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What is Drain Tile 101 | How Drain Tile Works

Feb 3, 2012 • By Matthew Stock.

YOU NEED DRAIN TILE!  This is a common sentiment that homeowners hear when they have water in their basement.  Sometimes you are told by a friend who had a Drain Tile System installed in their home.  Maybe you heard your handyman mention Drain Tile being a common solution to basement seepage problems.  It could have been that guy on your block who seems to have his nose in everyone else’s business.  You know – the self proclaimed Mayor of the neighborhood!

But just exactly what is Drain Tile?  What does the Drain Tile do?  How does it work?  Read on as we try to answer your questions and give you a clear understanding of what Drain Tiles are.


Drain Tiling has its origins in the field of agriculture.  Although field drainage systems date back over 2000 years, they were first used in America in 1838.  When farmer John Johnston installed clay tiles on his farm in Seneca County, New York, he was dubbed “The Father of Tile Drainage in the United States”.  Farm Drainage was further revolutionized in 1860 by Henry French in his book  “Farm drainage: the principles, processes, and effects of draining land with stones, wood, plows, and open ditches, and especially with tiles”.  The effect was so profound they renamed the tile drain system to French Drains, after Henry French.


Drainage Tile Systems have many uses in both agricultural and construction applications:

  • Farm drainage  - Used to keep fields from oversaturation, which limits crop growth
  • Irrigation – Drain Tiles can be used to transport water as part of an irrigation system
  • Yard drainage – Similar to farming, drainage keeps water from pooling in low lying areas
  • Footing tiles around foundation - Drains water from around and beneath your basement and / or crawl space


Although Drain Tile is a common term used interchangeably, it is often referred to as:

  • French Drain, Footing Tile, Weeping Tile, Clay Tile, Tiling System, Perforated Drain, Foundation Drain and Rubble Drain, to name a few


Although material, size and shape of the piping varies, there are common qualities:

  • Drain Tile is perforated (has holes) to allow water a point of entry
  • Immersed in a bed of stone, which facilitates drainage to the piping
  • Stone type varies, but 3/4” washed (clean) gravel promotes the best water flow. Pea gravel or compacted stone impedes drainage due to lack of space between the stones
  • The pipe is usually round / cylindrical in shape, although there are some square or rectangular shaped drainage systems.  Shape makes no difference in the flow of water
  • Drain Tile Piping typically ranges in sizes from 2” diameter to 18” diameter
  • 4” diameter is standard sized piping for foundation drainage systems
  • Piping is primarily constructed from plastic (PVC, ABS) or clay
  • PVC Drain Tile typically comes in 10 ft. lengths of rigid piping
  • Corrugated (ABS) Drain Tile comes in coils of flexible piping in lengths that vary from 100 ft. to 3000 ft

Although this overview of Drain Tile has plenty to offer, stay tuned for more in-depth blogs about Drain Tile, its specific uses and applications. 

As for your home, tell the ‘Mayor’ he can keep out of your business – you are calling the experts!  Set up a free evaluation and we will send one of our experienced Advisors to evaluate whether you need Drain Tile or another time tested solution to your basement seepage problems.

Tags: french drain, drain tile, what is drain tile, interior drain tile, drain tile in basement, exterior drain tile

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