Keep basements dry with downspout solutions

April showers may bring May flowers but can also cause foundation damage and puddles in the basement. If water isn't being directed away from the house and is gathering at the bottom of downspouts and leaking into the basement through the foundation, there are a few different ways to solve this common problem and avoid potentially costly repairs in the future.

The easiest least expensive solution is to attach an aluminum downspout extension that carries the water further away from the foundation and away from the basement. These extensions are available as a rigid straight pipe that matches the downspout, a flexible corrugated plastic extension that can be bent and directed to a more specific drainage area and rigid straight pipes with a hinge that allows the pipe to be raised for lawn mowing and grass trimming. The soil along the foundation should be sloped away from the house as well to keep water from becoming trapped and pooling against the foundation.

However, downspout extensions are primarily a functional solution and aren't very attractive. If curb appeal is just as much a priority as function, there are ways to combine function and appearance. One alternative to plain tubular extensions is setting splash blocks under the downspout to catch the water and guide it away from the house. Splash blocks are made from concrete, stone or colorful plastic. Other alternatives to aluminum downspout extensions are whimsical resin sculptures depicting, but not limited to, forest animals, fairies, dragons and gnomes.

A more decorative alternative to downspouts is the use of rain chains. Rain chains are an open-air water-directing solution that replaces a traditional downspout. They're more decorative than sturdy and are available in many styles and can be custom made or made at home by creative do-it-yourselfers. They hang from the gutter like a traditional downspout, but the water flows along the outside of the chain rather than the inside of a pipe where water eventually lands in a bucket, barrel or some other method of water collection to be distributed around the yard.

However, during heavy rain or windy weather a rain chain might not divert 100% of rainwater away from the siding or foundation. Water may still splash the siding and foundation and puddle and erode the surrounding landscape and eventually drain into the basement. Lee Wallender writing for says, "Rain chains place style over function. Nothing can be more effective for directing water than the fully enclosed tube of a conventional downspout." However, properly installed, secured at the bottom and directed toward further drainage or collection receptacles, rain chains can be both functional and ornamental. Another option to ensure water won't overload the rain chains is to temporarily reinstall traditional downspouts during rainy seasons.

Another way some homeowners keep rainwater from damaging the foundation and flooding the basement is by harvesting the rainwater for future use. Water is diverted from the downspout or rain chain to a rain barrel where it can eventually be used to water the lawn and garden. The Connecticut state portal has educational information regarding water harvesting: A resident's guide to rain barrels in Connecticut as well as Rhode Island also provides homeowners with information regarding the use of rain barrels.

Another creative solution that makes use of the rainwater and adds to curb appeal while directing rainwater away from the house is to build a downspout planter. The planter is built directly in front of the downspout where water is diverted from the downspout into the planter. The University of Connecticut Storm Runoff Reduction Plan describes a downspout planter: "A downspout planter is essentially a raised, decorative rain garden that is composed of gravel, soil and vegetation." This method won't collect all rainwater like a rain barrel will but will make use of much of it while also hiding a portion of the downspout while preventing water from seeping into the foundation.

Whether a simple solution such as an aluminum downspout extension is chosen or a more elaborate rain harvesting system is the preferred option, prevent April showers from seeping into the foundation before more costly and extensive repairs need to be made.


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