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Downspouts Go Into Ground? What The Inspectors Have To Say

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases.

A downspout is there to make sure no water ever touches the structure of your building, whether it is a home, office, etc.

You will be able to run the downspouts both above the ground and underground in your home. 

However, many plumbers and building contractors emphasize the importance of downspouts going underground, rather than above ground.

But, if an above-ground and underground downspout do indeed achieve the same thing why is there such an importance placed on underground downspouts?

In this article, we will discuss the reasons for placing downspouts underground and see if there is any justification for placing so much importance on it.

Read on for more! 

Should Downspouts Be Buried? 

There are many advantages to burying your downspouts underground, but there are also many disadvantages, too. Let’s take a look at a few examples! 

The Advantages Of Underground Downspouts 

Underground Downspouts Maintain The Aesthetic Of Your Home 

An Above-ground downspout can be a very unpleasant sight.

You will be greeted every day by pipes running all over your lawn, and you will have to keep them in mind with every decision you make for your lawn for years, such as growing grass.

Also, if the pipes were to ever leak, then your lawn would suffer the consequences. 

So, if you are a property owner who likes the neat, green look of your lawn, then the invisible, underground downspouts would be perfect for you. 

Underground Downspouts Help With Uneven Terrain 

Trying to implement above-ground downspouts with an uneven terrain is nothing short of a nightmare.

The pipes will not sit in the correct way with an uneven landscape, which makes them less effective.

Meanwhile, the underground terrain is far more even, which makes implementing downspouts underground a lot easier. 

Underground Downspouts Work Well For High-Risk Households 

If you experience a lot of snow or rain where you live, then your home is considered to be high-risk.

Above-ground downspouts are not suitable for high-risk homes because they will not be able to withstand the excess runoff from snow and rain.

As solutions, they are merely stand-alone. 

Meanwhile, underground downspouts can work well with many other solutions, such as French drains, hydrophobic insulation, sump pumps, and sealants.

These work with the underground downspouts to contain any overflow and clear it away from the property. 

The Disadvantages Of Underground Downspouts 

Underground Downspouts Are Difficult To Service 

Because they are so inaccessible, underground downspouts are very hard to service.

So, the pipes are much more difficult to maintain, which can be a nightmare if you have an issue like a clog.

Meanwhile, if there are any clogging or maintenance issues with above-ground pipes, then these are much easier to maintain! 

Underground Downspouts Are Susceptible To Freezing 

When the temperatures are extreme, your underground downspouts can actually freeze over.

When this happens, the ice creates pressure on the downspouts and they become extremely vulnerable to breaking, bursting, and causing leakages. 

Above-ground downspouts are susceptible to freezing, too. However, it will take the ice much longer to thaw out on underground downspouts. 

So, it is clear that underground downspouts have both positives and drawbacks, but it seems the pros outweigh the cons, as the professionals have stated!

Where Do Underground Downspouts Go?

Where Do Underground Downspouts Go?

Underground downspouts will empty into a French drain. This will carry away the water from the property. 

So, it is important that the layout of the underground downspout system is perfect. When you are laying a buried downspout, you should aim to do the following: 

Map The Route 

It is important that you map a route for the pipes. This is important because this is how the pipes will move the water away from your property.

This should be decided before the pipes are purchased. 

You should try and look for a downward slope around your house to determine the route for the pipes. 

Call 811 

This is the number you call when you need to find out what kind of government utilities are running on your land.

You will need to mark this before doing the necessary digging for your pipes. 

This step is also mandatory. You will need to call in the professionals to visit your home before you can even begin the digging process.

This does not only apply to burying downspouts, but it also applies to installing fences, planting trees, etc. 

Digging The Trenches Correctly 

Next, you will need to dig the trenches correctly. The ideal depth of a trench for an underground downspout is 12 inches.

The ideal width of a trench for an underground downspout is 4 inches on either side. 

The pipe should be buried at 18 inches, which will ensure they are far, far away from the frost line. 

Inserting The Extension 

The extension will join the downspout and the French drain. When it comes to inserting the extension, it is best to use one that is plastic (but durable) and flexible.

Then, you should use waterproof tape or screws to join them together. 

The next thing you need to do is cover both the downspout extension and French drain until they are both buried.

Nobody will be able to tell there are downspouts underneath your lawn or years – which is exactly what you want!

Should My Gutter Downspout Touch The Ground?

No. The above-ground, gutter downspout (see also ‘How To Install A Gutter Downspout’) should not touch the yard.

Ideally, it should be placed in such a way that the water will flow seamlessly – ideally pitched at the base in the perfect angle that allows for this. 

The pitch should also be able to stop excess water from backing up and overflowing from the gutter. 

So, your downspout should not touch the ground.

In fact, it should be around 12 inches off the ground, which will provide the ideal space for you to pitch the extension at the perfect angle. 

What Do The Professionals Say?

Building Code Enforcement Inspectors act within their local city laws, which require all of their homeowners to comply with their codes in regards to downspouts. 

If you are unable to comply with the requirements, then you must ensure the downspouts clear into either your front or back yard.

Additionally, you need to use either 90 or 45-degree extensions, and your yard will preferably have a landscape bed or some grass.

Other extensions may be permitted, but this is dependent on the terrain your property has. 

It is against the law for any downspout to clear away water from your property onto the exterior wall of another property, including homes and other buildings. 

Inspectors will perform checks on properties to ensure they are complying with the city’s local laws.

If they are not, then you will be required to make the corrections, and re-arrange a visit with the inspector to perform another inspection of the property. 

You should always check to see what the laws are in your city or state. 

Final Thoughts 

The two types of downspouts function in exactly the same way and work to achieve the same goals.

However, professional plumbers and building contractors emphasize the importance of underground downspouts for properties.

This is because the benefits of having underground downspouts outweigh any drawbacks they might have. 

There are many rules you will need to comply with when it comes to installing downspouts, so it is always best to read guides and seek a professional opinion to ensure a smooth and successful downspout installation process. 

author avatar
Anthony Barnes
Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age


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