Sumps, French Drains, and Waterproofing: Oh My!

The sump pump and the French drain are cousins - but what's the difference? Can these tools stack to keep your basement dry?

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Waterproofing your home shouldn’t be a chore, but sorting through the different solutions like drainage systems can be trying. If you’re new to the field, learning the difference between a French drain and a sump pump can seem like it isn’t worth your time.

This, however, isn’t the case. Let’s break down the differences between these two waterproofing solutions so you know which you want to ask your local contractor more about.

Learning More About French Drains

Let’s start with the French drain. These drains protect the whole of your basement from flooding, no matter what the weather or time of year.

To install a French drain, the contractor you hire on will need to take the following steps:

  1. Excavate the interior of your basement, leaving at least one foot of clearance.
  2. Tap and bleed (or drill weep holes in) the walls to allow any existing water or moisture to drain out.
  3. Install slotted drainage pipe and covering the laid pipe with gravel.
  4. Re-cement your perimeter.
  5. Connect drainage pipes to a sump pump system to move water out of your home.

The installation process typically doesn’t take too long, but that doesn’t mean it’s one you want to DIY. If you’re not careful, you can accidentally compromise the structural integrity of your entire home while installing the piping your French drain needs. That’s all the more reason to leave the installation process to a professional.

Learning More About The Sump Pumps

There are pros to the French drain, of course, but how does a sump pump compare?

To install a sump pump, the contractor you hire on will need to take the following steps:

  • If applicable, lay drainage pipes near the perimeter of your home.
  • Find the spot in your home that collects the most water.
  • Drill weep holes around your sump pump’s base, if determined to be appropriate.
  • Test the sump pump’s float valve.
  • Dig out a spot for the sump pump pit and liner.
  • Install an interior filter to prevent silt and other obstacles from clogging the pump.
  • Set the sump pump inside the liner.
  • Connect the pump to drainage pipes.
  • Fill the hole with gravel.
  • Cover the gravel with a new layer of concrete.

A sump pump installation, as you can tell, can often look similar to a French drain installation. That said, what benefits does a sump pump bring to your home that a French drain doesn’t? For one, the sump pump actively works to pump water collected by the French drain system out of and away from the home.

While sump pumps rely on electricity, they will stop working if your home loses power. Instead of worrying about flooding you were trying to avoid in the first place, we recommend adding a trusted backup battery that will keep your sump pump system operating even during power outages.

No Need To Choose

Is there really one waterproofing solution that’s better than another? In terms of the sump pump versus French drain debate, it all depends. Your personal situation is going to impact what waterproofing solution works best in your home.

When in doubt, though, you can always talk to your contractor about a dual installation. Sump pumps and French drains, as you’ve seen, have similar installation processes. By connecting a sump pump to a French drain’s pipes and using the power of gravity as well as electricity, you double your home’s protection without losing the benefits of either solution. The interior French drain collects leaking water and directs it to the sump pump system so that it can be safely and effectively removed from your basement.

So: think a double-up may be right for your home? Reach out to one of the professional contractors working in the Baltimore area. After a free inspection and estimate, these professionals will be able to let you know which of their waterproofing solutions will suit your home best.

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