Drain Tile: What is It and How to Install It

Are you anxious every time it rains? Do you feel on edge because your house is somehow situated on a slope? And does your basement flood each time there is a downpour of any kind?

Some basements and crawl spaces flood as runoff water flows down from a slope. This type of flooding mostly happens when there is heavy rainfall, a storm, or when the snow melts.

If you share the same problem, today I’ll show you how to overcome the challenge. I’ll show you the importance of Drain Tile and give the main characteristics of a quality Drain Title system.

I’ll also explain how to install Drain Tile and highlight the cost you’re likely to incur when setting up.

Are you ready for this? Let’s get into it…

What is Drain Tile?

Simply put, Drain Tile is a system that prevents your home and basement from flooding. It is a drainage setup that channels away water from your house to prevent damage.

Many people have a flooding problem but don’t know about the Drain Tile solutions.

If you live in a hilly neighborhood, then you should make a point of investing in a Drain Tile. It will save you from unfulfilled insurance claims and expensive house repairs in the future.


The first version of Drain Tile was first founded in the fields of agriculture some 2000 years ago. And despite that, it was only until 1838 that it was first used on American soil. This was by the hand of an early farmer called John Johnston in Seneca County, New York.

In the early stages, it involved digging trenches and lining them up using clay tiles. This simple construction could then redirect excess water away from the crops during heavy downpours.

It was not until 1859 – 1860 that they revolutionized the whole idea. This revolution came from another agriculturist named Henry French. He wrote a book that sparked fire across many plantations in America during those times. [1] This led to the many farmers adopting the system initially invented by Johnston.

The use of Drain Tile drastically increased thereafter that it became known as the French Drain.

Other terms used to refer to Drain Tile include foundation drain, weeping tile, perimeter drain, rubber drain, perforated drain, and footing tile.

How does Drain Tile work?

A Drain Tile is not really a tile. In the world of construction, the term refers to a type of drainage pipe. It is mostly laid near a building’s footing and beneath the ground level.

Drain Tile offers an easy path for water to follow. This is because water will always choose the path with the least resistance to stream through.

The other thing is that the pipe used is highly perforated to allow runoff water to flow into it. In the end, water gets pulled from the top ground into the Drain Tile. All this happens as a result of a sump pump (if you’ll need one) and gravity.

Once the water is in the system, it gets directed to a dry well. You can also direct this water back above the ground into a sewage system or storm drain.

Main characteristics of a drain tile

The size, shape, and materials used to construct your drain tile may vary. This will depend on things like your budget, the level of threat, or other factors.

Regardless, there are a few qualities that every drain tile should have.

These are:

  • A good drain tile must have perforations (holes) that allow water entry into the system.
  • It should be also set beneath a stone bed to facilitate water flow into the pipes.
  • Drain Tile may have varied stone types. But make sure that you have at least ¾ inches of clean gravel. It promotes optimal water flow. Compacted stones and pea gravel lack enough flow space between them. This means that they will hinder proper drainage.
  • The pipe used normally has a cylindrical shape. But there are also other pipe options coming with a rectangular or square shape. Nevertheless, the shape of the pipe should not bother you as it does not affect the drainage.
  • The foundation drainage has a standard 4-inch diameter size for their piping.
  • The Drain Tile piping can have a size range of about 2 – 18 inches in diameter.
  • The PVC type of Drain Tile is very rigid. In addition, the pipes usually come in lengths of 10 feet.
  • The main materials used for Drain Tile pipes are PVC, ABS, and clay. Both PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) and ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) are plastics.
  • There are also flexible corrugated Drain Tile pipes made from ABS. They come in different lengths that range anywhere between 100 – 1000 ft.

So when you consider getting a Drain Tile installed in your yard, business, or farm, have the above pointers in mind.

Importance of Drain Tile

Over time, Drain Tile has acquired pivotal roles in our lives. This is especially true when it comes to the world of construction and agriculture.

Among the common uses:

  1. Irrigation – Drain Tile mechanism is regularly used in an irrigation scheme to transport water through the fields.
  2. Farm drainage – In case you have a field with poor-drained soil, Drain Tile comes in handy to prevent waterlogging.
  3. As footing tiles – You can get Drain Tile installed around your house’s foundation. This helps drain water from under your basement and crawl space.
  4. As yard drainage – Just as in farming, yard tiling will prevent water from logging in low areas like the yard for example.

How to install a surface Drain Tile

In theory, installing a surface Drain Tile is not much of a challenge. The hardest part of this whole process is digging up the trenches. The rest is fairly manageable.

But still, I advise that you contact a trusted construction company to get professional service.

Also, it’s a good idea to call your local utility company to come put beacons on their buried lines. It will prevent you from accidentally damaging the infrastructure.

Let us look at the steps involved in installing a surface Drain Tile:

1. Identify low lying spots around your house

Circle round your house after a heavy downpour and note where you have low spots. Once done, determine a channel path from the wet spot. This is the path that your Drain Tile will follow to a much lower region of your choosing.

