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Installing Underground Downspouts In Our Chicago Front Yard

Today we’re talking through the simple installation of underground downspout extensions to keep water away from your home’s foundation.

Diverting rainwater away from a home’s foundation is a top priority, especially in wet climates. One of the best ways to keep water out of a basement or crawlspace is to move it as far away from the home as possible, though, long downspout extensions aren’t always possible. They make mowing a pain and aren’t exactly the most attractive thing in the world. Enter the UnderGround Downspout Extension kit from Downspouts.com, an inexpensive solution that keeps roof water away from your home’s foundation. Friends, we’ve reached peak ‘adulting,’ because we couldn’t be more excited to share this with you today!

This post is sponsored by our friends at Downspouts.com, a family-owned business based in Minnesota offering innovative products to keep water away from homes. Use promo code YBH10 at checkout to receive 10% off an Underground Downspout kit through 9/30!

This is our Chicago front yard, small and mighty! See the downspout on the side of the home extending into the garden bed and beyond? We have big plans to fully landscape this lawn in the coming weeks, and installing Underground Downspouts was the first item we wanted to check off our list.

The 'before' photo of our Chicago front yard.

How Do Underground Downspouts Work?

During rain, rainwater will drain through your home’s gutters as usual, but instead of flowing freely from the bottom of your downspouts, it will first run through the Underground Downspout’s debris filter. The rainwater will continue underground through the PVC pipes that are ever-so-slightly sloped to prevent stagnant water. As the bubbler pot fills, the lid will raise to release the rainwater. If the pot doesn’t fill, it will drain from the bottom of the pot into the earth. This infographic breaks it down really well, if you’d like to see!

Tools + Supplies Used (per Underground Downspout)

  • 4-inch solid thinwall PVC pipe (at least 10 feet)
  • 4-inch 90-degree PVC elbow
  • Tin snips
  • Shovels for digging a long trench
  • Gravel for drainage

The installation process was very straightforward and detailed instructions were included in the kit. This is how it all came together in our yard:

1 | Map Out Location + Dig Trench

The first step in the installation process was to disconnect the old downspout extension to give ourselves more room to work. As we’ve mentioned before and can be seen above, our front yard is tiny so we needed all the space we could get! Depending on how your downspouts are connected, you may want to use tin snips to cut the downspout with a 45-degree angle, 10-20″ above the ground.

Scott removes the existing downspout extension.

Once the old downspout extension was disconnected, we were ready to start digging! We began the process by laying out the PVC pipe to determine where the bubbler pot would land at the end of the 10′ section of pipe. Tip: You want to choose a spot at least 8′ from your home’s foundation.

We dug a hole larger than the bubbler pot itself, then followed with a straight line back to the downspout. The inlet hole in the bubbler pot sits approximately 8 inches below the soil, so the suggested pitch calls for a 4 inch deep trench at the downspout, tapering downward to an 8 inch depth at the bubbler end. This will allow water to flow freely through the pipe.

Scott digs out the trench for the PVC extension tube and places the bubbler pot in the hole.

With the location of the bubbler pot finalized, we poured a layer of pond gravel a few inches thick for it to rest on. This provides a solid base for the bubbler pot and provides drainage for small amounts of water. We then adjusted the level of gravel until the top of the green lid sat flush with the soil surface.

Scott pours pond gravel into the hole where the bubbler pot will eventually sit.

This flush installation allows the bubbler pot to be mowed right over! Our front yard is a few weeks away from a full landscape renovation that will eliminate all of the grass in favor of a paver path and loads of plants, so we’ll likely spraypaint the lid to match the color of whatever substrate we select.

2 | Fit Pipe + Adjust Pitch

Once the bubbler pot was roughly in place and our trench was dug, we did a quick dry fit to check the angle of our slope. There were a couple of high spots that needed to be smoothed out to allow the pipe to lay evenly, but overall, we were in good shape! After those minor adjustments, we were ready to dial in the fit at the high end of the drain pipe.

