What is a Footing Drain? + Installation

Water poses a major threat to a building’s foundation since it can lead to mold growth, slab leaks, and erosion. The result is a weak foundation which also looks bad. If not protected by foundation drains like footing and French drains, it can lead to costly repairs in the long term.

The remedy to this is the construction of foundation drains, two of which are French drains and footing drains. Footing drains are exterior drainage systems that collect excess water to protect the foundation. They surround the entire foundation at the same level as its footing.

On the other hand, French drains cover just one side of the foundation, with the obvious choice being the side with the most runoff water. Both types of foundation drains help keep the foundation, the basement, and the building as a whole free from water damage. You coudl see basement floor cracks when you allow water to damage the foundation.

Footing drain cross-section

Footing drain uses

The main purpose of a footing drain is to collect and redirect water away from the foundation, helping to prevent water from seeping into the basement or causing damage to the structure. French drains also provide the same benefits to the foundation.

Here are some common uses and benefits of a footing drain:

1. Water Management

The primary function of a footing drain is to manage groundwater around the foundation. It helps to prevent the accumulation of water near the foundation walls.

2. Waterproofing the Foundation

By directing water away from the foundation, a footing drain contributes to the overall waterproofing of the structure. It helps to reduce the risk of water infiltration and moisture-related issues such as dampness, mold, and structural damage.

3. Foundation Protection

Excessive water around the foundation can exert hydrostatic pressure on the walls, leading to cracking or shifting of the foundation. A footing drain helps relieve this pressure by providing a path for water to escape, thus protecting the foundation from potential damage.

4. Drainage System Integration

A footing drain can be connected to a larger drainage system, such as a stormwater system or a sump pump, to manage water runoff from the property efficiently. This integration helps to prevent waterlogging and flooding in low-lying areas.

5. Long-Term Structural Stability

By controlling water accumulation and preventing damage to the foundation, a footing drain contributes to the long-term stability of the building. It helps to maintain the integrity of the structure and extend its lifespan.

Local building codes and regulations may dictate specific requirements for footing drains, including their design, installation, and maintenance. Always consult a qualified professional, such as a civil engineer or a contractor, for guidance tailored to your specific situation and local regulations.

Types of footing drain pipes

There are several types of pipes that can be used for footing drains, depending on the specific requirements and conditions of the project. They include the following:

1. Perforated PVC Pipe

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipes are a popular choice for footing drains. These pipes have evenly spaced holes or slots along the length of the pipe, allowing water to enter the pipe and be directed away from the foundation. They are lightweight, easy to handle, and resistant to corrosion.

2. Corrugated HDPE Pipe

HDPE (high-density polyethylene) pipes are another commonly used option for footing drains. Corrugated HDPE pipes have a corrugated exterior, providing structural strength while maintaining flexibility. These pipes are lightweight, durable, and resistant to chemicals and abrasion.

3. Clay Tile Pipe

Clay tile pipes have been used historically for footing drains, although their usage has diminished recently. Clay tile pipes are porous and allow water to seep through the pipe’s walls. They are typically more expensive and less durable compared to modern pipe materials.

4. Concrete Pipe

Concrete pipes can also be used for footing drains. These pipes are sturdy and provide excellent structural integrity. However, they are less commonly used due to their weight and the availability of lighter and more cost-effective options.

The choice of footing drain pipe will depend on factors such as the soil conditions, local regulations, budget, and the preferences of the engineer or contractor.

How to install a footing drain pipe

There are two major ways to install a footing drain depending on whether it discharges to a sump pit or daylight. They are as follows:

Footing drain that discharges to a sump pit

Installing a footing drain pipe that discharges to a sump pit involves several steps as follows:

  1. Determine the Location: Identify the area around the foundation where the footing drain will be installed. This typically involves excavating around the foundation’s perimeter, below the basement floor’s level.
  2. Excavate the Trench: Excavate a trench along the foundation wall where the footing drain will be placed. The trench should be wide enough to accommodate the pipe and allow for proper backfilling.
  3. Install the Perforated Pipe: Place a perforated pipe, such as PVC or HDPE, in the trench. Position the pipe with the perforations facing downward to allow water to enter the pipe. Ensure that the pipe slopes slightly downhill away from the foundation to facilitate water flow. Connect sections of the pipe using appropriate fittings or couplings. Secure the connections to prevent leaks.
  4. Add Bedding Material: Add a layer of coarse gravel or aggregate material around the pipe to provide a stable base and promote drainage. This bedding material helps to prevent the pipe from settling or clogging with soil.
  5. Backfill the Trench: Carefully backfill the trench with additional gravel or aggregate material. Compact the backfill material in layers to provide stability and avoid settling.
  6. Install the Sump Pit: Install a sump pit or basin in the desired location within the basement. The sump pit should be deep enough to accommodate the pump and allow for proper water collection.
  7. Connect to the Sump Pit: Connect the end of the footing drain pipe to the sump pit. Use a solid pipe to direct the water into the sump pit. Ensure a proper connection to prevent leaks.
  8. Install the Sump Pump: Install a sump pump inside the sump pit. The pump will automatically activate when water reaches a certain level, pumping the collected water out of the pit and away from the foundation.
  9. Test and Maintain: Once the installation is complete, test the system to ensure proper drainage and pump operation. Regularly maintain the system by inspecting the pipe, sump pit, and pump to ensure they are free from debris and in good working condition.

