FAQ's

  • A French drain is typically a perforated pipe laid in a trench filled and surrounded by stone intended to collect water from one location and convey it to a desired location. French drains can be used to remove water from an area or to distribute water into an area, as with the septic system.

  • A downspout drain is usually part of a downspout drain system. This is typically a buried corrugated or PVC pipe system that is intended to carry water from the downspouts out to a desired location. They are sometimes referred to as drain tile because terracotta (tile) pipe used to be used for these systems.

  • A foundation drain, also referred to as footer drain or a curtain drain, is typically a French drain that is wrapped around along the footer of a basement or crawl space. The foundation drain pipe is typically routed either to a sump pump or out to daylight to discharge. French drains or channel type drains are often installed inside of a basement or crawl space as a last resort if the water cannot be kept out by other means or in cases where it would be cost prohibitive to stop the water from coming in. Good builders will often install French drains under basement floors during new construction as an added measure of protection to prevent water from reaching a level that will cause dampness in the basement.
  • Another type of foundation drain is a low Point drain. This is intended to give water in a crawl space a place to go in the event of a water line break or other flooding event.

  • Corrugated drainage pipe systems often clog in a couple of years. Water sits in the ridges and attracts roots through loose, leaky snap-together fittings. If you see water overflowing from your buried downspout pipe(s), it's probably time for a checkup and cleaning/ maintenance. A Drainage Specialist may need a plumbing camera, underground locating equipment and pipe cleaning equipment so that they can find the clog and clean it out.

  • If not maintained yearly, pipe ends often become buried or grown over. You may be able to find the end by simply running water into the drain and trying to find where it flows out. If you run a hose for 10 minutes in a pipe, that's close to 100 gallons of water with average water pressure. If the system is working properly, you should see about a hundred gallons of water come out the other end. Foundation drains can be tested the same way but you often need to dig down to the foundation  drain near the low point of the foundation to test it.

  • PVC pipe can be cleaned with a water jet or even a rotary blade type drain cleaning machine but it's rare to find root build up inside of PVC rainwater drainage pipe unless they were improperly installed. Roots are more apt to get into leaking sewer pipes since the roots are attracted to nutrients. If roots are very light, corrugated may be able to be cleaned but typically using anything stronger than a garden hose can damage corrugated pipe. Even a water jet pipe cleaner can damage/ tear through 4” corrugated pipe. 

  • One of the easiest ways to inspect your drainage system is to observe the inlets during a heavy rain - from inside through the windows if possible. It is often beneficial to go outside in a heavy rain with an umbrella [when it is safe to do so] so you can see if gutters are overflowing, if drains are overflowing and if water is collecting or standing around foundation.



  • At least once a year, it is important to make sure that water that goes into any point of a drainage system comes out where it is supposed to. It is important to make sure that the outlet ends of the drainage pipe are unobstructed. Surface drains are often higher maintenance. When they are in areas where they are likely to be clogged with debris, such as wooded areas, they should be checked more often including before and after big storms. 

  • Depending on where your surface drain is located, there are many different ways to minimize maintenance and reduce frequency of clogging. In some areas an atrium grate, which is a type of raised drain grate such as a dome or pyramid shape, can be used to help prevent clogging. Strategic plantings, metal or plastic screening or fencing and  strategic placement of rocks can also help filter out debris that would otherwise flow on top of a drain. 

  • In the case of gutters, increasing downspout sizes, gutter sizes or adding an additional downspout can prevent overflowing. 
  • There are many ways to increase the capacity of an existing buried downspout drainage system. One way is to switch from a corrugated outlet pipe to a PVC outlet pipe. 4” PVC has much less friction so it can handle one and a half times the amount of water compared to a 4” corrugated pipe. Another way is to better seal inlets so that water will build up in downspouts to create more pressure in the system which can nearly double the capacity. Yet another way is to add one or more additional outlet pipes to the system - In other words, if you have 6 downspouts tied into one 4” inch pipe, you could reroute half of those to a second 4” pipe and double the capacity of the system.

  • A French drain should have a clean out access point at the top end and ideally at least every 40 ft. If they do not have access clean-out points, then the drain system can be located and the access points can be installed. Once they're installed the system can easily be checked with a drain camera.

  • Any drainage system can be improved. The trick is to figure out if it is able to be improved cost-effectively enough compared to replacement. French drains typically lose effectiveness each year after they're installed. Filter Fabric and gravel become clogged. Soil begins to fill in and pack tightly on top of the drain which prevents water from getting down into the drain. French drains are often not installed deeply enough. French drains need to be installed at a depth sufficient to allow hydrostatic pressure to force the water into the drain. In clay soils, this depth is approximately 2 ft. deep otherwise, the drain will only dry out areas within a couple of feet of itself.

  • Roots attack corrugated systems because the ridges hold water and the snap together fittings allow roots in. PVC pipe, when installed properly typically allows nearly all of the water to run out the end. This leaves nothing but air in the pipe. Roots seek nutrients and water and since PVC fits tightly together we have not seen root issues in our PVC systems.  With French drain or American drain systems installed near aggressive root systems like Willows or River Birches we may use root deterrent products such as Bio-Barrier fabric which has a slow vapor release proven to cause roots to turn the other way for up to 40 years.

  • Despite all the bad press on corrugated pipe, old habits are hard to break. Most landscapers don't have warranties and most builder warranties only last a year. Homeowners often want to save money when building and most builders would rather install marble countertops than a premium, permanent drainage system. They also go by the code book which is heavily influenced by insurance companies that do not cover drainage problems. This means there is little guidance and accountability drainage is concerned.

  • A corrugated system might be cheaper up front but it gets much more expensive as it clogs and leaks and causes mold, undermining/ cracks in a foundation or a flooded basement. A PVC drainage system will cost around 15 - 20% more than a {temporary} corrugated system - not bad for a system that is about a hundred times better! PVC requires much less maintenance, does not leak around the foundation through snap-together fittings, does not clog with roots, does not depreciate (lasts over 100 years), and will not need to be replaced in as little as a few years like corrugated. 
  • Every project is unique depending on things like Landscaping, grass type, whether or not you have an irrigation system, whether or not we can use the machine or trench by hand and 100 other factors that make it very difficult to ballpark sight unseen but a PVC system on home with about 5 downspouts will typically run around $5,000.

  • Actually, the code book recently changed the term “waterproofing” to “damp-proofing” since it is not actually waterproof. Waterproofing, Or more accurately, damp proofing, depends on having a good drainage system. Waterproof coatings deteriorate over time and as soil dries out, shrinks and separates from the Foundation walls in dry seasons, it often pulls some of the waterproofing away with it. The quality of waterproofing often varies depending on what time of year the foundation was waterproof. For example, waterproofing is often installed when walls are wet, dirty, too cold or too hot, etc.  Builders typically don't have the luxury of waiting until the weather is ideal to install “waterproofing”.  
  • The American drain system however is not affected by the cleanliness or temperature of the walls since the waterproofing is actually happening an inch and a half away from the foundation wall. We say this is the only true waterproofing because the wet soil and the water never actually touches the foundation wall but instead is up against the drainage panel.

  • The cost to go from status quo water resistant to waterproof for new home construction will be about ~3.5% of the cost of the average home compared to a ~1.5% for a “water resistant” foundation. On waterproofing repair jobs, it may add about 20% to the combined labor and material cost.

  • Almost Never! We have had a 100% success rate at sufficiently improving situations to the point where it is not necessary to re-waterproof the foundation. We have, however, gone back on many homes that have been dug out and re-waterproof by other companies that are still leaking. So far, we have been able to stop these problems by improving the drainage.