Downspouts, grading for conservation


Upgrades to your house and around the property can increase the property value, decrease utility bills, and make your home more enjoyable. In a previous article, we discussed updating your driveway with drainage and conservation principles in mind. Another project many homeowners may consider, particularly if they have issues with water around their house’s foundation, is rerouting downspouts and grading around the property.

Maintaining well-functioning rain gutters and downspouts helps to prevent water from pooling around your foundation and potentially seeping into your basement. If your downspouts outlet to the surface, it is generally recommended to outlet at least ten feet from the exterior of the house. Increasing the distance between the outlet and the house reduces the likelihood that the water will filter back toward the foundation. Verify any building code or zoning requirements regarding setbacks from property lines or foundations. If erosion around the outlet is an issue, splash pads or gravel aprons can be installed to protect the landscaping.

If downspouts are causing drainage issues on the property or you have use for collected rain water, a rain barrel may be a good option. Rain barrels are designed to collect water without trapping debris; a properly designed rain barrel will also have an overflow outlet to prevent downspouts from backing up if the barrel becomes full. Rainwater is ideal for watering indoor or outdoor plants, lawns, etc. Rain gardens are another potential investment that can help runoff infiltrate while providing an aesthetic and recreational feature on your property, however, they must be designed properly to be successful and they do require regular maintenance. Check out the Rain Garden Manual and Rain Barrel brochure under the Resources tab on our website,, for more information.

Grading is typically completed near the end of a construction project, but the building and surrounding areas settle and compact over time, often altering the grade. If you experience issues with water pooling around your foundation or in other undesirable areas, you may be interested in completing additional grading work. Grading can encourage water to flow away from your house and provide a route for standing water to travel, where elevation change allows.

Around the house, there should be a minimum of six inches of elevation change away from the house in the first 10 feet from the foundation. On the uphill side of the house, ensure that there is a path for this water to follow around the house once it is away from the foundation. Away from the house, resist the inclination to fill in low areas of the property, which typically simply moves the pooled water to the next low spot, not providing a long-term solution. Grading should create a path for water to travel. Remember that, according to Ohio drainage law, water should enter and leave your property at the same locations that it did prior to any projects or construction you completed on the land. If you would like more information regarding grading your property, check out the publication Drainage Around Your Home at, in the Resources tab.

Implementing conservation-friendly practices around your home has long-term benefits to your property and community. To learn more about conservation, or to schedule an appointment for advice on soils and drainage-related issues, please visit our website at or call the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District at 740-368-1921.

By Julie Watson-Ables

Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District

Julie Watson-Ables is resource conservationist at the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to

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