Pipe and Stone: Old Technology and why it shouldn't be used for Interior Basement Waterproofing Drainage

As I’ve addressed in other posts there are many ways that basement-waterproofing systems can fail.

The General Problem with Pipe and Stone:
Pipe and Stone drainage systems fail because the technology doesn’t allow for specific things to happen. Pipe, PVC, iron or steel, copper or some other material tends to work best for plumbing. Plumbing requires a unidirectional liquid flow with rigid containment. This is so you get water coming out your sink tap and not onto your floor.

What were the advantages:
A Pipe allows for a great deal of liquid volume to rush through. The larger the pipe diameter, the larger the volume of water you can move. This is the theory in using it for basement waterproofing, transitioning from the original French drain tile or Roman stone channel. Companies would then bore holes into the sides of the pipes, typically ¼-1/2 inch in diameter. The pipe was then installed near the footer, seldom pitched to maintain directional flow, and surrounded with stones of various sizes to keep the pipe in place. Early designs left the stone open to the basement interior, to allow surface or wall water and leaks to seep through the stone to the pipe.

The original use of pipe and stone systems left gaps between the pipes in hopes of “generally” get the water flowing in the right direction. However, because water can’t think logically and “follow dotted lines” it jumps the gaps and finds its way back into the basement.

The next incarnation of pipe and stone connected the pipes, but because iron pipe elbows were awkward, seldom fit, and could shift easily, pipe were laid end to end in hopes, again, that the water would find the other drain.

1970 was upon us and other systems came around to bump the pipe and stone system slowly out of popularity.

The Problems with Pipe and Stone:

Back fill: With pipe and stone’s entry holes into the pipe you don’t have many options of backfill. Stone is typically it. However, with today’s companies, some are installing pipe and stone and using sand and dirt to back fill, and hold the pipe in place. Soil and sand allow for shifting and very easily can clog holes of ¼ - ½ inch in diameter. Drilled holes in the pipe make it easy for debris and for clay style soils to get caught and slowly clog the drain by blocking holes.

Curve: The logic is by using a curved pipe the water has less to stick too because a curve helps to reduce the amount of friction the liquid has to overcome in order to flow. By having a low point in a pipe and stone being the bottom of the pipe, the dirt and soil that does come in with the water will slowly settle to the bottom of the pipe. As the area inside the pipe diminishes, it covers the holes that allow the pipe to drain water and allow water to flow through the pipe. Eventual clogs can occur.

Mineral deposits: The standard modern pipe and stone is ether iron or a perforated black piping. The iron pipes can rust and possibly (this is in theory) increase the amount of food for iron bacteria to grow colonies. Iron bacteria can easily clog pipes and cause major problems through a waterproofing system. The perforated black pipe (which you can see at Home Depot in the plumbing isle) has little ridges which just help to speed up the sediment settling process which I just mentioned will clog a drain over time.

Corner Seepage: Most companies, even today, neglect to install corner connections on the pipes (called elbows) which still lead to 85% of pipe and stone system failures occurring in the corners of the basement.

With all the choices today for interior basement waterproofing pipe and stone technology is best to be left outside. It’s the perfect technology for large volumes (pipes being over a foot in diameter, public works, road drainage) where it can be publicly maintained by the town/city/state but for a homeowner it’s not the solution for your basement.

Related Reading and Links

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!

Businesses are changing, times are tough, but that doesn’t make abuse acceptable.

Here in the office we received a very disturbing phone call the other day. A kind woman recently got a pipe and stone system from another company for $9000.00, which failed this past week.

As a professional it wasn’t the fact that it was a obsolete basement waterproofing system that made me angry, it was the following tail of what happened to get to that point.

“The company” (which shall remain nameless; they already have enough complaints) sent a crew out to do the job like any business would. The foreman however started acting strange and became verbally abusive to the homeowner. This went on for so long that the homeowner got scared after being threatened and called the police. The police removed the foreman and the crew leaving the job unfinished.

Calling “the company” they set up for a crew to stop by the next day to finish the job. Lo-and-behold, it was the same crew, same foreman, and again the same thing happened.

I couldn’t believe it. How could any company continue to have on staff a man with a blatant inability to be civil? How could a company let the same guy go back to job a second time, which got him removed by authorities the first time?

She confessed on the phone that she should have come with Pioneer, but I couldn’t feel proud at that statement. There’s no excuse for any person in you invite into your home to become verbally abusive and “the company” should have reacted.

So we learn two sad things:

1.) Verbal abuse by anyone you let in your home is not socially acceptable, especially a service company.

2.) Anyone selling a pipe and stone system for $9000.00 is over charging you.

A pipe and stone system for $9000 should be build by hand-forged steel made in the bowels of a Hawaiian volcano. And knowing the install habits of this “company” I know for a fact there is no wall protection and they use sand for a backfill that will help clog the pipe. You’d be paying $9000.00 for a product that will fail, period.

I’ll detail why pipe and stone systems are obsolete, why they fail, and the design flaws with using them.