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A Beginner’s Guide To Interior & Exterior Drain Tile Systems

A Beginner’s Guide To Interior & Exterior Drain Tile Systems
A Beginner’s Guide To Interior & Exterior Drain Tile Systems

Do you know what drain tile is? Do you know how drain tiles prevent water from pooling up inside and outside of your home? We will explain all of that and more in this article. So follow along with a beginner’s guide to interior & exterior drain tile systems.

What Is A Drain Tile System?

Also known as a footing tile system, a drain tile system contains perforated pipes that gather groundwater and direct it away from your home’s basement and foundation walls. You don’t want water seeping through cracks or the cove joint (where the floor meets the wall).

There are two types of drain tile systems: interior and exterior. An interior drain tile system prevents moisture from building up in the soil under and around the foundation. When the soil doesn’t have excess water in it…it can’t get into the basement. Exterior drain tile systems might also use a sump pump if gravity isn’t able to channel the water away from the foundation.

Waterproofing a basement should be one of your biggest priorities, and drain tile is a guaranteed lasting solution. Combined with a sump pump, vapor barrier, and other waterproofing solutions, you can keep water out of your basement for good!

Interior & Exterior Drain Tile Systems
Drain Tile Systems

Benefits Of A Drain Tile System

Many homeowners choose to install an interior drainage system because the construction process is quick and easy. Contractors jackhammer the floor, install the system, and replace the floor in a matter of days. You can easily access an interior drainage system if necessary, but it will usually never clog.

How Are Drain Tile Systems Installed?

To install an exterior drain tile system, a trained professional must dig up the area around the foundation, clearing away plants, sidewalks, and other obstacles. Thus, the construction process can last longer than an interior drain tile system installation—but it won’t disrupt your home’s interior.

Another benefit of doing the exterior drain tile is that you do not need to remove or touch anything in the basement. Save for the installation of a sump pump, all of the work is performed outside the home. So, if you have a beautifully finished basement, it need not be touched to complete the basement waterproofing system.

Read more about – Are Floor Cracks Normal?

Drain Tile System

Hydrostatic Pressure

To understand what drain tile prevents, you’ve got to learn what hydrostatic pressure is. As water gathers around your foundation, it builds up and causes pressure. An interior drain tile system collects the water and prevents the pressure from building up.

Interior Drain Tile

The interior drain tile system collects water under and around your basement and directs it to your basement’s sump pit. You can install an interior system in three ways: above the concrete slab, within the slab’s edge, or below the slab.

A perforated pipe is laid in a bed of washed stone under your basement floor. As water gathers around and under your home’s foundation, this pipe gathers the water and redirects it to a sump pit. From here, the sump pump will eject the water from the basement.

Drain Tile System

Exterior Drain Tile

An exterior drainage system directs outside water to a street’s sewer, draining the soil around your home and relieving pressure from the home’s foundation. The same mechanics are in play for this system. Water gathers in a basin around your foundation, and a gravity pipe system directs the water into a sump pump. The pump then ejects the water from the home via a discharge line.

Both systems, while they may be different in installation, accomplish the same goal. It will allow you to finish your basement, adding usable living space to your home. Mold, musty smells, and pooling water will no longer be worries of yours.

Other Waterproofing Solutions

Other waterproofing solutions combined with drain tile create the ultimate water seal.

Exterior Drain Tile
  • Vapor Barriers (Moisture Barrier) – A vapor barrier is typically polyurethane sheeting added to basement walls. Vapor barriers prevent moisture penetration through the walls and this hampers mold growth.
  • Sump Pump – A sump pump is a fixture that sits in a home’s basement or crawlspace. It helps remove groundwater from underneath your home, preventing water from seeping through your floor and walls. Without a sump pump, water or heavy precipitation could become a significant issue for a basement foundation.
Drain Tile System
  • French Drain – A French drain is a perforated pipe placed just below the surface of the soil to promote water drainage.
  • Gutter/Downspout Extensions – Gutter extensions are highly recommended for the average home in America. Instead of water from your gutters pouring directly at the base of your home/foundation, these extensions channel the water further away (at least 20ft) from your home.
  • Discharge Line – A discharge line is used along with the sump pump to carry water from the pump to the outside of the house. In a basement waterproofing system, sump pump discharge lines have several essential factors: Just like gutter extensions, discharge lines should carry the collected water at least 20ft away from the foundation, spaced out from each other to avoid the water pooling up in your yard.

