Sump Pumps vs. French Drains – Which is Better?

    By entering your email address you agree to get a weekly email newsletter. We'll respect your privacy and unsubscribe at any time.
    Need Sump Pump Help? Call Our Nationwide Team At (888) 831-2879!

    Sump Pumps and French Drains are the most popular and effective home drainage methods. Both sump pumps and French drains offer different advantages and disadvantages.

    While both draining options are effective at keeping water out of the basement, it is vital to consider all your options so you don’t end up with a basement flood.

    In this article, our team will walk you through choosing between a sump pump and a french drain – and if your home needs both drainage options!

    Sump Pump Advantages vs French Drains

    Sump pumps offer a few key advantages over french drains. The biggest and most obvious advantage is the amount of water they can pump and drain.

    Zoeller M53 sump pump

    One of the best sump pumps on the market is the M53 Mighty Mate. It has a high flow rate thanks to its powerful motor and a cast iron build that will last many years.t – something that french drains can’t compete with! Read our full M53 review.

    Activates When Needed

    Another significant advantage that sump pumps offer over French drains is active draining. French drains are passive, which means there is nothing to ‘turn on’ during a heavy storm or flood. Sump pumps, on the other hand, activate as soon as the float rises. This means that as long as the pump can drain more water than can enter the pit, the basement will not flood.

    Additionally, french drains are suitable for draining small to medium amounts of water over time but do not handle large influxes of water during flash flooding. On the other hand, a basement sump pump can quickly take large inflows of water into the basement.

    By activating the pump on an ‘as needed’ basis when the water level starts to rise you can gain massive pumping power in the blink of fan eye.

    Pumping Uphill

    A third significant benefit sump pumps offer is the ability to pump water uphill. French drains work well when gravity is in their favor, and the water is flowing downhill but they are unable to remove water from a flooding basement.


    The final potential advantage is the installation time and costs. A sump pump can be installed in a few hours by a professional or someone handy with tools and a shovel. If you live in a major city, you can also likely hire a local plumber to do the job for you.

    Sump Pump Disadvantages vs French Drains

    In some situations sump pumps are not as good as French drains

    Passive Draining

    Unlike basement sump pumps, French drains offer passive draining instead of an on-and-off pump.

    These drain lines lay in the ground with a minor slope to use gravity to your advantage and drain water away from the basement.

    There is no motor or float switch to activate, water simply collects and drains naturally over time.

    Route Water Away From Home

    A well-designed system of French drains can route water away from your basement, keeping water from draining into your basement. By positioning a series of troughs the empty into city drainage or a more ideal part of your property, you can collect water as it falls and drain it away from your home.

    No Electrical Connection

    Sump pumps (except for water-powered sump pumps like the Zoeller 503) need electricity. That means they will not work if the power goes out in a large storm.

    French drains, on the other hand, are powered by gravity so as long as the drains remain unclogged water can always flow.

    No Mechanical Parts

    French drains do not contain mechanical or moving pieces. This makes them less likely to break or have problems than a sump pump.

    Pump pump relies on many moving parts and a powerful pump that can easily break if a pebble gets past the filter or just wears out over time!

    No Noise

    One of the most significant advantages that attract homeowners to French strains sometimes is that they do not make any noise. A sump pump can be loud, especially if you get a powerful pump.

    This can be an even bigger problem if the sump pump is directly under a bedroom and you have a thin floor. Sump pump basin covers can prevent some noise from keeping you awake all night. On the other hand, French drains make no noise, making them a good choice for sensitive sleepers.

    A well designed set of French drains can also help keep the noise down by allowing you to use a less powerful pump since less water is entering your basin.

    How to Pick between Sump Pumps and French Drains

    Next, we will help you pick between a sump pump and French drains. Each drainage option has pros and cons, so it is essential to consider both options before digging. Neither option is better or worse, but both systems have advantages.

    Sump pumps are better when you need high pumping capacity on demand. They come with a higher upfront and ongoing cost but are one of the most effective solutions to keep your basement from flooding.

    Homeowners should consider French drains if they have a large area of land, little access to power, or need to decrease the total gallons of water per hour required to be pumped out.

    Which is Better?

    One of the most common questions homeowners ask is which is better: a sump pump or French drains. Both options offer the ability to drain water and have advantages and disadvantages – if you still can’t pick, we recommend installing a sump pump. They offer more draining power and are more flexible.

    Related Posts
    French drain distance from house

    Need Sump Pump Help? Call (888) 831-2879

    Have a Sump Pump Question?

    Have a question about your Sump Pump? Call us at Nationwide at (888) 831-2879 or send it in and our team will lend you a hand!