What Is Drainage Tile And How Is It Used?

In the world of home drainage and foundation protection, sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective. One part uses durable pipes and gravity to guide water away from your basement: drainage tiles. 

A drainage tile system can prevent water from accumulating next to and degrading the concrete of your foundation. It’s an important part of keeping your basement dry, but you can place drainage tiles elsewhere on your property, too!

What Is Drainage Tile?

Drainagedrainage tile tile isn’t exactly what it sounds like – it’s not tile at all, but rather a perforated PVC pipe laid beneath the ground. The purpose is to collect water before it can enter a basement or crawl space. It either directs the water in a spot away from the home’s foundation or guides it into a collection pit where a sump pump sends it to the storm sewers or a drainage ditch.

It’s one of the most enduring drainage systems in history – long before Isaac Newton discovered the laws of gravity, ancient Babylonians and Egyptians were using it to remove excess water from the soil. Originally, these systems were made from clay tiles, giving us the “tile” in drainage or weeping tile systems. 

These days, plastic pipe is the ideal material for drainage tile. One kind uses rigid PVC piping with holes on one side facing down; the water enters the pipe from below. PVC is an exemplary material because it’s crush-resistant to a weight of 3000 pounds. 

Another common material is flexible, corrugated plastic with small slits on the top that let water into the pipe. The perforations are small enough to stop large soil particles from entering and clogging up the system, but you’ll often find it installed with a fabric covering to ensure nothing can get in. Whatever the material, most tile systems connect to the sump pump, which will expel water away. 


Where Can You Use Drainage Tile?

The most common site for drainage tile is at the foot of residential concrete foundations. Water flows based on gravity, and often, the soil points towards the home; drainage tiles collect water and help move it away from the foundation, where it sends the water away from the foundation. Contractors can install them either around the outside of the home’s foundation or inside the basement beneath the floor slab. These days, it’s more common to place them outside for accessibility should the foundation require drainage repairs.

The tile is not limited to foundation protection – anywhere there’s a drainage problem, tile could be part of the solution. Homeowners can have drain tile systems installed under their driveways, gardens, and low points on landscaping that attract standing water. You’ll often see them in trench systems around pools, too.