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What is a french drain tile system?

French drain tile systems are an idea thatís centuries old. The basic french drain is a drainage system which consists of a long trench thatís dug into the ground through an area thatís troubled by poor drainage. The trench is filled with a porous material, usually gravel, crushed stone or slag, along with a perforated pvc plastic pipe to collect unwanted ground water. Many older versions did not even include a drain tile or used a drain tile made of clay or terracotta.


Popular reasons that contractors or homeowners install french drains include basement waterproofing and surface water ponding in yards and golf courses. Low areas on the surface that have large amounts of standing surface water are usually fitted with an open drain grate on the surface. The main purpose of these type systems is to remove excessive surface and sub-surface ground water. Anyone with a soggy back yard knows how useless and difficult that a surface water problem is. These systems will usually provide a quick solution to surface water problems but may have a limited life.


The disadvantages of french drain systems are numerous. In basement waterproofing applications, they must be installed deep in the ground at footer level. This often involves removal of porches, decks, sidewalks and shrubbery. Underground electrical wires, water lines, sewer pipes, gas lines and other sub-surface utilities can be quite dangerous and can provide great complications during installation. You donít really want to create another problem as a result of the one your trying to fix.

Even in the case of a successful installation, these type systems may have a limited, even temporary life of effectiveness. Anytime you disturb the soil you are inviting soil erosion. In the case of a deeply excavated french drain, ground water passes down through the freshly dug soil on the way to the drain tile and picks up sediment. This loose muddy water entering the drain tile can cause it to become clogged after prolonged use.

Care must also be taken to avoid digging too close to the foundation or lower than footer level. Systems installed below footer level can cause undermining of the foundation. This can cause further settling of the foundation and possible structural damage.

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All content © 2006 Northeast PA B-Dry Basement Waterproofing Co., an Independent Licensee of B-Dry System, Inc, A Division of Penn State Waterproofing, Inc. Warranty is backed and offered by Northeast PA B-Dry Basement Waterproofing Company. B-Dry and B-Dry System are registered trademarks of B-Dry System, Inc.

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