Water Wise Tip: Disconnecting Your Downspout

Global Green Downspout Header Rainwater management tips from Global Green’s New Orleans Water Wise program*

One fairly simple water wise measure is to disconnect your downspouts from existing standpipes and let the water flow over landscaped areas or lawns.  Disconnection can be a low-maintenance option to help move water away from building foundations and allow it to soak into the ground.  By disconnecting your downspouts from pipes that take the water into a constructed stormwater system, your property will reduce demand on the stormwater pumping system and create opportunity for filtration.

Tools needed:

  1. Tape measure
  2. Hacksaw
  3. Drill
  4. Needle-nose pliers or crimpers
  5. Screwdriver

Overview of steps:Downspout 1

  1. Measuring and cutting the downspout
  2. Plugging any existing standpipe
  3. Attaching elbows over the downspout
  4. Measuring and attaching extensions and splash blocks to direct water to flow away from the house
  5. Securing the materials to existing structures

Step 1:

  • Measure the existing downspout from the top of the standpipe and mark it at about 9 inches above the standpipe. You may need to cut the downspout higher depending on the length of your extension.
  • Cut the existing downspout with a hacksaw at the mark. Remove the cut piece.

Downspout 2Step 2:

  • Plug or cap the standpipe using an in-pipe test plug or an over-the-pipe cap secured by a hose clamp.
  • DO NOT use concrete to seal your standpipe.

Step 3:

  • Attach the elbow. Be sure to attach the elbow OVER the downspout.
  • DO NOT insert the elbow up inside the downspout, or it will leak.
  • If the elbow does not fit over the downspout, use crimpers or needle-nose pliers to crimp the end of the cut downspout so it slides INSIDE the elbow.

Step 4:

  • Measure and cut the downspout extension to the desired length.
  • Attach the extension to the elbow by slipping the extension OVER the end of the elbow.
  • DO NOT install the extension inside the elbow, or it will leak.
  • The length of the extension will depend on site conditions and where you want to downspout to drain.
  • Downspouts must drain at least two feet from crawl spaces and concrete slabs.
  • The end of the downspout must be at least 5 feet from your property line, and possibly more if your yard slopes toward your neighbor’s house.

Downspout 3 Step 5:

  • Secure the pieces with sheet metal screws at each joint where the downspout, elbow, and extension connect. It helps to pre-drill holes for the screws.
  • Using a splash block at the end of the extension is optional, but it will help prevent soil erosion.

For additional steps and considerations when disconnecting downspouts, consult the full Joy of Water cookbook here.

*Information excerpted from Joy of Water: A Homeowner’s Cookbook to Becoming Water Wise, created by Water Works, in collaboration with Global Green USA, Dana Brown & Associates, Bayou Land RC&D, Longue Vue House & Gardens, and Louisiana Urban Stormwater Coalition, and was funded by the Greater New Orleans Foundation.

For more tips and info, follow @globalgreen on Twitter and check out our ongoing #WaterWise tweets!