Sump Pump vs. French Drain: Which Is the Better Option for Your Home?

Sump Pump vs. French Drain: Which Is the Better Option for Your Home?


Unless one lives in a city center dotted with multistoried apartments, basements are a reality in almost the entire length and width of the United States. Besides being an extra where things like heating, and other household appliances can be kept, this space is convenient to store stuff not immediately required in daily living. In place where hurricanes are a frequent occurrence, basements also turn out to be shelters when there is a possibility of the entire house being blown off its feet.  Being a hollowed recess below the home, it is obviously built below the plinth height and runs the risk of basement flooding be it during a sudden deluge or the result of a leak in the plumbing or when the ground below the basement has springs that get activated from time to time.

Given the situation, there are two things that can be done to keep the water out. Basement waterproofing the entire structure with chemicals so that water simply cannot enter the place and/ or have systems that drain the collected water. In the latter option, there are two options; one sump pump installation, two creating French drains.

The former is a mechanical device that has an electrical motor attached to a pump. When electricity is switched on the pump sucks out the water and dumps it through pipes into the right place which could be a municipal drainage or an open space that is deemed safe for such activities.

The latter, i.e., French drains are drains that are a mix of open passages and closed drain pipes that are laid in a manner to carry water likely to collect at designated places including pits.

In a sense, both these options aren’t really options but complement the working of the other given that both play different roles with very variedly different outcomes. The first i.e., sump pump installations are meant to play an active role in pumping water out and are most effective in an emergency situation when the quantity of accumulated water is way beyond what normal drains and pipes can carry. The second i.e., French drains are a defensive means of placing pipes and drains such that water that collects at designated spots drains out by gravity. French drains are the normal way of draining any water build-up with the sump pump switching on to complement it when the amount of water collected is way more than what a normal drain can carry. The best drainage solutions provider in NJ use an efficient mix of both the options to bring about efficient evacuation of water for effective water management and home improvement.

Advantages of a sump pump over French drain:

  1. A proactive step. The sump pump switches on in most cases automatically when the water reaches a predetermined height and quantity. Being fairly powerful it is an effective way of evacuating water and saving a structure from imminent harm. This kind of drainage cannot be provided by a French drain given that works in gravity and can help drain only limited quantity of water in normal circumstances. In times of flooding, there is no option but to switch on the sump pump.
  2. Ease of installation. With the center of action being near the pump itself, a sump pump can be installed at various locations in the basement to take care of any eventuality. Given its size, it does not need the kind of space that French drains need.
  3. Draining larger volumes of water. A sump pump being a mechanical device can suck water from difficult places and in large quantities, something a French drain can never.

Advantages French drain over a sump pump:

  1. A part of the normal drainage system: A French drain is always part of the basement and in most cases is taken into consideration right at the time of the construction. Being a part of the originally planned structure, it provides efficient service of draining water when the need arises. The same isn’t the case with sump pumps which in almost all cases are placed after the structure i.e., the basement and its drainage become an issue.
  2. No special structures to be put in place: French drains do not need any special structure or systems. In fact, its biggest USP is the complete absence of moving parts and the very absence of maintenance, something that can be the bane with sump pumps!

How do you make the choice between a sump pump and a French drain?

Making the choice between a sump pump and a French drain takes into account the following factors:

  1. a) The layout of the basement and its drainage: Where the basement has specific areas where water accumulates, installing a sump pump is the desired option. Water seeping from the foundation and sides on a continuous basis is best handled by a dedicated French drain.
  2. b) Water Table and Drainage Patterns: Reading the water table and its level vis-à-vis one’s property and premises, and natural drainage patterns could help determine the most appropriate solution at hand. If the surroundings have a high water-table, a French drain would be effective whereas places experiencing heavy rains could do with a sump pump.




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