You are inside your house watching the rain come down. You do not notice any water pouring over your gutters so it seems reasonable to think that your gutter system is working. Have you ever wondered where all of this water is going? Hopefully your gutter system is working and the water is being diverted away from your house and foundation. However, if the water ends up in an underground downspout or french drain, you may have problems that you cannot see until these underground drains are no longer working.
Basically the water flows from the roof, into the rain gutters, and then into the downspouts. These downspouts carry the water down and into a downspout extension or underground downspout. Both of these are designed to carry the water away from your home. Proper water management around the foundation of your home is essential for keeping the water from reaching your basement. If rain water is not being carried away from your home it can cause thousands of dollars in damage to your foundation, basement, siding, brick, and landscaping.
Many homeowners do not realize that their downspouts run into an underground downspout system or a french drain. These underground downspout drains can get clogged as easily as your gutters can with leaves and debris. Once they are clogged the rainwater will be forced to backup and come out near the foundation of your home, negating the effectiveness of your entire rain gutter system. Maintenance of these underground downspouts or french drains is therefore very important. French Drains can be installed in multiple configurations depending on the necessity of the project. During the gutter cleaning process it is critical to test the downspouts attached to the home as well as the underground downspouts to ensure that they are in good working order.
Let’s take a look at these underground downspouts or french drains. Underground downspouts can be made with clay pipe, plastic PVC, or perforated plastic pipe. The clay and plastic PVC is very smooth inside and debris travels through them very easily. The perforated plastic pipe tends to hold debris in the perforations. Plastic PVC pipe is a more expensive material but is stronger and allows the debris to flow easily through the pipe and out the other end. The clay or plastic PVC pipe with the smooth interior may be flushed out with a high pressure water hose if it gets clogged. French Drains, Swales, Slot trenching, & downspout extensions are all effective tools for lawn drainage which can prevent standing water, slippery surfaces, and mosquitoes.
Let’s take a look at the problems most common to underground drains. Most underground downspouts or french drains are installed by landscaping crews. Often times they use inexpensive perforated plastic pipe. The pipe is run underground, covered with landscaping weed control material, rock or mulch, and the end of the pipe is left buried underground with no place for the debris to flow. With no way for debris to flow out or to be cleaned out the system will eventually get clogged up. Once clogged the entire system may need to be dug up and reinstalled properly. This is more expensive than regular care and maintenance of your system.
There is a list of instructions on how to unclogged underground downspouts.
1. Try to remove any clogs at the top of the downspout first.
2. Find the connecting line where the spout that is above the ground connects with the spout that is underground. Open the spout along this joint using a screwdriver.
3. Attach a high pressure spray nozzle to your hose
4. Spray a high pressure jet spray of water through the drain spout, clearing it of any debris when possible.
5. Inspect the drain from the top and make sure all debris is removed. If you attempt to use a plumbers snake work the snake around, removing as much debris as possible. You do run the risk of the plumber’s snake damaging the pipe itself especially if it is a motorized snake.
6. Spray a high pressure spray down the underground portion of the drain spout. Spray for several minutes to flush any other debris into the sewage system if it is clogged it will back up at that time.
7. Reconnect the two pieces of the drain spout. Keep in mind, if the underground downspout was not installed correctly you may continue to have issues with it.
Another solution to the problem is an above ground downspout extension. These extensions are inexpensive but frequently get stepped on and crushed or kicked off or moved entirely. As long as they are attached to the downspout and allow water to flow through they are an easy way for water to be carried away from your foundation.
Underground downspouts work much better if clay or plastic PVC piping is used. The smooth interior of these materials does not hold debris but lets it flow through the system. It is important that the end of the underground downspout be left daylighted, or open. This allows the water and debris to leave the system. If an underground downspout system cannot be open on the end it will be best to run it into a tank with holes for the water to leach into the ground with a cover to access for cleaning. Underground downspouts do require regular maintenance. The best way to care for these systems is to have a professional gutter cleaning company test and take care of any issues with your underground downspouts during your routine gutter cleaning visits. A professional gutter cleaner will also be able to look at your underground system and determine if it was installed properly and whether or not it is protecting your home from water damage.