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Sump Pump vs. French Drain: Which is Better for Your Crawl Space?

Crawl Space Repair

05/10/2024

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Crawl space sump pumps and French drains are both features of a complete drainage system. Still, these two features are different from one another and help treat separate water-related issues. Choosing the right one depends on the crawl space drainage issue you face. However, the best approach is to have both components and allow them to work in conjunction.

Components of a French Drain?

Step one in understanding the difference between a French drain and other drainage features is to know its main components. The list below includes the features of a standard French drain:

  1. Trench: French drains are linear features that mainly consist of a long trench in the ground. This trench can exist within or outside your crawl space. French drains may also appear anywhere else on a property that requires improved drainage.
  2. Porous Material: After digging a long trench, the next step is to fill it with permeable materials. Crushed stone is often a top choice for this stage.
  3. Perforated Pipe: French drains won’t work unless there is a perforated pipe embedded in the porous material.

Basic Components of A French Drain System

How Does a French Drain Work?

A French drain can help manage water inside or outside a crawl space. Here is how that system works:

  1. The French drain trench intercepts groundwater in or around your crawl space.
  2. The water that enters the trench percolates through the porous material until it enters the perforated pipe.
  3. The perforated pipe collects the water and conveys it away from your crawl space into a sump pit or out of the area.

Components of a Crawl Space Sump Pump

Now that you know the main features of a French drain, use the list below to understand the primary parts of a crawl space sump pump:

  1. Sump Pit: Every sump pump has a sump pit. This pit rests within the floor of your crawl space and acts as a reservoir.
  2. Pump: Once the sump pit fills with water, the pump activates and pushes the water out of a discharge pipe.
  3. Discharge Pipe: This pipe moves water from the pump to a safe place outside the house.
  4. Valve: A check valve is an essential feature of a discharge pipe. These valves allow the water to move up the pipe while preventing it from falling down the pipe.
  5. Cover: Having a cover for your sump pit increases the aesthetics while trapping foul odors inside.
  6. Power Supply: The entire sump pump system depends on a power supply, typically your home’s electrical system.
  7. Battery Backup: When the power goes out, a battery backup ensures your pump remains functional.
  8. Float Switch: Within a sump pit, you’ll find a float switch that enables the pump to turn off and on automatically.

How Does a Sump Pump Work?

The functionality of a sump pump is relatively simple. Here is how one of these features will help improve water issues in a crawl space:

  1. The sump pit collects crawl space water directly from the floor or from a connection to another drainage system, such as a French drain.
  2. Water fills the sump pit until it reaches a certain level.
  3. When the water reaches a specific level, the pump activates.
  4. The pump pushes water up the discharge pipe.
  5. The discharge pipe conveys the water out of the home so it does not negatively affect the crawl space.

How Does A Sump Pump Work

When to Choose a Sump Pump vs. a French Drain

Sump pumps and French drains work best together. However, these features each treat different problems. Choosing the best one for you depends on your ability to recognize your drainage issue.

If you have standing water in your crawl space, a sump pump can help remove it. However, if you have a way to convey that water to an interior French drain, it can also relieve standing water issues.

An exterior French drain is a better option if you have groundwater issues outside your crawl space. An exterior French drain will collect groundwater and channel it toward a sump pump.

What Makes a Complete Crawl Space Drainage System?

As we have alluded to throughout this article, it is best to have a French drain and a sump pump that work together. Below is a complete list of the drainage features you’ll need if you want a complete system:

  1. Interior or exterior French drain
  2. Sump pump system
  3. Complete vapor barrier (i.e., encapsulation)
  4. Dehumidification

Crawl Space Drainage System

Indications that You Need a Better Crawl Space Drainage System

While it is helpful to know the differences between French drains and sump pumps, it’s also vital to understand the signs you have a crawl space water issue. Below are some indications that this is the case:

  1. Excessive Humidity: High relative humidity levels reveal a leak or drainage issue in your crawl space.
  2. Poor Air Quality: Higher moisture levels in the air lead to poor air quality in your crawl space and the rest of your home.
  3. Foul odors: High air moisture levels also lead to foul odors that can waft throughout your house.
  4. Standing water: Any time standing water is found in a crawl space, it is a sure sign your drainage system is failing to operate correctly.
  5. Mold and Mildew: Excessive moisture leads to larger growths of mold and mildew, which can affect your structures and human health.
  6. Water damage: Drainage issues often result in water damage to any stored items in a crawl space or the structures of a crawl space.
  7. Staining: When water arrives in a crawl space, it often leaves unsightly stains that are difficult to remove.

Find a Professional to Treat Your Crawl Space Drainage Issues

The best way to choose between a sump pump and a French drain and resolve any other crawl space issue is to hire a professional team. This team will quickly determine the ideal drainage system for your crawl space.

For those in the Eastern North Carolina, Triad, or Triangle area, the best crawl space team you can choose is Regional Foundation & Crawl Space Repair. We know the differences between drainage systems and can find the best solution for your crawl space. Contact us today to learn more.