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Interior Drain Tile vs. Exterior Drain Tile - Which System is Better?

Feb 10, 2012 • By Matthew Stock with Ben Shachter.

Having a water problem in your basement is not fun; in fact, it is pretty much a pain in the butt!  Often the solution is fairly conservative, such as a foundation crack repair.  Other times Murphy’s Law strikes homeowners - the problem requires a more liberal approach.  Life isn’t always about the cards you get but how you deal with them.

If you have been keeping up with our prior blogs, you may already have a general understanding of how drain tile systems work.  Perhaps you haven’t, and are still unsure if you really need drain tile.  If you have come to grips with the fact that you need drain tile to solve your seepage problem, this particular blog is dedicated to you.

Drain Tile Systems, or more specifically Footing Tile Systems, are installed at the lowest point of the structure, alongside the footing.  The piping system can be installed on either the outside of the footing (Exterior Drain Tile) or on the inside of the footing (Interior Drain Tile System).  What best meets your needs?

The following comparison describes the differences between Interior and Exterior Drain Tile Systems, based on functionality and installation factors.  We hope this helps you to make the best decision for you and your home.

Interior Drain Tile System



  • Comprehensive solution: Captures floor and wall seepage with no need to remove finished walls to fully waterproof basement
  • Avoids disruption on exterior: Exterior waterproofing usually requires removal of landscaping and paved surfaces near building
  • More economical: Exterior waterproofing is more labor intensive, resulting in higher costs
  • Relieves hydrostatic pressure: A continuous piping system inside of the footing drains water from beneath the floor in addition to around the perimeter of the foundation
  • Not weather permitting: The installation can be performed year round
  • Protected from outside: Interior systems are not subject to the elements, soil conditions or roots growing into the drainage system


  • Requires some preparations: Stored items, built in shelving or cabinets may need to be moved away from the exterior walls. Interior installation also requires removal of carpeting or flooring
  • Access during install: Basement cannot be used during time of installation
  • Brick or stone foundations: Without installation of exterior sealant, water may continue to permeate some masonry foundations

Exterior Drain Tile System


  • Little disruption to basement interior: Most of the work is performed on the exterior
  • Little or no customer preparation: The exception being landscaping next to home
  • Helps drain soil: An exterior system will drain saturated earth next to house and relieve lateral water pressure against foundation
  • Exterior sealant: Full excavation allows for application of exterior membrane waterproofing (especially helpful for masonry foundations)


  • Less Economical: Exterior work is more labor intensive than interior installation, especially for full depth basements
  • Disruptive on exterior: Any landscaping or pavement close to house generally needs to be removed and replaced
  • Access can be limited: Exterior waterproofing cannot be installed where there are home additions, attached garages and close buildings
  • Hydrostatic pressure relief: Exterior system does not drain water from beneath  basement floor
  • Length of Project: Exterior construction projects can last 2x-3x more than interior installation

Both Interior and Exterior Drain Tile Systems have proven to provide lasting results for thousands of homeowners, just like you.  We install more Interior systems for one main reason – the difference in costs.  Simply put, it requires less labor to break through a couple inches of concrete inside your home than it is to excavate through several feet of soil on the outside.  Now, if you have a highly finished basement which requires a lot of job preparations, the economics may change. 

Need more information?  Contact us for a free evaluation.  Our experience over the last 55 years gives us plenty of perspective.  And we would love to add you to our list over 300,000 served!


Tags: drain tile, interior drain tile, drain tile in basement, exterior drain tile

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