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5 Types of Basement Floor Drains (With Pictures)

Basement Floor Drains_Vladimir Subbotin_Shutterstock

The drain is usually located at the lowest point inside of a basement, and often beneath the floor. However, they can come in different forms and be placed in different areas, depending on the layout of your basement’s foundation.

A solid draining system is essential for your home and its foundation, as it keeps your basement floor dry and prevents it from flooding during periods of heavy rain or snow. It can also prevent flooding due to issues within the home such as a broken water heater, plumbing leaks, and bathtub overflows.

In this article, we’re going to cover the different options that you have for basement floor drains to help you decide which one may be best for your home.

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The 5 Types of Basement Floor Drains

1. French Drains

French drains are a great option when it comes to basement floors. This type of drainage system has a perforated pipe installed around the basement floors perimeter.

It’s similar to an exterior drain as it also is surrounded by gravel, which works to filter out sediment and dirt. As water gathers on the basement floor the pipe collects it and carries it several feet away to a sump pump. The water is then carried from the pump and removed from the foundation of the home.


Easy Install Process

These interior drains are usually less labor-intensive and disruptive to the home in terms of installation. French drains usually cost less money to install than exterior drainage systems and they last longer.

Easier To Maintain

The maintenance aspect is another factor worth considering when it comes to French drains. The pipe in these drains is readily accessible, which means that if it does become clogged, it’s pretty easy to unclog, as it’s not buried beneath the dirt.

Protected From Harsh Weather

These drains can also last longer, as they are not exposed to harsh weather conditions and elements, unlike exterior drains. You don’t have to worry about roots growing inside the system or them becoming riddled with issues because of soil or heavy rain conditions. Also, you can install these drains all year round.


Some Installs May Be Challenging

If you have a basement that has a lot of foundational posts or that is built on bedrock, installing a French drain may require more labor, which can increase installation prices. Also, if the contractors must dig around decks, walkways, gas pipes, or other obstructions, this can also cause the price of the project to rise.

Expensive To Re-grade

Keeping a French drain free of clogs is fairly easy, as it’s self-sustaining. But at some point, you’ll need to replace the pipe–which is usually every 10-15 years. Doing so won’t be cheap and can cause several thousand dollars. The contractors will need to dig up soil that has settled, which can be more challenging.

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2. Curtain Drains

Curtain drains are also located in the interior, beneath the basement’s slab. They are similar to French drains but they are installed about 2 feet beneath the slab. The trench for these drains is slightly sloped and filled with gravel to prevent flooding.

Like other drains, it contains a perforated pipe that carries water away from the foundation to a sump pump. The main difference from French drains is that curtain drains remove surface water, while French drains generally collect groundwater (though they do remove surface water as well). If your basement has issues with surface water (for example, during times of heavy rain) this may be an ideal solution.


Simple Installation

These drain lines are relatively easy to install and don’t require complex installation methods. You simply need gravel, a drainage pipe, and fasteners.


The main costs of installing this system are the excavation and removal of the dirt. So the larger your basement is, the more expensive it’ll be. However, it’s generally one of the least expensive drainage options.

Comprehensive Flood Prevention

Curtain drains are a simple solution that provides effective flooding prevention. They can run almost anywhere in a basement, and they don’t require complicated equipment or setups.


Can Get Expensive

If you have a basement that’s full of obstructions, a curtain drain can get expensive. Also, if you need a customized fit for the direction of the drain, this can get expensive.

May Need to Re-Grade

Like French drains, these pipes may need to be replaced at some point. That means the excavation of hard sediment and dirt, which can be expensive. Normally these drains last about 10-15 years, depending on your foundation’s makeup.

3. Exterior Drain Tile

These systems are installed on the exterior surface of the foundation. They work by moving the collected water and draining it into your sewer line. For this type of drain, contractors will dig a small trench around your home.

Depending on the makeup of the foundation, the job itself can get a bit laborious, particularly if there is a lot of bedrock rocky sediment in your home’s foundation. That being stated, this option is ideal for basements that are already finished, as it allows you to avoid having to re-do any work.


