Drain Tile Inspection

definition of perimeter drain tile system: a piping system located next to the basement wall footing, designed to collect water in the ground next to the footing, and direct the water away from the footing.

definition of footing: formed structure, usually consisting of concrete, designed to carry the weight of structure above it.

definition of footing bleeders: sections of drain tile placed in the footing, creating a pathway way for water to flow from the outside drain tile system to the inside drain tile system.

Why get a drain tile inspection?

If your basement is showing signs of water or moisture problems; an interior drain tile inspection, or check, may be suggested or recommended. A drain tile inspection is a way to determine what type of interior drain tile system is present and to test how well it is currently functioning. A poorly functioning drain tile system can be a direct cause of water/moisture problems.

Other causes of water problems that are not associated with a drain tile include:

  • poor grading
  • plugged gutters
  • improperly extended or broken downspouts
  • sump pump discharge
  • cracked walls

If your house is up for sale and a home inspector sees signs of moisture in the basement, a drain tile check will often be recommended, even if the inspector suspects one or more other causes. This is primarily due to the time constraints of a realty transaction. Even though a quick fix of the grading or correcting downspouts may be all that's needed to avoid future moisture issues in the basement, a pending transaction can't wait to see if the quick fix will solve the problem. A drain tile check can be done in a couple of hours and quickly determine if the interior drain tile is a contributing factor.

Plywood Protection

How is an inspection done?

A drain tile inspection generally consists of opening up at least three holes in different parts of the basement to check the condition of the interior tile and how well it is functioning. The tile is visually inspected for standing water, mud or other deposits, and tree roots. A water hose is then inserted into the tile to check for blockages, flow and pitch. This is all assuming a perimeter drain tile system is found in the basement. A perimeter system consists of tile placed next to the footing, around the inside edge of the basement, and connecting into a sump crock with a pump that discharges water outside onto the lawn or into the storm sewer.

In some older homes, this is achieved by the drain tile directing the water through a palmer valve, generally at the floor drain. Other older homes may not have a perimeter system, but, rather, a web interior drain tile system. In a web system, interior tile runs directly from bleeders towards the floor drain where the tiles meet and connect to the side of the floor drain through a palmer valve. When drain tile is not found along the perimeter of the basement, typically an inspection hole is made near the floor drain at the anticipated junction point of these drain tile lines. This tile is then opened and visually inspected and a water hose is inserted in as many directions as possible in an attempt to detect possible deposits and blockages. It is difficult to adequately perform a drain tile test on a web drain tile system.

Other reasons to get an inspection

A drain tile inspection may also be suggested if steel reinforcing tubes are going to be installed with no other work being done. If tubes are installed and then drain tile is found to need replacing later, those posts would need to be taken down and replaced with longer posts that would extend all the way down to the footing. A drain tile check under these circumstances could be looked at as an assurance of peace of mind.

A drain tile - spud test is intended to determine if both the interior and exterior drain tile are functioning as well as some of the footing bleeders. To perform this test a pipe, or spud, is driven down to the level of the exterior drain tile. Water is then flushed through the spud in an effort to determine if the water makes it to the interior drain tile through the footing bleeders. This test is not always conclusive. Depending on soil conditions and other factors, water may never make it to the interior drain tile even if the drain tiles are working properly. In many cases, the unusual amount of water used, right next to the foundation for the test, may actually cause water seepage through the wall, that would not normally occur.

Things to watch out for

Just because the drain tiles are working does not mean you will have a dry basement. Water can enter the wall before it gets to the drain tile system. If the basement has a block wall, water can become trapped in the hollows of the wall and then seep into the basement.

Drain tile inspections are used by some companies as a sales tool. They suggest a drain tile check as a way of determining the problem. Part, or all, of the cost of the test is then offered off the price of a repair as enticement to sign a contract to work with them. First, determine what different options there are for repairing your particular problem. If the repair would involve replacing the interior drain tile no matter what condition it is in, there is no reason for spending good money on an interior drain tile check. Replacing the interior drain tile system in many cases is recommended not because the drain tile are hampered, but in conjunction with a bleeder system that drains water, that is trapped, in the block hollows to the drain tile.

To prevent unnecessary repair by some unscrupulous contractors, you may be better off consulting a company that does independent inspections. Another option is to hire a contractor to do the inspection and tell him the work will be placed with some other contractor to insure the independence of his inspection.

What we will do for you

I believe it is necessary for your foundation problems to be evaluated before a drain tile check is recommended. Basement Specialists Inc. can provide you with an honest assessment of your drain tile system. We are not considered an independent inspector because we also do any repairs that are necessary. But I hope you trust me enough to consider Basement Specialists Inc. for testing your drain tile system and any other repairs you may consider. If you would like, I can provide a free assessment of your foundation problem. If you would like an independent inspector, I would recommend a member of the Wisconsin Association of Foundation Repair Professionals (WAFRP).