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Understanding Dry Well and Catch Basin Differences

When most people think about indoor plumbing, they tend to imagine sinks, showers, tubs, and toilets. But, every home plumbing system is connected to the world outside with incoming pipes and drainage systems. The drainage systems are very important, and there are two different approaches, dry wells, and catch basins. In some ways, these are similar systems, but they work in very different ways. In this article, we will take a closer look at catch wells and dry basins.

The Common Characteristics

Both dry wells and catch basins are systems that are designed to remove wastewater from the property. This is important to avoid seepage around the home that could lead to basement flooding, water damage, and even damage to the foundations of your home. If your drainage system isn’t working correctly, you may notice that your lawn is wet and soggy as the water reaches the surface. Both types of systems also have grates, pipes, and storage areas to hold the water as it’s released. Now we know the basic task that dry wells and catch basins perform, let’s take a look at how they are different.

How Does a Catch Basin Function?

In residential homes, a  catch basin is usually a one foot square box that is placed at the lowest point in the yard. At the top of the box, you will see a metal grate that is needed to prevent large pieces of debris from falling into the basin. When the water runs off the higher ground, it flows into the bottom of the catch basin. If there is any solid material in the water, it will settle at the bottom of the catch basin box. But, the water is diverted away from the basin into a pipe that leads to a nearby stream, river, or in cities a sewer system.

There are a few key benefits to having a catch basin. It’s an effective way to collect debris that could be moving around your yard. This material is prevented from entering the sewer system or a storm drain where it could cause a blockage. From an aesthetic perspective, a catch basin can improve the visual appeal of your home, and this will also increase the value.

There are a few catch basin disadvantages, and if you’re considering an installation, there are few things that you need to consider first. Firstly, if you have a catch basin, it will require maintenance. It will be necessary to lift the grate and clear out the sediment and debris from time to time. If a pipe that runs from the catch basin breaks, a sinkhole can be created, which needs a professional repair. A catch basin can hold a large volume of organic material that will be wet, and this can attract mosquitos as it dries. Finally, depending on the dimensions and slope of your yard, it may be necessary to install more than one catch basin.

In summary, if you’re thinking about a catch basin installation, it’s a great idea to get your local certified plumber to look at your plumbing system. A catch basin is a good solution if you have water drainage issues and/or a soggy yard. But, water can be hard to control, and selecting the right location for a catch basin to discharge the water is difficult without plumbing experience.

How Does a Dry Well Function?

A dry well removes the water from a variety of sources, such as gutters, roofs, septic tanks, paved surfaces, and plumbing fixtures located indoors. A dry well is simply a hole in the ground that has been reinforced with bricks, stone, or concrete. This hole is 6-8 feet deep and 4-10 feet wide, and it’s covered to prevent accidents. The surface of the dry well is porous, and the collected water from storms and run off seeps into the surrounding soil. The soil acts as a natural filtration system to release the water slowly and prevent flooding. A dry well is a good solution to prevent frequent flooding on lawns, and it can be used to supplement an existing septic system.

There are few disadvantages to consider before you decide on a dry well installation. During periods of very heavy rainfall, the system can be quickly overwhelmed if your home has a high water table. Dry wells can be backed-up by run off debris such as leaves, and it can be hard to clear this material.

Drainage Maintenance Issues

The debris caused by run off can create a lot of organic and inorganic material. This can make its way into a catch basin or dry well, and it can take a long time to dry. As the material dries, it tends to get a little smelly, and it can attract certain pests. If you’re ever in doubt about taking a look at your drainage, this is a good indicator that some clearing is required. If you have a catch basin, you can simply lift the grate and scoop out the material for disposal. Dry well clearing is trickier. It requires a professional plumber and specialized equipment. The sides of the dry well may need to be scraped clean, and water can be pumped into the system to clear any clogs that could prevent efficient drainage.

Do You Need Extra Drainage at Home?

If you’re used to seeing pools of standing water on your lawn, you need some extra water drainage. This is particularly true if the water is pooling near the foundations, where it can cause damage. Homeowners with sloping yards where run off can create streams of water will also benefit from a drainage system. But, which is the best for your home? As you can see, a dry well and catch basin perform the same basic function, but they work in different ways. Making this decision without professional help is a bad idea because there are many factors to consider. It’s advisable to speak with your local certified plumber before you make a final decision.

By Giovanni Longo President Flood Brothers Plumbing
Giovanni Longo is a 3rd generation master plumber who has been practicing his craft and trade in the greater Los Angeles area for well over a decade and a half. A plumbing and hydraulics-engineering innovator, Giovanni’s particular world-class expertise focuses on dealing with challenging sewer system designs as well as resolving complex commercial and residential draining issues. As a certified Flood Mitigation expert, he is also well versed in a wide variety of water damage and remediation solution.