Pressure Relief

These drains help relieve pressure on walls and foundations.

Doesn’t Require Sump Pumps

You don’t need a sump pump for these drains, which can help save money and excavation costs.


Costs More Money

Due to the level of excavation required for these drains, they will typically result in higher construction costs than other options.

Can Get Messy

Excavation for these dreams can get a bit messy, which means a lot of home disruption during the project.

4. Interior Drain Tile

Interior drain tile systems are installed either beneath or above the concrete slab in the basement. They can also be installed right on the edge of the slab, so in many cases, the floor will need to be removed to install this type of drain.

These drains work by guiding water to a sump pump via a well. The pump then moves water to an exterior drainage system. It’s similar to a French drain, but its location and the output of the collected water are different. French drains are located just beneath the surface of the basement slab, whereas drain tiles are about 8-10 feet below the surface.

Also, while French drains collect water from low levels in the basement, drain tiles collect groundwater around the foundation and relieve hydrostatic pressure to prevent foundational damage, such as cracked flooring.


Provides A Comprehensive Solution

This system is commonly the go-to basement drainage system. It’s also easy to add a layer of waterproofing over interior drain tiles. It captures both wall and floor seepage for a complete flood-prevention basement option.

It’s Cheaper

Installing drainage to the exterior of a home is more expensive and requires more excavation. Also, interior tile drains last longer.

Protection From Elements

These drains don’t run into issues such as degradation due to salt, sediment, root system damage, or other problems related to outside elements.


Requires A Lot of Preparation

If your basement is finished, it’ll need to be completely gutted before you can install the grain. This means removing all flooring, furniture, and cabinetry, as well as the flooring slab where the drain will be installed.

Water May Seep Through

If water seeps through masonry, it can still cause the basement floor to flood during periods of heavy rain. This is why waterproofing methods may be recommended with this type of drainage solution.

5. Sump Pump

Sump Pump_Lost in the midwest_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Lost in the Midwest, Unsplash

Most homes have a sump pump in their basement, especially those located in the Midwest and eastern regions of the U.S. (areas prone to harsher winter conditions). Sump pumps are drainage systems that prevent basement flooding by draining groundwater from them via drainage pipes and an electric pump system.

The sump pump is installed in a pit that collects water. If your basement floods, the pump will immediately kick on to pump the water away from the foundation and out of the house, protecting it against water damage.


They Can Save You Money

A flooded basement can be a costly issue to deal with. Properly operating sump pumps prevent drenching rains from flooding the basement and turning it into a disaster zone.

They Auto-Activate

The sump pump will automatically switch on when there is heavy rain, melting snow, or some other increase in the water table around your house–unlike passive French drains and trench systems.

Easy Installation

Sump pumps are easy to install and only require excavation at the site of the pump, which is about 2-3 feet deep (the drainage pipe should already be established). You simply plug it in and let it sit on standby.


They Need Electricity

The sump pump will not work if the power goes out in a storm. This can leave your basement at risk of some serious flooding. Most battery backup pumps are inexpensive and simple to install, so it’s best to purchase one if you’re planning to install a sump pump.

They Need Maintenance

Regular maintenance is essential to maintain the sump pump and necessary to keep it free of clogs. Although the work is straightforward, you will need to have a contractor inspect the outlet pipes annually or semi-annually.

They’ll Require a Replacement

Sump pumps will usually need to be replaced about every 10 years–even high-quality pumps. Before getting a pump, inquire about the pump’s age, warranty, and installation requirements. This will give you an idea of what to expect in terms of its life expectancy and replacement steps.

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As you can see, you have a few options to consider when it comes to basement floor drains. The best drain for your home will depend on your home’s foundation and the current setup of your basement. Whatever you choose, be sure to budget for excavation costs, as it is usually the most expensive part of the project. A licensed contractor can help you decide which drainage system will work best for your home.

Featured Image Credit: Vladimir Subbotin, Shutterstock


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