Do you know what a catch basin is?
Most property owners don’t give their catch basins a second thought, which is troublesome given that these basins serve a critical stormwater management function.
In this blog, we’ll discuss the uses of a catch basin and everything you need to know as a landowner to yours in peak condition.
Let’s get started.
1. What is a catch basin?
A catch basin is essentially a storm drain that is used to redirect water away from a house and into the public sewer or drainage system.
The main purpose is to prevent flooding on public streets or private properties and to partially clean the storm water before it is discharged to the sewer.
Catch basins often collect rainwater, melted snow, or runoff and transport it to a sump, reservoir, or treatment facility.
Catch basins are common in homes built prior to 1960 located in the urban areas of the larger cities.
These homes will have a cast-iron lid on a large masonry bin that will separate the various contaminants in the residential sewer system.
The sewer system has a lot to do with why catch basins exist.
Older systems in have a single pipe system that includes both sanitary and storm sewers.
These sewers go through the same pipes to the same discharge location.
Modern communities and designs, on the other hand, utilize a two-pipe system, where the stormwater is in one pipe and the sanitary is in another.
The stormwater would discharge to an appropriate location like a river or a lake.
The sanitary terminates in some form of a sewage treatment facility.
Older treatment facilities did not have the capacity or design ability to fully treat substances like grease, lye, and phosphates that are created by residential storm water.
Thus, the catch basin helps catch some of these contaminates.
Modern treatment facilities can treat these elements, but a catch basin has been added to many to protect the system.
2. How does a catch basin work?
A catch basin is intended to filter out large debris while collecting water stormwater runoff and greywater from a house.
The water redirects to another reservoir, sump, or municipal water treatment service.
These concrete catch basins have both an inlet and outlet pipe that allows the water to exit the outlet pipe and drain to a suitable location when the basin reaches a certain level.
To keep out large debris, rain catch basins are covered with a heavy metal grate.
Most of this debris consists of sticks or leaves.
Sometimes trash can collect inside a catch basin as well.
3. How is a catch basin designed?
A catch basin is normally crafted from masonry, which could be brick, concrete block, or concrete rings.
It is constructed deep enough to be lower than the bottom of the sewer system in the street by a few feet.
There are at least two pipes installed through the walls of the basin.
One of these pipes is the inlet pipe from the home.
The second pipe is the outlet pipe toward the sewer.
Other pipes that may be connected to the basin include the downspouts from the gutters or yard drains.
The concept of a catch basin relies on the following ideas:
The laundry, floor drains, and kitchen sinks are the most likely origin of contaminated water.
The toilets and bathrooms will discharge directly into the sewer (NOT through a catch basin).
When discharge enters the catch basin, it naturally separates.
Solids sink to the bottom.
Scum and soap will float on top.
If the outlet has a small elbow or bend in it, then it will only allow “clean” liquid to migrate out to the sewer system.
If the water levels are allowed to become unbalanced or too high, then the system will not work properly.
If this occurs, then it’s probably because the scum layer is too high.
An older term — “muck bucket” — exists to refer to a small shovel or bucket on a pole that helps clean out the scum or other debris accumulated at the bottom of the basin.
The modern repair would have been equivalent to a sanitary vacuum truck that cleans out the system.
4. How is a catch basin inspected?
If you want to inspect your catch basin, then you should follow these steps:
Observe the exterior elements of your catch basin.
Verify the lid is safe and intact.
Ensure there are no cracks on or damage to the lid as this can be potentially dangerous.
Note that there are two types of lids.
One is suitable to be located in a driveway as it’s sturdy enough to be driven over.
The second lid is one for the yard or sidewalk.
Review and look around the line and concrete rings to ensure there are no cracks or displacement.
There should be no voids or cracks as this can lead to lid failures.
Voids and sinkholes around the lid can also be evidence of sidewall failure and erosion.
Review the interior of the catch basin.
Identify any visible structural deficiencies of the sidewalls such as visible distortions.
The basin is constructed in a reasonably cylindrical manner and any deviations should be noted.
Review the water level.
The inlet pipe from the home needs to be higher than the water level.
The inspector should have the ability to determine if the catch basin is still an active part of the sewer system or if it has been removed from the system and is now vacated.
To determine this yourself, turn on the water in the kitchen and laundry sinks.
The water should be visibly discharging into the catch basin.
If not, it is most likely vacated.
Make sure to operate the system long enough to verify the system.
If the water level is higher than the inlet pipe there is a strong possibility of backup or slow drains in the home.
The outlet pipe should be partially submerged in the water with the return underwater.
5. Do houses need a catch basin?
Most modern homes no longer require a catch basin.
Older homes will sometimes require these systems.
Check out #11 to see when you’d be in need of a catch basin.
6. How do you know if your catch basin is clogged?
There are a few signs that your storm drain is clogged.