Scott fine tunes the grade of the soil and places the PVC extension into the channel.

3 | Install Debris Filter + PVC Riser Extension

Now that the PVC pipe was in its final position, we could focus on the debris filter and downspout. Since our downspout runs directly down a porch support post, we opted to keep the overall stack height low for now, but we may add a bit of height down the road once we see how the final landscaping comes into play. The black debris filter will eventually get a fresh coat of white spray paint to match the house’s trim color and the aluminum downspout above it.

Scott double checks the placement of the debris filter prior to final installation.

I cut a 4″ stub cut and gently sanded it, and then we were ready to fit everything together. The connections are all push fittings, so no need for adhesives or fasteners! It’s such a simple, functional solution for an incredibly common problem!

Scott double checks the placement of the debris filter prior to final installation.

The top section was now complete, so we worked our way down the pipe checking for high spots in the soil one final time.

Scott connects the debris filter to the PVC extension.

A final confirmed that we had a tight connection between the pipe and the bubbler pot and we were ready to move on to the final step!

Scott connects the bubbler pot and makes final adjustments.

5 | Backfill Trench and Add Top Layer

This was the easiest step in our application. We simply shoveled all of the dirt we’d removed back onto the pipe. Done! In our case, we’ll likely be supplementing the soil where part of our concrete slab was recently removed with high quality top soil. We’re in the final steps of planning with our landscape designer and hope to get to work planting as soon as the weather is appropriate.

Scott covers the PVC pipe with soil.

For applications below grass, the Underground Downspouts team recommends removing the grass as carefully as possible so it can be placed back on top of the soil after the work is complete. Our situation was a bit unique since we’re in the midst of a larger landscaping project, but when proper care is taken, the whole installation has the potential to be almost immediately invisible!

Scott covers the PVC pipe with soil.

We filled the area around the bubbler pot carefully, being mindful to keep the connection tight and the top as level as possible. Below, you can see that the top of the bubbler pot is flush with ground level:

The final product! A hidden downspout extension.
The final product! A hidden downspout extension.

All in all, this project took us a few hours, but a bit of our time was spent working around the challenges of a our compact yard. The Underground Downspout kit is simple, well-executed and inexpensive! Everything fit as it should, and we’re excited to see it in action during the next big rain! (Is that weird to say?)

Huge thanks to our friends at Dowspouts.com, and don’t forget to use our promo code YBH10 at checkout to receive 10% off an Underground Downspout kit through 9/30!

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  • Amy9.8.21 - 6:22 AM

    Such a great tutorial!! We have French drains and a few of these bubbler pots in our yard/ house we just moved to last summer. Thanks for breaking down how this type of drainage works and the benefits you gain in your yard!ReplyCancel

  • Julie Marquez9.8.21 - 12:12 PM

    Great idea! Better than the extenders we use and just trip over. What is the size of the pot? Do they have different sizes depending on the amount of water runoff?ReplyCancel

    • Scott9.8.21 - 1:45 PM

      You’re absolutely right! The extenders are such an eyesore and tripping hazard. To the best of our knowledge, there is only one size available at this point, but the amount of water runoff likely won’t the need for a larger one. The idea is that any excess water flows up and out as opposed to being retained in the pot. Hope this helps!ReplyCancel

  • Dianne9.9.21 - 9:52 PM

    I was just speaking of underground downspouts to my husband.  We had them installed in a home we had built in Montana.  They are fabulous!  Here in Oregon, it is code that all downspouts drain in a curb cutout which lead to the sewer.  ReplyCancel

  • Joel11.8.21 - 3:12 PM

    I’ve read comments on the debris filter that it works in light rains but that in heavy rains the water splashes out onto the ground. Have you noticed this, or do you have any solutions?ReplyCancel

    • Kim11.8.21 - 5:21 PM

      It bubbles over onto the ground in a heavy rain, and soaks into the earth!ReplyCancel

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