Rain, rain go away...
October 24, 2013 5:39 PM   Subscribe

I am installing some gutters in my house. I hate gutters, but need to divert the rain water due to issues we have had with mold and moisture under our house. The gutter along the back of the house will have a single downspout. It comes to a corner where a cement patio starts and "can" drain onto that area, which has a gentle slope towards the front of the house and the street. But we are thinking about the following as alternatives plans: Using a rain barrel for collection, but I hate the black pickle barrels I see everywhere and not sure what the best options are. If we use a barrel, I would imagine it fills very quickly, like one storm would overfill a 50-60 gallon barrel? Am I completely off on that? (I live in central Los Angeles) The other option is that we are pulling out a large tree that is right where the downspout is going to be and I thought why not dig a big whole and back fill it with gravel and turn it into a leech pit, is that a crazy idea, any thoughts on the best way to do that? And lastly, do people ever run there rain water into their sewer line, is that legal? Thanks MeFites
posted by silsurf to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
With the right pipe fittings it's pretty easy to link rain barrels for extra capacity, and it really doesn't matter what kind of container you use provided it holds water and is clean enough for whatever you intend to do with it.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:59 PM on October 24, 2013


I thought why not dig a big whole and back fill it with gravel and turn it into a leech pit, is that a crazy idea, any thoughts on the best way to do that?

It sounds like a good way to build a backyard bog, which is great if you are like me and enjoy growing bog plants (on purpose) but maybe not so great as a strategy for a useable backyard or keeping the water from your foundation. However, installing french drains and connecting your downspout to that is workable.
posted by jamaro at 6:07 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are all kinds of good looking rain barrels, if you don't like the black kind. Most of them have an overflow spout at the top -- once they fill up, the water goes into a hose or tube and runs off, just like from a gutter. If you wanted to get really carried away, you could have the run off go into a leach field, like you describe. This is called a French drain.
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:08 PM on October 24, 2013


Yeah I would worry that the second idea might damage your foundation. We have rain barrels at our house in Texas and we love them. Just looking through Amazon's selection I see a wide varriety of styles. Home Depot and Lowes also carry rain barrels in my area. We made our own from food grade commercial barrels that we bought from someone selling on Craig's List for $20 a piece. We have linked barrels in some places and single barrels connected to other places. You are correct that one quick 10 min storm will fill a 50 gallon barrel. There are some good ideas on line if you Google "Stacking Rain Barrels" Or you can just let the overflow run out on the ground which is no different than what would happen if there was no rain barrel, just a regular downspout, only at the end of the storm you have 50 extra free gallons to use on your yard or garden.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 6:16 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The second idea is called a dry well and they need to be engineered and likely need to be registered with the california department of enviromental quality (or whatever it is called). It can certainly damage your foundation, your driveway and maybe even the street if your soil is suitable for it or if it is installed properly. And the french drain idea is the same thing with the same problems (although easier to get right, but once again, it needs to be engineered). This can get really bad for you if you make your neighbors house subside. A heavily built up area like central LA is not the place to do your own engineering.

A very big part of civil engineering is managing water and keeping it away from what is called the 'subgrade' which is the compacted soil area under streets, buldings, retaining walls, sidewalk and pretty much every other manmade structure in the world. When water gets into it the compaction goes away and with the compaction goes the soils ability to support any weight. You ever see a street with a bunch of cracks in it that criss cross in a squareish pattern? subgrade failure. The reason a house settles differentially such that walls crack and windows and doors cant open/close? subgrade failure, the list goes on.

And running rain water to the sewer line is definetaly illegal. LA has seperate storm and sewer lines and they don't want rain water in the sewer system. It might be possible to get a direct hookup to the storm drain line in the street (if you have one). Go to city hall and talk to the public works department about it. Even if you don't have a connection available they might be able to help you some other way.
posted by bartonlong at 6:28 PM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


If we use a barrel, I would imagine it fills very quickly, like one storm would overfill a 50-60 gallon barrel? Am I completely off on that?

One gallon is 231 cubic inches, so 50 gallon barrel would hold 11,500 cubic inches before overflowing. It'll mostly depend on how much roof area you have that leads to the barrel, but in a storm that drops one inch evenly over everything (a decently heavy storm for SoCal), it would only take 80 square feet of roof area to fill your barrel.

The other option is that we are pulling out a large tree that is right where the downspout is going to be and I thought why not dig a big whole and back fill it with gravel and turn it into a leech pit, is that a crazy idea, any thoughts on the best way to do that?

This actually happens a lot, but when it does, it's generally designed by a civil engineer and referred to as a "retention pond". The primary goal is to filter out sediments and pollution from runoff before it enters the stormwater system. If you already have problems with hydrostatic pressure under your house, introducing an element that puts more water in the nearby soil is probably not a good idea.

And lastly, do people ever run there rain water into their sewer line, is that legal?

Almost certainly not. It may have been done at some point, but many places, California in particular, coastal areas in California especially (meaning areas where storm drains empty into the ocean), there are a lot of regulations that have come about recently on how to handle stormwater runoff. You used to be able to pipe it directly from your roof into the storm drain, but not any more, and that's the storm drain, not the sewer. The engineering department will be incredibly upset if you somehow hook up your storm drains directly to the sewer, since they try to keep a handle on how much stuff they have to deal with in their system. Requirements now are generally that runoff must flow across some kind of landscaped area, then into the storm drain system at the street or a surface drain.
posted by LionIndex at 6:37 PM on October 24, 2013


I'm in Southern California as well (newish sub-division). My patio drains and downspouts are piped into a master drain that funnels to the front yard and out through the curb (the pipe runs through the curb) into the street gutters.
posted by cecic at 6:47 PM on October 24, 2013


Google "rain garden," which might be a great solution for you to put in the spot where you take the tree out (given that it's set away from your foundation 10 ft or so). Rain barrels can be designed with an overflow, too--maybe a combination of a rain barrel and a rain garden would work for you.
posted by Empidonax at 7:13 PM on October 24, 2013


The other option is that we are pulling out a large tree that is right where the downspout is going to be and I thought why not dig a big whole and back fill it with gravel and turn it into a leech pit, is that a crazy idea, any thoughts on the best way to do that?

No particular idea is crazy in the right place or time, but I would not pull out a large tree, unless I was really absolutely certain that it was the right thing to do.
posted by ovvl at 7:55 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


An additional reason to make sure any leech field/retention pond/dry well or whatever you call it is properly designed and built: not only could it damage your foundation, your driveway, or your street, it could ALSO damage YOUR NEIGHBORS' foundations, driveways, etc.
posted by easily confused at 3:19 AM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another note on tree pulling - not having that tree there to suck up and re route water is a significant change. Do the math before you make post-tree plans.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:22 AM on October 25, 2013


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