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If you are having water problems around your house or a building you own, it can be a very stressful situation. Maybe you’ve noticed water pooling around the perimeter of the building or that the basement walls are starting to show signs of moisture build up. Cracks or noticeable changes in the concrete foundation are a telltale sign that you need to take a closer look.

When you notice mystery puddles or damp walls, you might really start to panic with thoughts of major renovations or repairs, and the price tag that comes along with that.

But before you get ahead of yourself, it’s best to investigate. The problem might be with your drainage system, and the issue and the fix will depend on what kind of drain your house is using.

The two main kinds of drains are the French drain (weeping tile drains are a type of French drains) and the Trench drain. The main difference between them is that a French drain captures and removes water that has seeped into the ground, while trench drains remove surface water before it can saturate the ground.

Is one better than the other? Let’s take a closer look at each system.

French Drain System

The French drain was invented back in the 1800s and popularized in North America by Henry Flagg French. He was a busy man— as president of the Massachusetts Agricultural College, assistant secretary of the treasury, judge, lawyer, and agriculturalist.

The drain he developed begins with a trench containing a perforated pipe, which takes in ground water and redirects it away from the building. The trench is covered with rock or gravel. A weeping tile is a type of French drain, and protects a building from hydrostatic pressure. The pipe is usually installed much deeper in the ground in order to protect the foundation of a structure.

French drain repair

French drains are installed around the perimeter of the building’s exterior, or they are put in place underneath the basement floor in new builds. When heavy rainfall or snow melt begins, the moisture is drawn away from the property, rather than seeping into the walls and foundation.

Though new systems should be problem free for at least 10 years, it’s a good idea to perform regular inspections. Clogging can lead to flooded basements and other problems.

Trench Drain System

Trench drains, on the other hand, divert water away from the surface, usually over a long expanse. They are fairly basic, and mostly consist of a trench with a grate on top. They are often installed within a paved area, or around large-scale commercial buildings.

Since trench drains are above the surface, they are simple to maintain. They should also be inspected annually and cleared of any clogs or debris.

Neither drain is “better” than the other, they simply have different purposes. Your home likely has a French drain installed around the perimeter. If you own a commercial building, you may also have a trench drain system, especially around any paved area. Depending on the landscape you may need both!

In either case, if you have noticed any kind of moisture build up, the first thing you should do is call in drainage experts in order to do an Drain inspection, assessment and repairs. The problem may not be as bad as you imagine, but the sooner you deal with it, the better it will be.