The specific installation process may vary depending on local building codes, soil conditions, and the requirements of your project. 

Discharges to daylight

Installing a footing drain pipe that discharges to daylight involves the following steps:

  1. Determine the Discharge Location: Identify a suitable location where the footing drain pipe can be directed to daylight. This location should be away from the foundation and have a proper slope for water drainage, just like in the sump pump case.
  2. Excavate the Trench: Dig a trench along the foundation wall where you will place the footing drain. Ensure it’s large enough for the pipe and backfilling.
  3. Lay the Perforated Pipe: Choose a good perforated pipe, such as PVC and HDPE, and place it in the trench. The perforations should face downwards for proper water collection. Also, ensure the pipe has a slope to facilitate the movement of water away from the foundation. Use couplings and fittings, then secure the connections to prevent leaks.
  4. Add Bedding Material: Add a layer of coarse gravel or aggregate material around the pipe to provide a stable base and promote drainage. This bedding material helps to prevent the pipe from settling or becoming clogged with soil.
  5. Backfill the Trench: Backfill the trench with more aggregate material or gravel. To avoid settling and provide stability, gently compact the backfill material in layers.
  6. Extend the Pipe: Extend the pipe beyond the foundation wall, directing it towards the desired daylight discharge location. Ensure the pipe is properly sloped to promote water flow.
  7. Prepare the Outlet: Excavate a trench or channel at the desired daylight discharge location. The trench should slope away from the pipe outlet and allow water to flow freely.
  8. Protect the Pipe: Install a protective sleeve, such as a PVC pipe or a corrugated drain tile, around the portion of the footing drain pipe that is exposed above ground. This sleeve will help protect the pipe from damage and prevent clogging.
  9. Connect to the Outlet: Connect the end of the footing drain pipe to the outlet trench or channel. Ensure a secure connection to prevent leaks.
  10. Test and Maintain: Run water through the system then check what happens. Ensure there are no leaks. To keep it in good shape, carry out regular maintenance.

Consult with local building codes and regulations before installing a footing drain that discharges to daylight. Additionally, consider the natural grade of the property, soil conditions, and local drainage requirements to determine the most appropriate discharge location. If needed, consult with a qualified professional, such as a contractor or plumber, for guidance tailored to your specific situation.

How to maintain a footing drain pipe

Your footing drain is only good when it can drain the water away. To prevent clogs and blockages, carry out the following measures:

  1. Regular Inspections: Periodically inspect the footing drain pipe for signs of damage, blockages, or leaks. Look for visible cracks, breaks, or loose connections. You can inspect the system annually or more frequently if you suspect any issues.
  2. Clear Debris: Remove debris, leaves, soil, or other materials that may accumulate around the opening or entrance of the footing drain pipe. This prevents blockages and ensures that water can flow freely into the pipe.
  3. Monitor the Water Flow: Observe the water flow from the footing drain pipe during rain events or when using a hose to simulate water flow. Ensure that water is flowing without backups or overflows.
  4. Clean or Flush the Pipe: If you notice reduced water flow or suspect a blockage, you may need to clean or flush the footing drain pipe. One method is to insert a garden hose with a high-pressure nozzle into the pipe and flush it with water. This can help dislodge any sediment or debris that may be obstructing the pipe.
  5. Maintain Downspouts and Gutters: Properly maintain and clean your downspouts and gutters to prevent debris and leaves from entering the footing drain system. Ensure that downspouts are directing water away from the foundation and not depositing it near the footing drain pipe.
  6. Address Foundation Grading Issues: Monitor the grading around the foundation of your property. Ensure that the soil slopes away from the foundation, directing water away from it. Proper grading helps reduce the amount of water that enters the footing drain system.
  7. Consult Professionals: If you notice significant issues, such as persistent clogging, leaks, or other concerns with the footing drain pipe, it’s best to consult with a qualified professional, such as a plumber or drainage specialist. They can provide expertise and guidance specific to your situation.

Remember to adhere to any local regulations and guidelines regarding footing drain maintenance and seek professional advice when necessary. Regular maintenance helps ensure the longevity and effectiveness of the footing drain system in managing groundwater around your foundation.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *