4 Types Of Floor Drains To Know

Water can enter your home when you least expect it - from a burst pipe or a laundry machine failure or even through the basement walls. When you have water in your home, a floor drain is a necessity to channel that water out of your home. But what type of floor drain should you have? For your convenience, we've pulled together a list of the types of floor drains and their uses.

Floor drains are either wastewater drains or groundwater drains. Wastewater drains bring the water into pipes that connect to the home's sewage system. Groundwater drains channel the water to pipes that bring the water outside of the house, often by way of a sump pump. The main types of floor drains include:

  • Box drains
  • Baseboard drains
  • Foundation drains
  • Interior perimeter or French drains

Nobody wants water in their basement or flooding their laundry room. Floor drains give the water someplace to go. Keep reading to learn more about each type of drain and to see how important floor drains are to the integrity of your home.

Shower drain and shower head in bathroom floor, 4 Types Of Floor Drains To Know

What is a floor drain used for?

The floor drain channels water out of your home either to the wastewater/sewage system or to a groundwater option that brings the water through pipes that take this water out of the home. Both floor drainage systems are better if the home is constructed or renovated so that the bathroom, utility room, and basement floors are gently sloping toward the floor drain or drains.

What are Floor Dains Connected To?

Floor drains are connected to pipes under the floor or in the walls which brings the water out of the house, sometimes through the sump pump, to the groundwater drain system or into the wastewater drain system.

Wastewater Drains

Wastewater drains take the water out of your home and into your sewage system. The floor drain, in this system, must have a trap to prevent sewage odors from entering your home. The trap may be a P-curve in the floor drain, which holds some water that prevents sewage odors from passing through the pipe. They also have a vent pipe that connects to all the bathrooms taking any odors up to the roof, or the side of the home, and outside.

In some bathrooms and utility rooms, the wastewater drain may have a trap with a water line that adds water when the water in the trap evaporates. This is called a trap primer and ensures that water can prevent the odors from getting into your home.

Advantages for using a wastewater drain system:

  • Many municipalities have required that home builders use separate piping so that human sewage does not mix with other wastewater. Both types of wastewater flow out of the house into underground piping that moves it away from the home.
  • When the outside ground is saturated with water, this drain system is unaffected.

Disadvantages for using a wastewater drain system:

  • Older municipalities allowed home builders the cheaper option of using one set of pipes for human sewage and other water. In heavy rain, too much water can overwhelm the municipality's sewage system, resulting in raw sewage backing up into your home.
  • It is costly to upgrade from a one-pipe system to a two-pipe system.

Here is a good video that shows how the wastewater drain system works in many homes:

Groundwater Drains

A groundwater drain channels the water from your home back outside into the soil further from the foundation. Since these drains do not connect to the sewage system, they do not need to be trapped or vented.

Advantages for Using a Groundwater Drain:

  • Groundwater drains take the water away from the house, keeping the soil nourished with water.
  • The home can use more affordable floor drains which do not require traps and trap primers.

Disadvantages for using a Groundwater Drain:

  • If the ground is saturated with water, the water from the groundwater drain may not drain properly.
  • Older pipes can crack over time from the freezing and thawing of the ground in northern climates as the ground heaves up and down. Or, tree roots can, over time, grow into the pipes clogging them with the roots themselves or the soil that enters through the cracks.
  • PVC pipes, in new home constructions, can also be affected by tree roots.

All About The 4 Specific Floor Drains

Box Drains

Shower drain and shower head in bathroom floor, 4 Types Of Floor Drains To Know

Box drains can be used in either wastewater drains or groundwater drain systems. Box drains are the most common kind of floor drains. They are either square or round with a grate over a box that can hold water beneath the floor until it can move through the pipes. Some have a basket to catch debris.

This is a popular box drain from Amazon with an easy clean grate.

Box Drains for the Shower

Most home showers use a box drain. These box drains need to be cleaned a couple of times a year or more because they will collect human hair and can get clogged. Shower box drains can be round, square, or rectangle.

Here is a brick-patterned rectangle shower drain on Amazon.

Baseboard Drains

Baseboard drains are often found in basements of older homes or in homes that have had flooding and needed more drainage options. These drains collect the water and channel it to a pipe inside the baseboard itself and out through a pipe out of the room often near a corner.

Baseboard drains can be added to floors without tearing up the floor to install piping. They can be easily added to spaces where there is no drain and are often inexpensive to install.

Since these drains sit on the existing floor, the water may not flow to them until the water has spread across the entire floor. Water can come up through the floor and get to the drywall before reaching the baseboard drain. Builders can install them to save money at the start, but they often do not save you money over the long haul of homeownership.

Foundation Drains

Foundation drains are an important part of new home construction that you will never see as these drains are under the foundation. These drains are special pipes that absorb water under the house and channel it to the pipe system for either the wastewater drain or the groundwater drain.

Interior Perimeter or French Drains 

Perimeter drains are dug or cut into the basement or ground floor that has water leaking into them. These drains run along the walls and channel the water to the sump pump for pumping out of the house.

Interior perimeter drains can be added to any ground floor and the sump pump is affected in moving the water. They are affordable as the piping is part of the drain itself. If they are installed during construction, the floor can be sloped to the perimeter drains.

Unfortunately, the concrete of the floor or foundation has to be cut. Cutting concrete creates a lot of dust and is difficult work. Adding perimeter drains can also be expensive.

Does a basement need a floor drain?

The basement needs floor drains. Water flows downward and can get into the basement if it is not waterproofed properly. Putting in a quality floor drain system with box drains and sloping floors to those drains will help any water that does get in have a place to go without touching the drywall. Drywall can be easily damaged by water.

Does a laundry room need a floor drain?

Laundry machines use water to clean the clothes. This water is connected by hoses going both into the washer and coming out of the washer. A floor drain makes sense as hoses, pipes, and connection fixtures can fail. If such a failure happens, it is better to give the water a drain to disappear into rather than pooling on the floor and damaging everything with which it comes into contact.

What is the difference between floor sinks and floor drains?

Washing machines sometimes drain into full-size sinks or into floor sinks which are made of porcelain or concrete down on the floor. Floor sinks connect to their own drain and are usually a foot long. Commerical restaurant appliances must have an air gap between their drains and the floor drains, so a floor sink is helpful. Floor sinks catch debris and keep it out of the pipes.

In Closing

Floor drains are essential to giving the water a place to go before it can cause damage to your home. Following your community's building codes will let you know whether you need a wastewater or groundwater drain system. By planning ahead, you can put in the best floor drains for functionality and for aesthetics.

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