I'm searching Chicago building codes for anything about drain tiles to be installed inside a home. http://dev.chicagocode.org/ is the site I'm using. They have a ton of material about the sump pumps, however I can't find anything about the drain tiles themselves, how deep, how far from the wall, etc. Something has to exist for this, I just can't find it. Does "drain tile" go by another name?

  • Are you trying to be code compliant, or are you looking for good advice/best practice from the code? Because if the former, and there is nothing, then don't worry about it. If the latter then also look at codes from other cities.
    – Ariel
    Jan 6, 2015 at 22:38
  • Could be called a "french drain."
    – iLikeDirt
    Jan 6, 2015 at 22:39
  • @Ariel I'm looking for both. I want to do it right and not get burned by an inspector :).
    – mj_
    Jan 6, 2015 at 22:59
  • @iLikeDirt I saw the french drain, however it sounded to me like it was dug from ground level and not in a basement.
    – mj_
    Jan 6, 2015 at 23:00
  • It might be called a perimeter drain.
    – Ariel
    Jan 7, 2015 at 1:06

1 Answer 1


The code seems to use the term "subsurface soil drainage", but I wasn't able to find any detail on subsurface drainage.

§ 18-29-712.3.2

Sump pit.

The sump pit shall be not less than 18 inches (457 mm) in diameter and 30 inches (762 mm) deep, unless otherwise approved. The pit shall be accessible and located such that all drainage flows into the pit by gravity. An approved sump pit or tank within a building receiving the discharge from sanitary drains, storm water or combined drains shall be constructed of steel, cast iron, reinforced concrete pipe or other approved materials. The sump or tank receiving the discharge from subsurface soil drainage shall be constructed of vitrified clay tile or any of the above materials. Approved plastic or fiberglass liners may be used in conjunction with any of the approved materials referenced above. The pit bottom shall be solid and provide permanent support for the pump. The sump pit shall be fitted with a gas-tight removable cover adequate to support anticipated loads in the area of use. The sump pit receiving sanitary flow shall be vented in accordance with Article 18-29-9.

I also searched for vitrified clay tile, but didn't come up with much.

I'm not sure how useful it is, but International Residential Code (IRC) has this to say.

International Residential Code 2012

Chapter 4 Foundations

Section R405 Foundation Drainage

R405.1 Concrete or masonry foundations. Drains shall be provided around all concrete or masonry foundations that retain earth and enclose habitable or usable spaces located below grade. Drainage tiles, gravel or crushed stone drains, perforated pipe or other approved systems or materials shall be installed at or below the area to be protected and shall discharge by gravity or mechanical means into an approved drainage system. Gravel or crushed stone drains shall extend at least 1 foot (305 mm) beyond the outside edge of the footing and 6 inches (152 mm) above the top of the footing and be covered with an approved filter membrane material. The top of open joints of drain tiles shall be protected with strips of building paper. Perforated drains shall be surrounded with an approved filter membrane or the filter membrane shall cover the washed gravel or crushed rock covering the drain. Drainage tiles or perforated pipe shall be placed on a minimum of 2 inches (51 mm) of washed gravel or crushed rock at least one sieve size larger than the tile joint opening or perforation and covered with not less than 6 inches (152 mm) of the same material.

Exception: A drainage system is not required when the foundation is installed on well-drained ground or sand-gravel mixture soils according to the Unified Soil Classification System, Group I Soils, as detailed in Table R405.1.

R405.1.1 Precast concrete foundation. Precast concrete walls that retain earth and enclose habitable or useable space located below-grade that rest on crushed stone footings shall have a perforated drainage pipe installed below the base of the wall on either the interior or exterior side of the wall, at least one foot (305 mm) beyond the edge of the wall. If the exterior drainage pipe is used, an approved filter membrane material shall cover the pipe. The drainage system shall discharge into an approved sewer system or to daylight.

I've found that most building departments are quite helpful, and enthusiastically provide information to inquisitive homeowners. Your best bet might be to contact your local building department, and see what information they can provide.

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