downspout-mImagine: you just moved into our first new home with all of our plans to redo the floors and walls and lighting. You already decided to begin work in the upstairs areas and work your way down, with your do-it-yourself construction beginning the next morning. You were just watching the rain come down outside when you took a step closer to the sliding glass door, and suddenly noticed that the carpeting was saturated with water that was leaking in from outside!

That’s a pretty bad thing to experience! A lot of times, homeowners discover that the problem actually lies in inadequate drainage. The gutters are not carrying the massive amount of rain water far enough away from the house.

In that situation, it is imperative that you fix the problem of poor drainage outside before you put new flooring down – you just have to. Go to your friendly neighborhood hardware store to buy the supplies you would need. If the original owners of the house had used all aluminum guttering with aluminum downspouts and aluminum extenders to direct the water away from the house, the redirect sections may have been flattened from years of being mowed over. Surface drainage is not the answer in that case, so you should look at installing an underground system. To begin with, you can step away from the traditional aluminum and investigate the new flexible vinyl products – they are much more resistant and will therefore last longer, while also being cheaper.

The extenders come with preset rivet location making it simple to attach the vinyl extender to existing aluminum elbows. A mechanical hand riveter will work wonders on a job like this. Once you have the materials you need, you can begin work to improve your drainage.


You can begin by attaching the new extensions to the existing elbows, if they fit. If you are concerned that the rivet holes provided in the extension pieces would not be enough, you can easily drill additional pilot holes to allow rivets all the way around, so no worries there. You can then dig the trenches, starting them about three feet away from the foundation of the house, extending in the direction you wanted the water to flow.

By starting your trench three feet away from the foundation, you avoid disturbing the vapor barrier, which helps to protect the foundation itself from water damage. It is always a good idea to contact your local utility service before digging in your yard, to ensure that you are not digging where your water lines or electric lines are buried. You should dig the trenches to a depth of no less than nine inches, accounting for the diameter of the flexible hose (usually about three inches).


This will give at least six inches of soil cover for the buried hose. While digging, it is essential to maintain a consistent grade with the trench. Remember, water flows downhill, so the hose must lie at an angle that tilts away from the house. A good rule of thumb is to maintain a slope away from the house that is no less than one inch per one foot of grade for a distance that is no less than eight feet.

For example, with a 25 inches buried hose, that would mean 24 inches down at the far end from the start of the hose. It’s easier when your yard has a natural slope – it meant that you will not have to dig that deep, but it’s no big deal if it doesn’t, either.

Afterwards, you can lay the flexible hose in the trench and test your work by running a hose at the top of the gutter hole. This will help you check the slope of the hose and identify any problem areas. When you’re finished with that, back fill the trench, making sure that the surface of the re-filled trench is slightly higher than the surrounding ground. The soil will naturally compact itself, so additional soil elevation will prevent dimples or holes from appearing. You should also tamp the soil once the trench is filled to prevent runoff and erosion.

The final step would typically be application of grass seed to the bare soil. You can take advantage of your digging by installing some of the cover plants you always intended to grow. Their presence immediately helped to disguise the green downspout extensions and to beautify a portion of your property, which is great if you were planning on improving anyway. Consider sprinkling some grass seed on the sections farthest from the house, where flowers, grasses, and shrubs are not planted.

Indeed, the whole process is pretty hard work if you do it yourself – digging the trenches and installing the plants within the same weekend can be very exhausting, but the results and benefits are well worth the efforts. In a few years, as the water is kept at bay and everything is alright, you’ll be looking back and remembering it as one of the better moments of your life.

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