Problems With Buried Downspouts

What Are Downspouts and Why Are They Important?

A downspout is a vertical pipe that is typically attached to the side of a building and connected to the gutter system on the roof.

By guiding water away from the foundation through the gutters, they play a vital role in keeping your home safe by directing water to the right place and preventing problems like cracked foundations and damaged landscapes caused by excess moisture.

Burying a downspout involves digging a trench from the downspout outlet to a suitable drainage area, sloping the trench away from the house. Install a solid PVC or corrugated plastic pipe in the trench, connecting it securely to the downspout. Backfill the trench sometimes with gravel or crushed stone, compacting it to ensure stability.

This is a picture of a buried downspout to the side of a home by War Horse Gutters
This picture shows downspout extensions that are being buried and extended away from the property. War Horse Gutters

Problems With Buried Downspouts

Buried downspouts are becoming more common because they hide the pipes underground, making homes look nicer and keeping rainwater away from the house’s structure. This method is great for making the outside of your house look better and for reducing the risk of water damage, but below are the problems when it comes to burying them.

Buried downspout slope: We see this a lot with DIY projects, a downspout would be buried with a down angle slop, but somewhere in the middle, that slope goes up. This usually makes it impossible for water to travel down smoothly throughout the underground extension, and create small puddles within the downspout extension itself. When water stays anywhere, you can expect erosion, clogged up dirt, mold, pest to be build up in your gutter extension.

Clogging: One of the biggest issue is that things like leaves, dirt, and small sticks can get stuck in the pipes. This blockage stops water from moving down the gutter extension, causing it to back up and usually result in burst leaks.

Freezing: During the winter season in Houston, the water inside the pipes can sometimes freeze and expand. When it thaw out, there might be leaks that goes unnoticed.

Animal Intrusion: Buried downspouts can provide shelter and a pathway for small animals such as rodents, insects, or reptiles. These creatures may build nests, deposit debris, or cause damage to the pipes, exacerbating clogging issues and potentially compromising the drainage system’s effectiveness.

Hard to Fix: Unlike downspouts that are easy to see and get to, buried ones are harder to reach for regular cleaning or when they need to be fixed. You have to dig them up, which takes more time and money.

This is a picture of a clogged downspout, that was buried and now it's needing to be fixed. War Horse Gutters

How to Identify If You Have Buried Downspouts

Identifying whether you have buried downspouts can be tricky, but it’s important to know. One simple way is to check your gutter system from the top down. Look for the vertical pipes running along your house and follow them to the ground. If you see a bend where the pipe disappears underground, you might have a buried downspout.

Another clue is to watch for water pooling around your home’s base during heavy rain. If the water doesn’t drain away properly, it could mean you have buried downspouts.

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Signs that your downspout is causing an issue

Here are some signs that will tell you that there’s a buried downspout issue;

Soggy or Eroded Soil:

If the soil around the foundation feels consistently damp, spongy, or eroded, it could signify that water from a buried downspout is not draining properly. Soils might also be soggy along the gutter extensions, which means that there’s a leak.

Gutter Overflow or Backups:

 If you observe water overflowing from gutters or backups occurring during rainfall, it may indicate a blockage or malfunction in the downspout, including buried sections. Blockages can prevent proper water flow, leading to overflow in the gutters themselves and could put water weight pressure on your gutters. This pressure could be the cause of you needing gutter repairs.

Water Pooling Near the Foundation:

When water doesn’t drain away from the foundation like it should, it can start to soak into the soil around your home. This pooled water can be a problem because it can seep into your home, causing dampness and possibly even weakening the foundation of your house over time.

How to fix buried downspout Issues

Locating The buried downspout

If there’s no visible damage to the gutter drainage system, the initial step is to locate the underground downspout. One method is to stand where the downspout enters the ground and locate the exit point. Underground drains are typically installed in a straight line, so digging towards the exit point should reveal the pipe, attempting this method is a good start.

However, if the underground drain is deeply buried, alternative strategies are necessary. Two effective methods are:

Wire and Detector:

Run a wire with a metal attachment through the underground drainage system. If the wire encounters a clog, it indicates a likely damaged area. Use a metal detector to locate the attachment blocked by the clog, pinpointing where to start digging for repair.

Sound of Water Hose:

Insert a hose pipe into the underground drainage system. As the water flows, it should encounter a clog or other signs of a damaged pipe. Ensure the hose is turned on with sufficient force so the water flow can be heard from above ground. If available, one person can operate the hose while another listens for the sound to locate the pipe.

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Repairing Visible Ends

Begin by visually inspecting the visible ends of the underground downspout pipe for any damage. Look for cuts or areas needing repair. If damage is found, cut off the damaged section and repair it using appropriate tools. If repairing near the foundation, detach the bottom strap holding the downspout, and move it aside for easier access.

Underground repairs

Once you’ve identified the damaged area of the underground drainage pipe, you’ll need to start digging a work area. Ensure that the damaged section is exposed to prevent dirt from entering the drain during repair.

Repairing Inline Underground:

Repairing the middle of an underground pipe is more challenging than fixing the ends. The pipe cannot be easily moved, and it’s less flexible due to being buried. After creating enough space for repair, cut out the damaged section. For PVC pipes, use a replacement pipe of the exact same size and connect it using a rubber coupler, securely tightening them down.

Sometimes installing a new gutter extension might be faster than repair damage that is done in the middle.

Alternatives to Buried Downspouts

Redirecting water properly is crucial to avoid potential problems linked with buried downspouts. One of the key factors to think about is where you’ll direct the water. Below are a few ideas we see work that can replace buried downspouts;

Rain Garden:

A rain garden is a better choice than buried downspouts for a few reasons. First, it cleans water before it soaks into the ground, making it better for the environment.

Second, it prevents erosion and flooding by slowing down water flow. Also, it looks nice with different plants and flowers. Overall, a rain garden is a sustainable and attractive alternative to buried downspouts.

A picture of a rain garden, as an alternative of a buried downspout

Rain Barrels:

We can install rain barrels at the base of downspouts to collect rainwater runoff from the roof. The collected water can then be used for watering plants, gardens, or lawns, reducing the need for irrigation from other water sources. Rain barrels help conserve water and mitigate runoff.

Splash blocks

Splash blocks are one of the easier ways to guide pools of water away from the foundation of the home.  Although, you might not have a super long extension that can create a bigger distance from the side of the property and the block, you’re able to see directly where the water is going and won’t have to worry about underground buried downspouts.

This is a green splash block, it was posted to show that it can be an alternative of buried downspout. war horse gutters

How to Maintain Your Downspouts

Regular maintenance is key. Clear gutters, inspect downspouts for blockages and ensure water flows freely. Regular check-ups from professionals like War Horse Gutters can keep your system running smoothly, offering peace of mind even in the heaviest of downpours.

For downspout drainage ideas and solutions, trust War Horse Gutters to provide the expertise needed to manage your underground downspout and keep your home dry and comfortable.

At War Horse Gutters, we pride ourselves on providing comprehensive services – from thorough inspections and regular maintenance to the installation of advanced drainage systems that stand the test of time.

Our commitment to excellence means your home’s downspout issues will be resolved with precision and care. Don’t let water woes dampen your home and spirit. Reach out to War Horse Gutters now for a free consultation.


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