While installing an exterior drain tile is a relatively uncomplicated do-it-yourself project, it involves quite a bit of manual labor or heavy machinery to complete digging and fill the trench you dig around your home. One way you can save money is to purchase the materials for the project yourself and hire a contractor to complete the labor. An exterior drain tile, also known as a french drain, consists of pvc pipe, a durable fabric, and plenty of rock. While you can use many types and sizes of rock for an exterior drain tile, if you know what to purchase, you can limit the need for future maintenance and pay the smallest amountpossible.
Understanding the Purpose of the Rock
The rock in the exterior drain tile provides a path for the water to run down until it hits the pipe. Drain tiles are meant to prevent moisture from the surrounding soil from entering your basement. They can also help with surface flooding, but that is not their main purpose. The idea is that water from the soil will reach the layer of rock, and because there are gaps and crevices in the rocks, the water will flow down towards the pipe you have installed and away from your home. Since the crushed rock is less dense than the compacted soil or the cement of your foundation, water from both sides should flow to the pipe.
Traditionally, french drains consisted of a trench filled with rock. There was no filter fabric or pipe. While a pipe ensures fast drainage during wet periods, properly selected rock could make an effective drain on its own.
Selecting the Type
Gravel, also known as crushed stone, comes in a variety of styles. It is important to select a washed gravel, which will be free of dirt, dust from the crushing process, and other particulates. This is to prevent clogs from forming in your pipe as dust and debris gets wet. You may also want round stone, as the round surfaces create more cracks for water to flow freely through.
If you live near an area where there was volcanic activity, you may be able to source cheap scoria. This is volcanic rock that is very light compared to gravel and has many holes within it. Because of the air trapped in the holes, scoria makes an excellent insulator. When installed around your basement, it can help regulate the temperature of your home throughout the year.
Selecting the Size
Crushed stone comes in a variety of sizes. You will need a size that is larger than the holes of your perforated pipe, so the rocks will not get lodged in the holes. 3/4" inch is a standard size, easily available, that should suit most people's needs. If you are concerned about debris getting into the drain or do not want to use a fabric barrier, you may choose to start with 3/4" close to the pipe and then use pea gravel around the sides and closer to the surface.
How Much Will You Need
Each project will need a different amount of gravel. The simplest way to determine how much gravel you will need is to measure the volume of your trench after it is dug and subtract the volume of your pipe. If you need to order your gravel in advance, you can estimate the depth and width of your drain and order a bit extra gravel to ensure that you have enough.
Tips for Installing the Rock
When you install your french drain, you should place a layer of rock at the bottom of your trench. After this layer, you will lay your filter fabric and then your pipe. All of this should be done with your largest rock. You should cover the pipe with at least 6" of your largest rock, after which you can switch to a smaller rock, if you wish.
Ordering your own rock can potentially give you more control over your exterior drain tile and save you money, but you should get a quote from a contractor to see if ordering yourself will be worth the extra effort. Visit http://www.rite-waywaterproofing.com to learn more about getting an exterior drain pipe for your home.
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