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What are the Different Types of Drainage System?

Autumn Rivers
Updated May 17, 2024
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Water damage easily can destroy any building, which is why a drainage system usually is needed in almost every kind of structure. Whether the excess water originates in the building or comes from the surrounding landscape, it generally should be drained as soon as possible. Fortunately, there are several types of drainage systems to choose from depending on the circumstances, though they all mostly perform the same task. The most common kinds are the French drain, the downspout drain, and the slope type.

A French drain is one common type of drainage system that most often is found on flat land. It is made up of pipes that surround the structure and direct underground water away from both the foundation and any nearby landscaping. In most cases, it is necessary to dig several large, somewhat shallow holes to install this type of drainage system. Each drainage trench then needs to be filled with gravel. Some people can install this kind of drainage system on their own, mostly by renting the right equipment, but many landscaping companies offer this service.

Another kind of drainage system is a downspout drain which connects to the gutter system of a building and carries water away from the roof toward the ground. Downspout pipes can be rectangular or round, and mostly are made of aluminum, copper, or steel. The most common downspout pipes on houses are rectangular and white, though they often can be replaced to match the exterior décor of a home. No matter what color or shape they are, they should divert rain water not only toward the ground, but away from the foundation of a structure, as well.

Similar to the other types of drainage systems, the main job of a slope drain is to direct water away from a building and its landscaping. The primary method is to allow the water to follow a natural route down a slope. Typically, a pipe is installed and anchored to the small incline on which it sits. The pipe can be made out of metal, concrete, or plastic, and often is covered with a grate to prevent small animals or children from entering the area.

It usually is quite clear when there is a drainage issue. If there is no obvious flooding, the mildew smell that accompanies standing water usually gives it away, even if water is not visible. A slow leak also could cause an eventual issue, weakening the structure over time. The loss of structural integrity in a building, a strong mildew smell, mold, damage to the landscaping, and mosquitoes could be consequences of water damage when no proper drainage system is in place.

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Autumn Rivers
By Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for About Mechanics, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.
Discussion Comments
By popcorn — On Apr 30, 2011

@Drtroubles - You're right, it really saves time. Gutter guards have to be cleaned about every 18 months. It is recommended you do it after two days of back-to-back rain. It's easy, you just flush the gutter guard with a spray of water from a hose.

By wander — On Apr 28, 2011

@drtroubles - Thanks for the great information. It was recommended we clean our gutters a few times a year, in mid-fall and after all the leaves were off the trees. Plus, we'd were told to check again in spring to make sure no debris had accumulated from the melting snow. Hopefully some gutter guards will reduce our home maintenance load.

Does anyone know which is the best version of gutter guard?

I'd love to hear from people who had tried various versions before investing.

By drtroubles — On Apr 26, 2011

Our house has the gutter system that carries water away from the roof towards the ground. From experience, I can tell you that preventing drainage issues before they happen is very important, as the water damage can be very expensive to fix.

Getting some 'gutter guards' can save you a lot of time and money. You can buy the snap-in versions from your local home renovation store and they are quite cheap.

We have the mesh version at our house. It is basically like having an additional filter. It won't stop you from having to clean all together, but it does trap enough debris to make the job less frequent and easier.

There are a few other versions available. The reverse curve, bottle brush, nylon, and foam kind.

Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for About Mechanics, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.
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