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5 Common Mistakes Made during DIY Exterior Drain Tile Installation

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When faced with a wet basement due to leaking foundation walls, you may not want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on professional repairs. However, trying to fix the problem on your own with a DIY exterior drain tile installation is all too likely to backfire unless you have plenty of excavation experience and own the right equipment. Watch out for these five common issues that pop up if you choose to go the DIY route so you can handle them like a professional.

Making Gravel Mistakes

Even after you manage to dig six to 10 feet down and create a suitable trench on the exterior of your foundation, you'll need to surround the drain pipe with the exact right type of gravel to refill that open space. Homeowners often let their trench drains clog immediately or within the first few months of use due to gravel mistakes like these:

  • Using a dirty mix with rock dust and tiny pebbles mixed in, which close off the gaps between pieces required for water drainage
  • Using finely crushed stone instead of large chunks around 1 1/2 inches in width, slowing down water infiltration
  • Using angular rock instead of rounded gravel, since the angles tend to lock together and close up the spaces.

Aside from choosing the right type of rock, you'll need to make sure you order enough. Leaving gaps by failing to pack the material into crevices and curves could result in a mudslide that compromises the stability of your home from the foundation up.

Forgetting the Foundation Walls

Installing an exterior drain tile will certainly help divert water away from your foundation, but it won't necessarily dry out your basement by itself. Professional drain installers back up the tile with reinforcements to the foundation wall while it's exposed for the scheduled installation. They cover the wall with epoxy coatings, waterproof barriers, and drainage boards, which is why the task is usually handled by a crew of two to six people.

Hitting Pipes and Cables

Both new and older homes are commonly surrounded by a complex and hard-to-find tangle of gas pipes, electrical wires, water and sewage pipes, and more buried below the surface of the soil. Hitting any of these buried hazards could cause thousands of dollars worth of damage or threaten the health of you and your family. Professional installers handle the hard work of contacting all the local utility companies to identify possible hazards, and they can follow up with underground imaging if the crew suspects there are more buried lines to find.

Installing Uneven Runs

Don't forget that you need an even downward slope on the pipe installed in the exterior tile trench to keep the water flowing smoothly away from the foundation. If you accidentally tilt one section of the perforated pipe up by a few inches, you'll create a leak point which saturates the area with water after a single rain storm. Keeping track of the slope is tricky over such a long run with a handheld spirit level, so the professionals turn to laser levels to quickly check for high points and unevenness.

Skipping Geotextiles

Do you have sandy soil? If your soil is full of fine particles, your exterior drain tile will become clogged every few months unless you wrap it with a geotextile fabric layer that lets water through while blocking sand and sediment. Also known as a filter or sock, this layer must wrap around all the gravel for the best results, not just the drain pipe. It's not too hard to keep the entire tube of fabric even and straight as you fill in the gravel, but you'll have to finish up by folding the fabric over the top with no gaps and hiding it under another thin layer of gravel.


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