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Downspout Drainage Options

Sharon O'Neil

There are a variety of options for handling water drainage from downspouts. The best option depends on the location of the home, local regulations and the needs of the homeowner. Water from downspouts can be diverted in ways that are attractive, practical and good for the environment.


Downspouts are pipes that carry rainwater runoff from the roof of a structure to the ground. They are usually attached to the end of a gutter system at a corner of a roof and extend downward. According to the Mid-America Regional Council, “each downspout on a house can drain approximately 12 gallons of water per minute during a one-inch rainfall.” This large amount of water entering the soil from one location can cause seepage and water damage to homes, foundations, crawl spaces and basements.

For homes built on well-drained, sandy soil, downspout drainage is usually not an issue. Homes built on heavy, clay-rich soil, however, need proper downspout drainage to avoid damage.

Drainage Options

Splash blocks can be used at the base of a downspout. Splash blocks are small, rectangular-shaped blocks that absorb the force of the rainwater exiting the downspout. They may be made of concrete, vinyl, or heavy-duty plastic. While a splash block does prevent the force of the water flow from eroding soil and making a puddle next to the foundation, it does little to divert a large amount of water from the home.

Another option is to divert the water further from the foundation with a pipe extension. A PVC or plastic pipe can be affixed to the end of the downspout. The extension can be above ground leading the water to flow away from the home or down an incline. Some homeowners opt to bury the pipe extension with the outlet draining farther from the home. With either option, care should be taken to avoid diverting the water to a neighboring property or to area with poor drainage. In some communities, downspout extensions can be hooked up to a storm water system.

The most environmentally-friendly option is to conserve downspout runoff in a rain barrel. Rain barrels usually consist of a 55-gallon drum with a hole in the top where the water from the downspout can enter and drain openings at the top and bottom. Each drain has a faucet and hose. The top drain is to be left open in case the barrel overflows. The bottom drain is opened as needed for water to run out the hose to irrigate the lawn or garden.