What Is A Catch Basin? 13 Things (2024) You Need To Know

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 get 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 stormwater 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.

The primary purpose of a catch basin is to prevent flooding by collecting excess surface runoff from streets and properties.

It collects this excess water and diverts it to the sump, reservoir, or treatment facility.

Catch basins are most often found on the sides of streets or on private property that has poor drainage or experiences heavy rainfall.

2. How does a catch basin work?

A catch basin is intended to filter out large debris while collecting 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 residential catch basin designed?

A catch basin is normally installed under the home’s downspouts.

It contains two openings: an inlet grate and an outlet pipe.

The inlet grate catches water from the downspout while the outlet pipe moves the water toward a point further from the house or to the public storm sewer (if available).

The concept of a catch basin relies on the following ideas:

bulletThe outlet is slightly higher than the bottom of the catch basin.

bulletWhen discharge enters the catch basin, it naturally separates: solids sink to the bottom while scum and soap will float on top.

bulletWhen the water level gets high enough, it will exit out the outlet.

bulletIf the outlet has a small elbow or bend in it, then it will only allow “clean” liquid to migrate out to the sewer system.

bulletIf 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 a catch basin on your property, then you should follow these steps:

bulletObserve the exterior elements of your catch basin.

bulletVerify the lid is safe and intact.

bulletEnsure 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.

bulletReview 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.

bulletReview the interior of the catch basin.

bulletIdentify 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.

bulletReview the water level.

The inlet pipe from the home needs to be higher than the water level.

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?

Homes in wet climates, such as Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest, the Northeast and Florida are more likely to need a catch basin.

However, regardless of where you live, if pooling water is a problem on your property, you may benefit from a catch basin.

Check out #11 below to learn more.

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 dry well 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.

bulletPeriodically clean debris off the surface of the catch basin (the grate) as this will help to reduce the debris collected inside and prevent flooding.

bulletDo 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.

bulletThey 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.

bulletThey keep unpleasant odors from occurring due to flooding.

bulletThey stop bugs from being attracted to your yard due to flooding.

bulletThey protect your home’s foundation if your yard and driveway are not sloped away from the house.

bulletThey boost your home’s value.

bulletThey 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.

bulletThey can attract unwanted pests.

bulletThey can cause sinkholes.

bulletThey 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:

bulletDo you regularly see standing water on or near your property?

bulletDoes steel, concrete, or any other impermeable material edge your yard?

bulletDoes your grass remain saturated?

bulletAre parts of your lawn dead?

bulletDo certain parts of your yard smell bad?

bulletDo you notice an abnormally high number of insects, particularly mosquitos?

bulletIs your yard’s terrain sloped?

bulletDoes your water pool in your garage or basement after a heavy rainstorm?

bulletHave 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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Would you like to receive weekly emails with our latest blog/properties?

Subscribe Now

Erika Gokce Capital

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.


2 thoughts on “What Is A Catch Basin? 13 Things (2024) You Need To Know”

  1. Hello Erika,
    Thank you for this site. I called and left a message on your voicemail.

    I could use your suggestions for a storm water pond system that we would like to create for a park here in Honduras, Central America.

    Looking forward to hearing from you!


    • Hello Dana, sounds like an interesting project! Unfortunately, I don’t know if I can be of much help, but you can always shoot me an email (gokcecapital.com/subscribe).


Leave a Comment