Image of weeping tile installation.

Weeping tiles, also known as French drains and perimeter drains, play a pivotal role in the management of water systems within any structure. Contrary to their name, weeping tiles are not constructed from tiles; instead, they predominantly consist of plastic or PVC pipes replete with tiny perforations or apertures distributed along their length. These pipes are conventionally buried underground, encompassing the entire perimeter of a building’s foundation.

Installing these systems is crucial because standing water in low-lying areas like basements and crawlspaces may cause problems like mold growth and structural deterioration.

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork with this comprehensive understanding of weeping tiles, we can delve into the intriguing evolution of the regulations governing their use.

When Did Weeping Tile Become Code?

The use of weeping tiles for drainage has been around for centuries. But when did it become a mandated part of building codes?

The Initial Introduction

Weeping tiles are similar to drainage methods used by ancient civilizations. For instance, the Romans installed an underground drainage system of clay pipes to handle flood control. These early drainage systems were critical in reducing the effects of flooding and other water-related disasters.

Modern weeping tile systems have evolved since antiquity. Modern weeping tiles are made of perforated plastic or PVC pipes and bordered by gravel or other drainage materials. These devices efficiently collect and divert water away from foundations to prevent moisture issues.

Standardization and Building Codes

The necessity for uniform drainage systems became apparent as urbanization and building techniques advanced. Since weeping tile systems effectively address and prevent foundation damage, basement flooding, and other moisture-related concerns, their broad adoption gained impetus in the 20th century.

By the middle of the twentieth century, weeping tile systems had gained widespread acceptance across much of North America. As a result of this discovery, proposals to include weeping tiles in regulatory building norms began to circulate.

Alberta’s Adoption

As urbanization and construction of new homes spread throughout Alberta and the rest of North America, so too did the demand for better drainage systems for building foundations. Weeping tiles became widely used in Alberta’s building industry in the second part of the twentieth century.

Alberta’s building codes were revised and updated at the time to reflect the industry’s shifting priorities. As a means of preventing water infiltration into foundations and lowering the danger of foundation damage and related difficulties, weeping tiles became an integral feature of these standards.

Benefits of Making Weeping Tile a Building Code

Installed weeping tile with water discharge.

Weeping tiles have several advantages for buildings of all kinds, and their use should be mandated in construction rules. Let’s look at why it’s a good idea to include weeping tiles in all building codes.

Protection Against Water Damage

Water can wreak havoc on buildings, necessitating expensive maintenance. Weeping tiles are built to effectively manage water around a building, protecting it from flooding.

  • Diverting Excess Water: Weeping tiles are a practical means of preventing water damage to a building’s basement or crawl space by channeling excess water away from the structure’s foundation;
  • Erosion Prevention: Weeping tiles protect against erosion because they divert water away from the building’s base, where it could otherwise weaken the soil;
  • Minimizing Hydrostatic Pressure: Cracks, leaks, and foundation damage can be avoided by using weeping tiles to prevent hydrostatic pressure from building up around the foundation.

Prevention of Mold Growth

The health effects of mold and the structural damage it causes are both important concerns. Mold can be avoided in a roundabout way thanks to weeping tile requirements in building rules.

  • Moisture Control: Weeping tiles can be used to control moisture levels in basements and crawl spaces because they divert water away from the foundation. Mold is inhibited by drier conditions;
  • Improved Indoor Air Quality: Indoor air quality is improved when mold spores, a common cause of poor air quality and respiratory problems, are eliminated. Weeping tiles contribute to a drier interior environment, lowering the likelihood of mold growth and the potential health problems it poses;
  • Preservation of Building Materials: Mold can cause deterioration in structural components like wood and drywall, so taking preventative measures is important. When it comes to protecting a building’s structural integrity, weeping tiles are invaluable.

Longevity of Structures

A structure’s durability is directly related to its resistance to the elements, particularly water penetration. Weeping tiles have a major impact on the durability of buildings:

  • Enhanced Durability: Weeping tiles reduce the amount of damage that rain and snow can do to a building, hence buildings with them tend to live longer;
  • Reduced Maintenance Costs: Save Money on Repairs and Upkeep: With fewer water-related problems, building owners can save money over the long run;
  • Increased Property Value: A structure with a history of water damage will certainly lose value. Including weeping tiles in required construction practices can help real estate values stay steady or rise.


The fact that weeping tile has made it all the way from its inception in ancient civilizations to being required by law in places like Alberta today is a tribute to its value. Why did weeping tile turn into a secret code? The response varies by location, but its widespread use shows the importance of preventing water damage to buildings. Weeping tiles are still important even as urbanization and infrastructure growth continue to increase.


What is the primary function of weeping tile?

The primary goal is to gather groundwater and channel it away from buildings’ footings.

When did weeping tile become code in most parts of North America?

Around the middle of the twentieth century, the use of weeping tiles was mandated by most jurisdictions’ construction codes.

When did weeping tile become code in Alberta?

In the second half of the twentieth century, weeping tile was incorporated into Alberta’s architectural codes, as it had been throughout much of North America.

Is weeping tile made out of actual tiles?

No, weeping tiles of the twenty-first century are typically made of plastic pipes with small holes, despite the name.

Why is it essential to have weeping tile as part of the building code?

As a result, buildings are better protected from water damage and mold growth, and they last longer.

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