than a vertical tube, the water will also end up right next to the foundation, where it can not only create seepage but also damage the foundation itself.  Extending downspouts at least 10 feet away from the foundation will keep rainwater out of the zone of failure and out of the basement.
  • Maintain positive grade – When homes are built, lawns are graded to slope away from the house whenever possible.  A negative grade, or landscaping that creates water barriers near the foundations, will cause surface water to run back toward the house and ultimately seep into the basement.

So, which method is better to keep a Chicago basement dry?  Sorry for those who chose one or the other because the right answer is “both.”  True, maintaining good yard drainage is essential to prevent creating over-saturated soil around the foundation but there will always be water in the soil and that water will always find its way into any chink in the basement and only drain tile will prevent that.

When a Chicago homeowner experiences basement water problems, he or she needs the help of a basement waterproofing expert that understands how drain tile and yard drainage work together.  At U.S. Waterproofing, we’ve done both for thousands of Chicago homeowners since our founding in the city in 1957 so why not ask for our free advice?

Tags: drain tile, yard drainage, chicago basement waterproofing, basement waterproofing chicago

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