Note that Drain Tile requires at least a 1% drop. Thus, a 1-foot drop works well per 100 feet, and a 2-inch drop for a 20 feet drain. You will have to calculate the drop according to your measurements.

2. Mark out the desired drainage path

To do this you’ll need a string, stakes, and spray paint. Afterward, start from the lowest point and dig an 8-inch wide U-shaped trench. Set the trench’s depth at 8 inches.

For short distances, you may use a shovel. For longer lengths, you can rent or borrow a trencher.

As you work the grade, you can always adjust your slope when you hit tree stumps or rocks.

3. Add some gravel in the trench’s base

Use some clean gravel (1”) for spreading on the trench’s base up to 2 inches. Place inside the trench a perforated drainage tile (4 inches) facing downwards. You can use male couplers to connect the tiles as necessary.

After that, add more gravel around the upper side of the tile to keep its opening above ground level. You may cover this end to allow you to clean the tile whenever you see fit.

Note: Do not use limestone rocks. It may solidify into cement when it comes in contact with water.

4. Slip on a cover sleeve

Along the tile’s length, slide over a covering sleeve. This sleeve helps keep the perforations free from clogging. You can also add more protection aside from the sleeve against silt and sand.

This includes covering the tile using water-permeable landscaping fabric.

5. Adjust the tile to the center of the trench

You’ll need a carpenter’s level to accomplish this.

Afterward, place the instrument in different locations on the tile to make sure that you have a good downward slope.

6. Add support on either side of the trench

Pour gravel on either side of the tile to keep it centered. After doing that, add another 2 inches’ worth of gravel over the tile and also fill the trench with it.

7. Cover the top gravel with coarse sand

After pouring the gravel as in Step 6 above, cover the top layer by spreading coarse sand over it. You can then smooth it out or even plant your grass on top if you wish.

Just like that, you will have finished installing your surface Drain Tile.

Types of pipe used in Drain Tile

There are two types of Drain Tile pipes mainly used by installation companies. This includes a PVC and a flexible corrugated pipe.

1. PVC Drain Tile pipes

PVC pipes are mostly rigid. They look like regular drain pipes but have small perforations on one side to let in water.

During installation, a PVC pipe gets laid with the perforated side facing downwards. This allows the holes to collect any rising water from the ground.

And as you’d expect with such rigid pipes, you will need corner fittings to help you change their direction.

PVC drain pipes come in 10 feet lengths and retail at $8.95.

b) Flexible corrugated pipe

This pipe has slits cut on all of its sides. The slits allow water in from every direction and keep the sand, soil, and grit particles out.

The flexible corrugated pipe retails at about $0.89 per foot, making it cheaper than the PVCs. The best thing about it is that it does not require corner fittings as it can bend on its own.

Its other perk is that it’s highly durable and can withstand both high and low temperatures.

Note: The industry standard for residential drainage is 4 inches regardless of the pipe you choose. However, there are sizes up to 18 inches meant for industrial uses.

Cost of Drain Tile

So, how much will it cost you to set up Drain Tile?

Well, the answer depends on several factors. This includes whether you will use a professional service or do it yourself.

Let’s look at them below:

Professional installation cost

Having a professional landscaper install a surface Drain Tile could cost you 10 – 30 US dollars/foot. But depending on the drain’s width and depth, it may average to about $25/foot.

That means that it can cost you approximately $750 to $1500+ to get a 30 – 50 feet installation.

Self-installation cost

If you are a Do-it-Yourself person, then you can do the installation alone. But this will mean that you have to know your way with tools like pickaxe, and hoes. This is because there’s a high involvement with digging trenches.

Also, as earlier explained, you may need to borrow a trencher, backhoe, or a compactor for the heavy lifting.

The good news is that the materials needed aren’t as expensive. These materials are also not so hard to work with.

To give you a sketch estimate:

  1. Buying crushed rock will cost you about $4 per square foot.
  2. Renting a compactor could be anything around $80 – 90 per day.
  3. Renting a trencher for half a day could cost you $80 – 110 on the higher side.

As you can see, it is a worthy one-time investment to secure your home long-term.


The cost could go higher ($2000 – 6000) if you need an interior drain tile. This happens when the wall-to-floor waterproofing sealers don’t get the job done.

If you need a sump pump basin in the mix, then you could face a cost of $9000 – 15000.

That is not forgetting a dry well installation. A dry well helps store water, allowing it to slowly seep into the soil without causing damage. DIYing one could cost you as low as $5 and as high as $400. If you get a professional, you may have to cough up to $5000 for the service.

Summary: Do you need Drain Tile?

If you notice runoff water keeps flooding your basement/crawl space, then you need Drain Tile. Acting quickly will help you prevent potential water damages to your property. Above all, it will help you maintain the integrity of your foundation during heavy rainfalls.

Also, if you get a corrugated pipe for your Drain Tile system, consider buying a covering sleeve. This will help hinder blockages on the pipe’s holes when silt or sand water runs atop it.

Finally, ensure that you scrutinize the material used and countercheck the credibility of a constructor if you decide to get professional help.

I hope this information helps you.


Having any thoughts you want to air? Feel free to share with me in the Comments Section below!

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