A New Solution to Water Runoff: Pop-Up Gutter Drains

Gutter drains

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The gutters that encircle your home’s roofline are great for collecting runoff water and preventing it from seeping into the ground next to your home’s foundation. But they won’t do you any good if the water is not successfully directed out of your downspouts and away from your home.

Splash blocks may work for small amounts of water, but they won’t be able to handle a major downpour. Downspout extensions will often do the trick, but they can be unsightly and aren’t always practical.

Here’s a solution: pop-up gutter drains.

What is a Pop-up Gutter Drain?

Pop-up gutter drains are drains installed at the end of an underground pipe that is itself connected to a downspout. The pop-up drain has a gravity-powered lid that activates when water is flowing, but simply falls down again when it’s dry and there is no water to conduct. The idea is that the pipe brings the water to the surface and expels it onto the ground.

Do I Need a Pop-up Gutter Drain?

gutter drain
Are your downspouts dumping too much water on one part of your property?

There are a couple of reasons why your home might need a pop-up gutter drain. You should think about it if your land has grading issues that prevent the flow of water away from the house. Another reason for installing a pop-up gutter drain is if your soil simply doesn’t drain well. You may also need one if your current gutter design drains an excess amount of water into one specific area. If you’re not sure whether or not you need one, your gutter installation company can help you figure it out.

How Much Do Pop-up Drains Cost?

Installing a pop-up gutter drain, also known as a popup emitter, is a relatively straightforward DIY project that helps prevent clogged gutters and potential foundation water damage. The materials needed include PVC pipe, elbow joints, solvent cement, a drain box, mosquito screen, pop-up drain, and pipe clamps or strapping. Useful tools are safety glasses, work gloves, hacksaw, drill, screwdriver, and reciprocating saw.

Total costs range from $50-$500 depending on materials and drain complexity. Basic popup emitter parts cost $15-$50. PVC pipes usually run $20-$100. Additional costs may include elbows, couplings, pipe strapping, mosquito screen, and drainage gravel or landscape installation. Hiring a professional usually costs $40-$100 per hour plus materials, with simple jobs taking 2-3 hours total and more complex installations running $500-$2000. Overall, adding a popup gutter drain is an affordable way to protect against water damage and improve drainage.

How to Install a Pop-Up Gutter Drain

how to install a pop-up gutter drain
Make sure your home is ready to withstand serious storms.

These drains are attached to the end of a pipe that runs underneath the surface of your yard. Here are the steps to installing a pop-up gutter drain system:

  • Step 1: Dig a hole underneath your gutter downspout and place a catch basin in the hole.
  • Step 2: Dig a trench from the catch basin to a curb, creek, alley, or another area where the runoff water can easily drain.
  • Step 3: Fasten a pipe near the bottom of the catch basin and run it along the bottom of the trench.
  • Step 4: Put in the pop-up drain at the discharge point of the pipe and position it at the same level as the ground’s surface.

When the next rain event takes place, the water will run through your gutters, down your downspout, into your catch basin, and through the underground pipe. The pressure of the water will force the mechanism to “pop up” and allow the water to drain out of the pipe. When the water stops flowing, the absence of water pressure causes the mechanism to lower back into the ground automatically (much like a sprinkler head). This helps keep debris and animals from making their way into the pipe.

Potential Problems

Like the gutters on your home, pop-up gutter drains must be installed appropriately in order for the system to work correctly. That means making sure that the underground pipe continuously slopes downward from the catch basin to the pop-up mechanism. Otherwise, the water will not flow adequately, and may even collect inside the pipe and eventually flood back into your yard once the catch basin fills up.

Also, the underground pipe should be at least six feet in length (10 feet is better) in order for the water to drain properly.

Troubleshooting And Maintenance 

Pop-up emitter drains are generally reliable, low-maintenance devices. However, like any system, they can encounter issues over time that require troubleshooting and repairs. Some common problems to watch for include the drain not popping up, slow drainage, or leakage around the drain housing.

If the popup head is not emerging as expected during rain events, the first thing to check is if debris, dirt, or grit has clogged the spring mechanism that controls the popup action. Unscrew the top of the emitter cap and inspect the interior components. Use compressed air or a small brush to dislodge any stuck debris. The interior spring and O-ring seal should also be checked for damage and replaced if worn.

Slow drainage can occur when the exterior drain holes get clogged with soil, grass, leaves, or other debris. Use a hose or high-pressure water stream to flush out the drain head and force open any blocked holes. Finally, leakage around the drain housing is often caused by cracked PVC cement joints. Dry fit the elbow and drain pieces to check for cracks. Re-cement any loose joints being sure to use primer and proper bonding techniques. The popup gasket may also need to be replaced if damaged or deformed. With regular inspection and cleaning, popup drains can operate smoothly for many years. Repairs should be addressed promptly to prevent water backing up into gutters and causing overflows.

Can Pop-up Gutter Drains Get Clogged?

Like any drain line, it is possible for a pop-up drain line to become clogged if something other than water is introduced into the system. The good news is that these drain lines are typically easy to clean by simply removing the lid and clearing the line. You can also prevent clogging from occurring in the first place by using downspout screens or a gutter guard system.

Do Pop-up Gutter Drains Freeze?

It is possible for pop-up drains to freeze, unfortunately. Keeping your downspouts clean and free of debris can help prevent freezing, however. Freezing is less likely to occur when there aren’t chunks of solid matter for ice to freeze around. Installing a heating system that uses a heating cable or heat tape can also help prevent freezing and keep water flowing.

Pop-up gutter drains aren’t for every home. But for homeowners who want to make sure that runoff water is being kept away from their home’s foundation, pop-up gutter drains can be an effective solution. Schedule a free estimate.

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Why should I consider installing a pop-up gutter drain?

Pop-up drains are useful for diverting water away from the home’s foundation. They provide an automated way to drain overflow water if gutters become clogged with debris. Installing them can help prevent water damage.

How does a pop-up gutter drain work?

The drain stays closed until the water reaches a certain level in the gutter system. The weight of pooled water pushes down a spring-loaded cap, exposing holes that allow water to drain out through a pipe system under the ground. When water recedes, the spring pops the cap back up to close the drain.

How difficult is it to install a pop-up gutter drain?

Installing a pop-up drain involves basic tools for cutting PVC, digging a trench, and connecting the elbow and drainage pipe. The entire project can usually be completed in an afternoon.

How do I clean a clogged pop-up gutter drain?

Use a hose or pressure washer to flush out debris from the drain head. You can also try forcing the cap down with your hand to dislodge clogs. For deeper clogs, insert a plumber’s snake into the subsurface drainage pipe to remove roots or debris that is blocking water flow.

Are there any alternatives to pop-up gutter drains?

Other options include screened gutter covers that allow water to flow through but block debris. You can also have gutters routed to drain away from the house rather than using subsurface piping. Professional gutter cleaning services are another alternative to handling debris buildup.


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