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What is a House Drain?

A house drain is the critical conduit in your home's plumbing system that carries waste water away from your residence to a municipal sewer or private septic system. It's the unsung hero ensuring hygiene and comfort in modern living. Ever wondered how this unseen infrastructure impacts your daily life? Join us as we explore the vital role of house drains.
M.R. Anglin
M.R. Anglin

A house drain is a horizontal pipe that receives the contents of soil and waste pipes. Such contents include soil, also known as toilet waste, toilet water, and water from sinks and tubs. The house drain is usually located in the basement, cellar, or underground and connects to the house sewer just outside the foundation. They are usually made of some type of iron, but copper can also be used. When underground, it is usually made out of extra heavy cast iron in order to avoid the effects that chemical reactions and decomposition can have on wrought iron pipes.

There are two main types of pipes in a house drainage system: sanitary pipes and storm drains. Sanitary pipes are those that carry soil and other domestic wastes away from their sources. The purpose for storm drains is to carry excess rainwater away from the home. Sometimes these drains are separate—the storm drain carrying wastewater to streams, lakes, or other such place, and the sanitary drains carrying waste to the house drain, then to the house sewer, and eventually to the public sewer. There are times, however, when these drains are combined and the waste and rainwater goes to the sewer.

The purpose for storm drains is to carry excess rainwater away from the home.
The purpose for storm drains is to carry excess rainwater away from the home.

When a home is built, one of the first things to be laid is the house drain. This is done by first planning out where the drains should be. After the plan is finished, the drains are laid. Sometimes this is done section by section, but at other times, sections of the pipe are connected and then laid together. It is important for a professional to include clean-out points in the design of the house drains. Clean-out points are accessible sections in the house drain—no more than 50 feet apart (about 15.24 m)—where a person can clear the pipe in case it gets clogged.

House drains commonly pass through the foundation wall before connecting to the house sewer. The way this drain passes through the foundation is important because if it is not done properly, should the foundation settles, it could crush the house drain. For this reason, the drain usually passes through a hole in the foundation wall which allows for space to be all around the pipe. When constructing the hole, a capstone is placed over the hole in order to provide some strength and stability. This way, the home owners will not have a stinky problem on their hands if or when the foundation settles.

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Discussion Comments


@talentryto- That is a tough question, because there are different types of storm drains. If yours has a clear opening, you might be able to put a stick inside of it and see if you can pull anything out, which could unclog the drain. Otherwise, you will probably have to call a repair person to help you get to the root of the problem. Debris may be stuck deep inside of it, and this could require special equipment to remove it.

Keep in mind that if you are in doubt whether or not there are electrical or gas lines close to your storm drain, you should not attempt to unclog it. It's best to leave this job to professionals if you aren't sure what is around your drain.


Does anyone have tips for cleaning out a blocked storm drain? Mine is close to several trees, and I think it is clogged with leaves. When it rains, water has started to pool in my yard instead of draining away from it.

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    • The purpose for storm drains is to carry excess rainwater away from the home.
      By: Pakhnyushchyy
      The purpose for storm drains is to carry excess rainwater away from the home.