3 Facts About Residential Exterior Drain Tiles

Building a new home can be an expensive process. Excavating and installing your foundation is often one of the costliest parts of any build, but this high cost comes with many benefits. Since your foundation is critical to your home's long-term stability and durability, a good foundation is one of the most important parts of the structure.

However, a good foundation consists of more than well-poured concrete and a good design. All concrete is porous and potentially vulnerable to water infiltration, which makes drainage and waterproofing a critical aspect of any foundation. Exterior drain tiles are essential to your new foundation's long-term durability, so here are three critical facts to know about these seemingly simple systems.

1. Drain Tiles Aren't Tiles

One of the most confusing parts about exterior drainage systems may be the word "tile." This term can often be confusing for homeowners, who assume that drainage tiles are grates or similar components that sit on the yard's surface. In reality, drainage tiles are subsurface drainage systems consisting of perforated pipes.

Why the name? The simple answer is that it's a historical artifact. Exterior drainage systems originally used modified roofing tiles, so the "drainage tile" terminology stuck around. If you're concerned about drainage "tiles" taking up space around your foundation, you can rest easy; these systems live completely belowground, remaining out of sight and out of mind.

2. Drain Tiles Protect Your Foundation

It's a common misconception that mold or moisture damage is the only concern with water entering a basement. While flooding can certainly cause these issues, there are larger concerns with water intrusion. If large amounts of water enter your basement, that's typically a sign of excessive hydrostatic pressure against your basement wall.

Hydrostatic pressure can be a huge problem for any foundation, even causing the foundation to shift or fail over time. Exterior drain tiles are better than simply waterproofing your basement because they allow water to flow away from the outside of the wall. As a result, the soil around your foundation remains dryer, and there's less hydrostatic pressure to threaten your home's structural integrity.

3. Drain Tiles Don't Work Alone

Exterior drain tiles are often critical parts of a basement waterproofing system, but they rarely work alone. Drain tile technicians install systems to deal with a certain amount of water, but it's possible for them to become overwhelmed. In these cases, hydrostatic pressure can build against your foundation wall, leading to leaks or more severe problems.

Whether you're building a new home or installing drain tiles in an existing home, it's important to ensure your drain tiles are part of a properly-engineered drainage system. Yard grading, interior waterproofing, and even the gutters on your roof can all contribute to proper water drainage and protection, forming a complete system to protect your foundation and home.