How Does a Weeping Tile Work?

Weeping tiles are used to drain water away from basements and foundations. Also called foundation drains, weeping tiles play an important role in keeping below-ground-level structures free of unwanted water. As part of an underground drainage system, they route water away from underground structures or, in some cases, flood-prone ball fields and farms.

How It Works

Drainage ditch

Each tile has a slit that runs lengthwise along one side. The tiles are buried slit up under gravel, pebbles or aggregate with a circumference larger than the tile's slit. The gravel keeps soil from clogging the tile and allows the tile to drain the water to a sewage system or drainage ditch.

Why Weeping Tile Needs to Be Flexible

After installation, weeping tile is buried beneath a layer of pebbles or gravel. As the ground shifts with the seasons and temperature changes, the tile needs to be flexible to accommodate the movement and retain its ability to function. Additionally, depending on the obstacles in the installation area and the shape of the building, the tubing may need to bend around impediments. Additionally, because it is flexible it won't be damaged by freezing and thawing.

Weeping Tile Material

Until the mid-1970's, drain pipes were made of fired clay. Plastic replaced the clay since the clay weeping tiles were inflexible and prone to shift and break, allowing dirt to clog the drainage system. Weeping tiles are not really tiles such as square, flat ceramic or stone tiles. Rather, they are often made of corrugated plastic such as high-density polyethylene tubing. Polyethylene weeping tile is durable and flexible.


Farm field

Not only is the weeping tile buried in a trench and covered in gravel or aggregate, one end must be higher than the other end to allow the water to drain in the intended direction. Sump pumps may help draw the water out of the end and send it into a drainage ditch or sewage drain.

When to Install

Any time standing water is an issue, a weeping tile system should be considered. Buildings and agricultural fields in flood-prone areas or where rainfall causes water to accumulate may benefit by adding a drainage system. The plastic weeping tiles are rustproof, durable and will not be damaged by soil pH. Since they are lightweight they are easy to install, even in hard-to-reach areas like remote farm acreage.

About the Author

After earning a master's degree in accounting, Caryn Colgan worked for more than eight years as a certified public accountant. Colgan was first published in 1984 in the Oil & Gas Tax Quarterly. Since then her articles have been published in Natural Awakenings, Pathfinder, Global Goddess and an assortment of online newspapers. Additionally, she wrote an award-winning book.