Clogged gutter pipes underground

Clogged underground gutter drain pipes

Gutters are designed to divert water down and away from the foundation of your home.  Once the water is down to ground level, there are several ways to channel it away.  A simple as a plastic tray under the downspout is very common, or some type of corrugated tubing connected to the downspout to lead it away from the home.

Underground drain pipes are very common in many homes and the purpose of this article will be to discuss proper maintenance and care to avoid having them clog up in the future.  Additional information on possible solutions to unclogging them will also be provided.  

Most gutters have a decent size opening at the top, to which the downspout connects.  

A lot more than just water comes down through these openings.  Quite a bit of debris from your trees and roof makes its way down with the water.    Quite naturally, most people with underground drain pipes don’t spend their time thinking about what comes down the gutter downspouts.  Leaves, pine straw, shingle granules, small twigs and anything else that may land on your roof, will flow to the downspouts and into your underground drain pipes. 

Eventually, you are left with this:

The picture above was from one of our customers with a lot of pine trees around the home.  We caught this clog after only a year of her not having the gutters cleaned.  We were able to clean it out, but when we tried running water down the pipe, there was a still clog somewhere way down the line.

How underground drain pipes get clogged over time

Understandably, most people do not think about what is flowing down their gutter downspouts and into the ground.  It is just there and the only time you may notice it is when some sort of problem arises.  This debris coming from above sits in these drain pipes and will eventually compost into dirt, which becomes mud when it rains.  It just gets thicker over a period of time until it fills the pipe and clogs it completely. 

You can see the mud here on this pipe.    This was a product of a few years of neglect and the leaves, pine straw and twigs had turned to mud.  The water had nowhere to go and was creating large puddles in the corner area when it rained.  With every rain, water is making it’s way under and into the foundation.  

Tree Root intrusion into the pipes

An unseen problem can be damage caused by encroaching tree roots.  Roots seek out water and will not hesitate to break into the underground drain pipes.  Roots seek water and if there is the slightest leak in a seam or a crack, the roots will crush the pipes and make an entrance to get in.   Root intrusion into these pipes creates all kinds of clogging.  I don’t have any pictures but Google has a million pictures with roots invading underground pipes.  

Preventing and/or fixing clogged underground drain pripes

The cheapest method of preventing clogged underground pipes is maintenance.  Upkeep on your home does cost money.  We always like to say,  pay now to do the preventative maintenance or REALLY pay later to fix the problems.  When gutter maintenance is ignored, it can create problems that eventually get pretty expensive.

The best ways to maintain your gutter system:

  1. Regular gutter cleanings.  Either by you or have a professional gutter cleaning company do it.  This is the biggest money saver in the long run.  When your gutter system is flowing correctly, it is diverting water away from your home.  This prevents foundation problems like wet crawl spaces and basements.  Free flowing gutters also prevent a lot of wood damage to soffit and fascia areas around the roof areas.  
  2. Install some type of downspout filter to keep any big debris from getting in the underground pipes.  There are a bunch of them on the market.  Here are a couple of links for filter examples:  Here is a website   and hereand here .         

The ground level filters are a little more expensive to put in, but they can be cleaned out by homeowners.  The Filters that are installed up high, at the gutter level, work great but will clog up the gutters faster because they are keeping all the debris up in the gutters.  If you are not comfortable working with ladders, you may have to call you gutter cleaning contractor one or two more times a year to clean out the gutters.  

Fixing clogged underground drain pipes.  

Unclogging an underground drain pipe may be something you want to try yourself or possibly call in a professional drain cleaner who can give it a shot.  A big factor is the age of the pipes and how much debris has accumulated.  If the drains are older and there are a lot of mature trees close to the home, it may be a good possibility the roots are involved in the clogging.  

The least expensive method is to unhook the pipe and push a running garden hose down in it to see if it will do a quick unclogging.     Youtube also has lots of tutorial type videos on the subject of cleaning out clogged underground drain pipes.  

Some homeowners will have the original pipe dug up and new piping installed.  That can get expensive.

If you are a handy type, you can rent a drainpipe cleaner and give it a shot.  Something like this:

Or hire a company that has experience in cleaning out these type of pipes.  The older and more neglected the pipes, the bigger the job is going to be.  We see a lot of situations where the customer has just cut the pipe at ground level, abandoned it and installed an above ground pipe to solve the problem.  

You will notice lots of leaves still coming out of the new pipe.  This is what caused the clog in the original underground pipe over the years.  

The best remedy is to install some type of barrier that will keep the debris out of the pipes and make sure the pipe pathways are away from areas where tree roots can break in.  







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