Underground Downspouts and French Drains
You are in your home looking out the window 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. While it looks like the rain gutters are working, where is all of this water going? If the water ends up in an underground downspout or french drain, you may have problems that you cannot see until these underground downspouts are no longer working.
The truth is that the water and debris flows from the roof, into the rain gutters, and then into the downspouts. These downspouts carry water down and out into the yard and away from your home. Where the downspouts divert the water to is a very important issue. Many homeowners do not realize that their downspouts run into an underground downspout system, sometimes called 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. Water damage can be extemely destructive to a home.
Maintenance of these underground downspouts or french drains is therefore very important. 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 closer 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 smooth inside and debris travels through them very easily. The perforated plastic pipe tends to hold debris in the perforations. Many people think a motorized plumber's snake can clean these pipes. All too often the snake will tear up the perforated plastic pipe. Plastic PVC pipe is a more expensive material but is stronger and allows the debris to flow more 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.
Let's now take a look at the problems most common with underground downspouts. 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 become clogged. Once clogged the entire system will either need to be cleaned or possibly even dug up and properly reinstalled. This can be much more expensive than preventative maintenance of your system.
Underground downspouts work much better if clay or plastic PVC piping is used. The smooth interior of these materials does not hold debris but rather 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 undergound 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. An alternative to the underground downspouts are the above ground downspout extensions.
Underground downspouts, as well as your entire gutter system, do require regular maintenace. 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. They will also be able to make any necessary repairs.
Denver Gutter Cleaning can help you with the maintenace of your underground downspout system.
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