One is water pooling around the surface of your storm drain.
This is because a clogged storm drain may cause the street or driveway to flood.
You may notice debris, plant matter, or ice covering the surface of the grate if this is the case.
Check your storm drain periodically to see if anything has been collected inside the basin.
If too much sediment collects at the bottom of the basin, then it will make the drain ineffective.
Once you notice that something isn’t draining properly, you can call a company to come out, inspect, and clean your catch basin.
7. What is a dry well?
A dry well is like a catch basin, but it has a few differences.
Instead of redirecting water to a municipal water treatment service or reservoir, a catch basin releases it into the surrounding soil.
Runoff is filtered through a layer of rocks or gravel inside or outside of the well before it goes back into the ground.
Dry wells may take in rainwater from gutters, or they may drain sump tanks and other greywater.
To install dry wells, dig a basin deep enough to saturate the necessary volume of water.
A perforated basin will be set inside the hole and then filled with gravel or rocks.
8. How do you maintain a catch basin?
If you want to clean or maintain your catch basin, we recommend consulting a professional.
They will have the best knowledge of what you should do for your specific basin and the condition it’s in.
That said, here are some tips you can use to keep your basin in the best shape possible.
Periodically clean debris off the surface of the catch basin (the grate) as this will help to reduce the debris collected inside and prevent flooding.
Do your best to make sure that only rainwater makes its way inside.
When having a professional help you maintain your catch basin, a vacuum truck or vacuum extractor is normally used.
A vacuum truck is a large vehicle with a big industrial vacuum on the truck bed.
If you’re located in an urban area, you may have seen this sort of truck sucking debris out of catch basins previously.
This type of service is best performed by a professional.
Here are the steps that are taken.
- The grate will be removed by a catch basin puller (like a crowbar).
- Large pieces of debris are removed.
- Sediment that has built up too high in the basin will be washed out.
- A powerful vacuum will be used to remove debris from inside the catch basin.
- Any leaks or cracks in the catch basin will be repaired.
- Cracked drain pipes should be removed and repaired by a specialist.
9. What are the benefits of having a catch basin in your home?
Catch basins are incredibly functional and can add value to your home.
Here are some of the benefits of having one on your property.
They protect your lawn and shelter other landscaping because they serve as a rainwater reservoir.
Stagnate rainwater can cause problems like soggy soil, which harms nearby plants and trees.
They keep unpleasant odors from occurring due to flooding.
They stop bugs from being attracted to your yard due to flooding.
They protect your home’s foundation if your yard and driveway are not sloped away from the house.
They boost your home’s value.
They can prevent your basement from flooding, which occurs if downspout water doesn’t drain away from the foundation properly.
10. What are the drawbacks?
While catch basins are largely helpful, they are not always necessary, and they do have a few disadvantages.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering a home with one.
They can attract unwanted pests.
They can cause sinkholes.
They can hold debris that can be discharged during heavy rainstorms.
11. When do you need a catch basin?
Ask yourself these questions if you’re considering installing a catch basin on your property or looking at houses that have an existing basin:
Do you regularly see standing water on or near your property?
Does steel, concrete, or any other impermeable material edge your yard?
Does your grass remain saturated?
Are parts of your lawn dead?
Do certain parts of your yard smell bad?
Do you notice an abnormally high number of insects, particularly mosquitos?
Is your yard’s terrain sloped?
Does your water pool in your garage or basement after a heavy rainstorm?
Have you noticed any mildew or mold on your home’s interior or exterior?
If you’re experiencing the above problems, then there’s a good chance that the situation could be improved (or even solved entirely) by an appropriately sized catch basin.
12. What kind of catch basin do I need?
If you’re considering installing a catch basin, the structure type, size, and other specifications will depend on the type and amount of water that it will receive.
For instance, a basin for a large parking lot will most likely be made of concrete and be located directly below the surface that drains to it.
13. How many catch basins do I need?
There’s no simple answer to this question either.
The number of catch basins that you’ll need ultimately depends on the peak flow rate of stormwater that your area experiences.
Additionally, other factors to consider are the slope of the property, the area of impermeable surface, and the average rainfall amounts in your region.
If you’re installing catch basins in a big parking lot located in a rainy climate, then you could need several.
We recommend working with an engineer to design your catch basin system and determine the optimal locations.
Hire a professional for all your catch basin needs.
While it may seem like a simple task, catch basins are typically deep, which makes cleaning and maintaining them both a disgusting and dangerous job.
Let a professional guide you for everything from installing the basins to maintaining your basins.
Additional ResourcesIf you are looking to buy affordable land, you can check out our Listings page. And before you buy land, make sure you check out Gokce Land Due Diligence Program. If you are looking to sell land, visit our page on how to Sell Your Land.
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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.