How To Install Drain Tile

Lead Image
  • 6-8 hours
  • Intermediate
  • $80-150
What You'll Need
Drain Tile
1 to 1 1/2 -inch Round Washed Gravel
Roofing Felt

If you've noticed water in your basement, it may be a good idea to install or upgrade your home's drain tile. Excess water underground will naturally seep through any small, unnoticed cracks into your basement. Drain tile will give that water a better place to go.

Drain tile is best installed immediately after the footer of new house is complete, but it is possible to install on a completed house, too.

Step 1 – Dig To The Footer

Digging to the footer can be difficult, which why it is best done immediately after completing a footer. If possible, rent digging equipment expressly for this type of work, or you can use simple shovels and hoes.

When you reach the footer, dig to 5 or 6 inches down the side of it. This will reduce the water table (the level of collected water underground) below the level of your basement floor.

Step 2 – Lay Your Drain Tile

Drain tile is essentially piping with perforations or holes punched into the top. If you can’t find drain tile, or it is not within your price range, you can drill holes through PVC pipe.

Your drain tile should be about 4 inches or so in diameter. Lay this tile in the trench dug out next to your footer, using corner fittings to navigate around your house. Apply sealant to be sure there are no leaks within each connection.

Step 3 – Lay Your Gravel

Cover your drain tile with at least 3 feet of some sort of filter media, like round washed gravel, 1 to 1½ inches in size. The loose space between the gravel will give the water an easy downward path to follow, instead of traveling sideways into your foundation wall.

When possible, for extra drainage, fill your trench up to within 18 inches of the surface.

Step 4 – Lay Your Gravel Cover

After you fill in the rest of your trench with dirt, there are many fluffed and loose dirt particles (called silt) that can easily make their way down your gravel and into your drain tile with the water runoff. If this happens, it will clog your system and be nearly impossible to fix. The solution is a gravel cover, something porous that will allow moisture to seep through, but not the silt. Roofing felt is a good material to use.

Cover your gravel with roofing felt, and then fill in the rest of your trench with dirt.

Step 5 – Water Outlet

The water that drains into your system will need some place to go. If installing your drainage system yourself, your best bet is to continue your drainage pipe away from your house and to a surface location. However, this only works if you live on a hill, since it relies on gravity to move the water.

Your other option is to install a sump pump in your basement. A sump pump is a hole in your floor leading several feet below the foundation with a machine to pump the water out. Let your drainage pipe lead to the sump pump for a water outlet.

Foundation drainage systems are not particularly easy to install. Before you begin, it is a good idea to consult with a professional to be sure of the best course of action.