What is a Footing Drain?

A discussion about sump pumps must first start with footing drains. A footing drain or foundation drain is a system of perforated pipes beneath a basement foundation. The footing drain pipes are designed to keep groundwater from seeping into the basement. Up until about 1980 footing drains were allowed to connect to the sanitary sewer system.  Because sanitary sewers are usually deeper than basements, the sanitary sewer was useable as an outlet for footing drains.

However, the flow from footing drains can increase dramatically during rain events, and this wet weather flow from footing drains can overwhelm a sanitary sewer and cause sewage to backup into basements. For this reason, around 1980, building codes started to change. This change prohibited the connection of footing drains to sanitary sewers, and thus required the construction of a sump pump to collect the footing drain flow and discharge it to the surface or to a storm sewer.

What is a Sump Pump?

A sump pump removes water that is collected by footing drains and discharges it out of the basement and away from the structure. In homes built after about 1980 when the building codes changed, the footing drains are collected into a sump pit in the basement.  A sump pump in this pit then pumps the water from the footing drains out of the basement. Typical sump pumps are rated for about 0.25 – 0.50 horsepower and are capable of pumping 20 to 30 gallons per minute. These are small, low power pumps that are designed just for pumping the flow from footing drains. Sump pumps are usually connected to 1.5-inch or 2-inch pipes that discharge either to the surface or to a nearby storm sewer.

Sump Pump Information Resources from Ann Arbor, Michigan

The City of Ann Arbor, Michigan performed an extensive footing drain disconnection (FDD) project that removed about 2,000 footing drain connections from their sanitary sewer system. The program was very successful, removing around 70-80% of the wet weather inflow and infiltration from most of the districts where it was performed. As part of the program, the City developed some excellent resources for their residents about sump pumps. These resources include a series of information PDFs and videos about sump pumps on topics ranging from how your sump pump works, to operation and maintenance tips, to backup systems, and many other useful topics.  Below are links to several of the sump pump resources that the City produced.

Links to Sump Pump Videos:
Links to Useful Guides and Checklists (PDFs):

H2Ometrics Tools for Footing Drain Disconnection Programs

H2Ometrics has been used extensively to evaluate the effectiveness of footing drain disconnection programs and quantify the flow removal from these programs. The H2Ometrics platform contains many tools that are useful for evaluating flow data from sump pumps and footing drain disconnection programs. These include visualization and plotting tools to view the data collected by flow meters and rain gauges, metrics tools to perform analysis on flow meter and rain gauge data, meter correlations and other modeling tools to evaluate the flow removal from a footing drain program, and many other useful tools.