"Green" tip: Channel water from your downspouts

Water run-off from your roof into your downspouts is an issue every homeowner has to contend with.  What is the best way to channel that water to a beneficial use instead of an unsightly problem area?

Common methods of handling downspout run-off
There are several common things many homeowners do to handle the water from their downspouts.  One is to just let the water run out of the downspout onto the ground, natural area or driveway.  This works, but oftentimes the water remains too close to the house foundation and can cause structural issues over time.

A slightly better way is to slide a piece of solid drainage pipe onto the downspout and let it set on top of the ground, channeling the water to another part of your yard.  This also works, but it is unsightly and is often a trip hazard since the pipe is laying loose on the surface of the yard.   During very heavy rains (when you need it the most), the force of the water coming down from the gutters can push the pipe off the downspout allowing the water to run close to the foundation once again.

Recommended way of handling downspout run-off
The recommended way of handling downspout run-off is not only the best working solution, it's also the nicest looking and longest lasting.  It has the added benefit of being straightforward and easy to install! It is something you can do yourself, although you may decide to hire a professional like WJ Holmes Waterproofing out of Weddington, NC to do it for you.  Either way, it's important to understand the process before you begin.

Obviously, the goal is to channel the water away from your house and back into your yard's water table.  We can accomplish that with a few simple drainage accessories in addition to 4" solid drainage pipe, all of which are available at Blue Max Materials:

1. A drainbox or catch basin
2. EZflow gravel free drainage system
3. Pop-up emitter

Drainage boxes commonly come in several sizes including a 9" and a 12" size – the size you select depends on the amount of roofline your downspout is handling.  The larger the roof area, the more water will be going down that downspout and the larger the drain box you will need!

Drainage boxes (catch basins) available from Oldcastle Drainage at Blue Max Materials.

These boxes allow water to flow into the box and then out through one or more of the drainage pipe holes.  The advantage to using a box like this is that you can periodically remove the top grate to clean out any debris that collects in the basin before it flows into your drain pipe and clogs it up.  For example, each time it rains, water coming off of your roof accumulates asphalt and dirt from your shingles and carries it down through your downspout and into your drainage system.  With the catch basin, this sediment settles in the bottom of the box where you can clean it out before it goes into your pipe, thus prolonging the life of your system.

Another advantage to the drain box is the variety of grates that are available to blend with just about any surrounding surface.  They offer a green plastic grate to match grass, a black plastic grate to match asphalt or dark colored surfaces as well as an atrium grate for use in areas where mulch is piled around the grate.  Additionally, there are powder coated metal grates that are designed to match concrete pavers or other hard surfaces.

Various grates by Oldcastle Drainage available at Blue Max Materials.

EZflow Gravel Free Drainage System
EZflow is a new "green" product specifically designed for dispersing water into the ground.  It is made of perforated pipe surrounded by Styrofoam packing "peanuts" encased in a cloth mesh that holds it all together.

EZflow takes the place of traditional drainage installations using perforated pipe, gravel and landscape fabric.  For any of you who have ever installed a french drain, EZflow is much easier and neater to install and requires no shoveling of rock!  You simply lay it in your trench, cover it with at least 6" of soil and you're done!  Water perks out the perforated pipe, through the "peanuts" and mesh and back into your water table.

EZflow Gravel Free French Drain System

EZflow comes in 10' long sections that can be cut down to any length.  They are so lightweight that one person can easily carry several of them at a time!

Another advantage of EZflow over traditional drainage installations using aggregate stone is the ease of maintaining a system.  After a period of five to seven years, any system is going to get clogged up from debris and need to be cleaned out or replaced.  With traditional rock systems, it's usually more effective to install a whole new system next to the old one because it's so much work to remove all the old rock and pipe.

With the EZflow system, you can remove the top layer of soil, pick up one end of the EZflow and pull it all out of the ground.  Then just lay a new piece of EZflow into the existing trench saving on time, money and destruction of your yard!

Pop-up emitters works by allowing flowing water pressure to open a top flapper to discharge water and then close to keep out pests.  The emitter allows water to be directed to specific destinations in your yard instead of scattering randomly.

Schematic of pop-up emitter by Oldcastle Drainage.

When your drain ends on the ground's surface, a free-flow emitter is the appropriate choice.  It performs the same function as a pop-up emitter by having a flap open to allow one-way water drainage out and then close to restrict access to the interior of the drainage system when water isn't running through it, thus keeping critters out of your pipes.  The difference is in where it is used; as you can see in the drawing below, it is ideal for running through curbing or similar edging or onto the yard at the edge of a slope.

Oldcastle Drainage's Free-flow drainage emitter shown installed in curbing.

Put it all together!

Using these products, the proper way to handle your downspout run-off can be installedin seven easy steps:

1. First, dig a trench approximately 14" wide, 20" deep and as long as you need it (usually at least 10' long) starting under your downspout and running at a slightly downhill slope into your yard.

2. Attach an adapter to the end of your downspout and slide on a short piece (about 2' – 3') of solid drainage pipe.

3. Insert the solid pipe into a drainage box and position the box under the downspout.  (Note:  alternatively, you can just have the water run directly from the downspout into the top of the drainage box through the grate.)

4. Attach another piece of solid pipe that is at least 2' – 3' long to the other end of the drain box to make sure the water is channeled far enough away from your foundation.

5. Using a drain pipe coupler, attach EZflow drainage pipe to your system.

The EZflow needs to be installed deep enough in the ground to allow 6" of soil to cover it.  Installed properly, the system is very strong, even able to handle vehicular traffic.

6. At the end of the system, attach a pop-up emitter of some type.  This handles any excess water that cannot be dispersed through the EZflow system.  It also provides a covering for your pipe to keep rodents and debris from clogging it up.

7. Fill in your trench making sure you have at least 6" of soil covering the EZflow.  You now have a system in place to channel your water back into your yard's water table.

For more information, contact Blue Max Materials at 704-821-2426 or on the web at www.bluemaxmaterials.com.