Who To Call For Drain Tile Systems

Undoubtedly, both types of drainage systems are effective waterproofing solutions, and they each have their benefits. However, if you plan to install a drain tile system, you should always leave the work to the professionals. If you want to prevent basement flooding, don’t hesitate to contact our experienced team. The Real Seal offers incomparable basement waterproofing services throughout Chicago, and both drainage systems come with a Fully Transferable Lifetime Warranty. Schedule an appointment online, or call for a free consultation!


Austin Werner

Austin Werner is the Owner of The Real Seal LLC, a basement waterproofing and foundation repair company. Austin believes that having a highly trained and happy team is the key to success. This is reflected through hundreds of 5 star customer reviews his company has received online.

15 Responses

    1. Hi Linda!

      Thanks! Unfortunately, we do not currently know anyone to refer in Florida for Drain Tile work. The best way we would recommend going about finding someone is cross-referencing a few local names against review sites such as Angie’s, BBB, and Google. If the company shows a common reputation throughout all those sites, they are a good bet.

  1. I like that you mentioned how waterproofing a basement should be one of our biggest priorities, and drain tile is a guaranteed lasting solution. Our house is a bit old now, so we are thinking of doing some improvements to it. Having an exterior drain tile system sounds like a good idea, so we should probably ask some experts for it.

  2. Austin, thanks for all the info above! I’ve heard that exterior systems drain tile systems tend to clog after just a few years. Do you have any feedback or advice on that? We’re in Oregon and looking waterproof a 1941 poured concrete foundation so we can finish out the basement. Thanks!

    1. Hi Jake!

      The old way they used to do Exterior Drain Tiles absolutely clog up after a few years. However, new techniques and technologies allow us to put Lifetime Warranties on our Exterior Drain Tile Systems.

      Main reasons for this include:

      Solid Perforated Pipe as opposed to Corrugated or Clay pipe that used to be used
      Drain Tile is now covered with a debris filter sock in order to filter out debris
      Drain Tile is now buried in a thick bed of gravel in order to help further prevent debris from entering the line
      Landscape fabric is used to cover the bed of gravel to further prevent debris from entering the line

      The link below is to our YouTube How We Do It video for this service. It shows a project we recently completed, step by step, with explanation.


      Hope this helps!

  3. Can the interior drain be done in a home with an already finished basement without having to reframe?

    1. Not if you want it done correctly. There are companies that will do it your way, but it will cause many issues. If you had a company suggest that you do this, RUN!!!

      First off, they cannot get the concrete over the Drain Tile and under the framing all the way. This will leave gaps that will allow humidity up behind the finished wall, causing mold and other issues.

      Secondly, it tends to be messy, harder to install, and the crews that install this will tend to cut corners. Especially as not removing the frame is cutting a corner to begin with. So do not expect a full and complete system.

      And lastly, it becomes difficult to grade the Drain Tile, get a proper Cove Joint system in, and many times you have to end up calling the proper contractor to do it the right way in the end anyway.

      I understand it’s scary and can be overwhelming to think about having someone in to re-do the framing and drywall. If you think that’s overwhelming, imagine doing it the wrong way, having to cut it all out anyway, extending the job by months, and then paying over double to have someone re-do the whole thing. It will be a whole lot less hassle, money, and stress to do it right the first time.

      1. Company that gave me a quote on said they would cut out the bottom 3 feet of an already existing finished basement. All the walls would have to be taken down and then reframed to accomplish this?

        1. Hi Glen,

          Not all the walls, just the bottom 3 feet. Your framing SHOULD be fastened to the joists above, allowing them to essentially hang while the work is being done and the drywall/framing is then replaced.

          Besides, if you have water in your finished basement, you WANT that last 3 feet of drywall removed, because it is highly likely that you have mold behind there. More sensitive people with allergies will notice it first, but it will affect everyone’s health.

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