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Arid Basement Waterproofing HAS BEEN Serving New Jersey and New York Since 1963

The Two Main Differences Between Basement Waterproofing Companies in the NJ/NY area.

Posted on August 1, 2014

A French drain is a French drain, right? Pipe, gravel, and a sump pump. If it was that simple, homeowners would have it easy. But when you look at the details, there are differences that are significant especially when you want to waterproof your basement ONCE and not have to do it again. After 25 years of driving around New Jersey and New York, going into people's basements, and knowing my competition, I've learned a lot about French drains and how they are installed. I'll attempt to break down the two main differences for you and explain it as simply as possible.

The first difference is whether the French drain trench is pitched to the sump or kept level to the footing. At Arid Basement Waterproofing, we feel a proper French drain should be on a gradual slope toward the sump pump. A lot of companies, either in their literature or per the salesperson, will state something about the footing. The footing is the solid concrete base where your foundation wall sits. Its depth, on average, is about 8-10 inches thick. Also, the footing is level, otherwise your house would be tilted. So when companies state that,"the trench is dug alongside the footing" or "the depth is equal to the depth of the footing" (I think you get the picture), it means their trench is flat, not pitched or sloped to the sump pump.

PE pipe entering sump at 8

PE pipe entering the sump at 8" deep

Also on the market is a system where a rectangle perforated pipe is installed ON the footing, which for sure tells you that the system is not pitched at all. The reason why companies would do this basically boils down to time, money, and simplicity. When they only dig adjacent to the footing around the perimeter of a basement, they simplify their system so that ANYONE could dig to the footing and lay pipe and gravel. They also minimize the debris dug up and hauled away versus a company who pitches the trench thus digging up a lot more debris. And that also means less gravel to fill in the flat trench, too. If you install hundreds of jobs a year, that is a lot of money. Lastly, they save time and money when only going to the footing because it's a quicker job and can get by with minimally skilled workers since it's straight forward. You need highly skilled laborers to make sure it's pitched especially when dealing with sewer and water lines under the floor as well as boulders and granite that might be under the basement floor.

The second difference is the pipe used in the trench. There are 2 main materials used in the New Jersey/New York area: PVC (poly vinyl chloride) or PE (polyethylene). PE also goes by its brand name: ADS pipe (Advanced Drainage Systems). PVC pipe is used by practically all plumbers today in new and old houses. It's non-biodegradable and very rigid so when you use it to go around the perimeter of a house, you have to use elbows to go around corners. You also need to male-female connect the pipes because they come in 10 foot lengths. These two factors make PVC pipe less desirable for companies to use because it's more of a pain in the neck to work with and it's more expensive (double the price per foot and you have to pay for each elbow used). PE pipe comes coiled up in 100 foot rolls (no elbows or connections needed).

PVC: rigid, straight   PE: flexible, coiled up

PVC: rigid, straight  PE: flexible, coiled up

The problem with it being coiled up is that when you install a French drain, it typically takes one day, maybe two. When you unravel the coiled pipe to lay it in the trench, the pipe wants to go back to its original state of being coiled up, so you get a snake-like effect (right to left) or a hills-and-valley effect (up and down) and you can't get the pipe straight as an arrow. Which stands to reason, most companies that use this PE pipe also dig the flat trench as stated above. I have yet, in my 25 years in NJ/NY, seen a pitched PE system. Every single time I see PE used as the French drain pipe, it is not pitched. I have also seen PVC not pitched as well. Just because you use PVC doesn't mean you have to pitch but it certainly makes it easier to slope it because it is rigid and straight.

To make sense of all of this, take a look at the guarantees given by companies that have been around a long time. There is one company out there that claims they "invented" waterproofing. They have been around since 1947 and they are like McDonald's in the sense that they are franchised. They do WAY more basements than a privately owned company in New Jersey since they have franchises across the United States. So with that in mind, their liability is huge, doing thousands of jobs a year versus hundreds. They install the PE/footing-level French drain and they give a 10 year guarantee. Now, they've been at this for almost 7 decades, so they know their 10-year periods and they don't give a day more with their guarantee. Arid Basement Waterproofing hasn't been around as long as this company but we've been at it for 51 years. In the days prior to PVC, we would give a limited guarantee (12 years and then, 20 years). But when PVC pipe became prevalent in the marketplace and we started to use it, we changed our guarantee to lifetime and haven't looked back. If you use material that will last a lifetime and pitch the trench, which constantly cleans out the pipe since water can't sit and clog it, there's no reason why you can't give a lifetime guarantee. You do it right the first time, you'll never have a problem again. With that said, there are many companies that install the PE/footing-level French drain systems and they give a 25 year or even a lifetime guarantee. How can that be? Well, there are no codes or guidelines for waterproofing in many states, especially New Jersey or New York. There's not even a basement waterproofing license. No such thing. We only have to have a home improvement license. So, it's a buyer beware situation when it comes to basement waterproofing. Know what you're getting yourself into and realize that a company could do essentially whatever they want. Ask yourself, "If I were to do this myself, would I pitch the trench or keep it flat? Would I use flexible pipe or rigid pipe that all plumbers use today?"

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