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Old 05-16-2012, 06:45 PM   #1
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Underground downspout drainage: Water standing in my brand new drainage pipes


I recently contracted with a local company to have all of my downspouts buried, with solid PVC running underground, all the way to the driveway or street.

It was a very difficult dig due to the solid clay in this area, so it was not something I was willing to tackle solo. Indeed, it took several men 3 days to complete the necessary digging. The job was recently "completed" and four of the nine downspouts have water sitting in the pipe where the downspout connects to the PVC pipe. Anywhere from 1/2" to 1" of water is standing in the pipes. After two days of no rain, the water is still sitting there.

There is plenty of "downhill grade" to work with, but unfortunately, they started laying the pipe from the driveway first, working their way back to the gutter and gluing the pipe as they went. By the time they got back to the downspout, they essentially had no slope left in the trench they had dug, so the final 5-10 feet of the pipe is running uphill, causing an inch of water to pool in the pipe.

I get the feeling the contractor is going to fight me on this and say that the job is done and I'm just being picky. Fortunately, I have not paid anything for the job yet, so I currently have control of the situation.

So here are my questions:
1) Is 1/4" to 1" of water in the drainage pipe a large issue? I would think it would end up mildewing, stinking, possibly attracting bugs, causing potential freezing issues in the winter, etc... but maybe it's not really that big of a deal. Am I being picky? If not, how would you respond when the contractor claims "It's no big deal"?

2) What chance would I stand in small claims court if he were to take it that far? Nowhere is it explicitly defined in any agreement that "there must not be any water sitting in the drainage pipes". It is pretty common sense to me, and I have never heard of anyone explicitly outlining something like this is a contract. Is this "grievous" enough of an error, or would a judge look at this and claim that yes, they completed the job and are due the full amount? I know this depends on the judge, but just searching for opinions on the matter and trying to decide how far to take this.

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Old 05-16-2012, 07:23 PM   #2
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Underground downspout drainage: Water standing in my brand new drainage pipes


If you do go to Small Claims court have plenty of photos, backup material and dates. We used to go often, for business, and it was fairly cheap.

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Old 05-17-2012, 01:28 PM   #3
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Underground downspout drainage: Water standing in my brand new drainage pipes


Considering the legal issue and a small claims issue first:
If the written agreement with the contractor had a term to the effect that all pipe would be laid with a minimum 1% downward slope to the outlet, you would be on good ground to show that his work was deficient and would likely recover the cost of correcting the problem. Without the specification, to be successful in small claims you will have to show that his work deviated from a well established local standard for pipe grades. To meet your burden of proof, you will need the testimony of another local contractor as an expert to show that the standard exists and your contractor was deficient in doing the work. While you might be successful in small claims, I doubt you want to go to the trouble and expense.

Will you have any major problem with the slight backward slope of the pipe? Probably not. But it's not likely that hard to correct. I would look at uncovering the pipe the 5 to 10 feet of the problem area. Disconnect the downspout then raise the downspout end of the pipe an inch and establish a uniform slope across the problem area. Trim the length of the downspout to reconnect it to the pipe.
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Old 05-20-2012, 09:51 AM   #4
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Underground downspout drainage: Water standing in my brand new drainage pipes


Quote:
Originally Posted by Airgibson View Post
1) Is 1/4" to 1" of water in the drainage pipe a large issue? I would think it would end up mildewing, stinking, possibly attracting bugs, causing potential freezing issues in the winter, etc... but maybe it's not really that big of a deal. Am I being picky? If not, how would you respond when the contractor claims "It's no big deal"?
The trouble is that with no slope it will end up collecting debris, that will attract bugs and may smell.

How do you know that the first 5-10' are running "up hill"? I personally have found that "eyeballing" is worthless, and you need a level. If it's possible this is just a case of water sitting in the elbow, then I'd say not a big deal, but if the pipe really does have slope backwards to the downspout, then it's not acceptable.

How deeply are these pipes buried? Raising it up an inch or two over those 5-10' may be sufficient to keep things moving--though I'd rather have it clog near the downspout where I could clean it then 10' away under ground at a hump created at a glued coupling, so you'll want to see what they do to be sure it remains sloped the entire time. I'd also rather have an angled pipe exiting the ground with a proper slope, then a buried pipe that will clog. If the area is mulched it might be too bad, so Pls8xx's suggestion may be the best.

I'd talk to the contractor about it and not make too many assumptions until then. Pipes need slope to drain, standing water at the start of the pipe means you don't have that slope, which means the drainage system he installed is not correct.

You haven't paid, so you have some leverage. Personally I wouldn't outright tell him I'm not paying him because it's sloppy work, I would start by showing him the issue and telling him that the problem needs to corrected before he is fully paid and ask him how he thinks you should both proceed. Be open to paying less and then correcting yourself (or with another contractor). If you hit a roadblock with all that, then you drag out the idea of the small claims court--tho I'd only do that if you have written contract and are prepared with photographic evidence of the improper install.
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Old 05-20-2012, 10:42 AM   #5
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Underground downspout drainage: Water standing in my brand new drainage pipes


Cannot even have underground drains from downspouts to the curb here. Too much of a load on the sewer system. Most places I have lived do not permit such things. Are you sure it is legal where you are?
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Old 05-20-2012, 10:46 AM   #6
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Underground downspout drainage: Water standing in my brand new drainage pipes


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Originally Posted by sdsester View Post
Cannot even have underground drains from downspouts to the curb here. Too much of a load on the sewer system. Most places I have lived do not permit such things. Are you sure it is legal where you are?
FYI, not legal here in my town either (eastern Mass)

There is a by-law that states that you cannot discharge water from a permanently affixed pipe within 10' of the street. I think they worded it that way to allow people to run those flexible sump pump discharge hoses our near the street during really bad weather, or to allow those flexible plastic downspouts to be left in place.
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Old 05-20-2012, 11:06 AM   #7
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Underground downspout drainage: Water standing in my brand new drainage pipes


You're totally going to have issues if slope is not right.

If you've got water in the pipe now what will happen in a good down pour? I bet the rain water backs up into your down spout! Then instead of running away from your foundation it will be running against the foundation wall between the soil and potentially cause you issues in your basement!

If its not done right it's simply not done right. You haven't paid and your contractor needs to fix it. You don't have to be crazy rude to him/her you just need to show your concerns and point out the obvious... Water in pipe means not sloped correctly. The reason you did this was to get the rain water to run away from your home, not stay or come back in.

I think Donald Trump says it best for situations like this... It's not personal, it's just business! Job done wrong= no pay.
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Old 05-20-2012, 12:32 PM   #8
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Underground downspout drainage: Water standing in my brand new drainage pipes


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Originally Posted by bubbler View Post
The trouble is that with no slope it will end up collecting debris, that will attract bugs and may smell.

How do you know that the first 5-10' are running "up hill"? I personally have found that "eyeballing" is worthless, and you need a level. If it's possible this is just a case of water sitting in the elbow, then I'd say not a big deal, but if the pipe really does have slope backwards to the downspout, then it's not acceptable.

How deeply are these pipes buried? Raising it up an inch or two over those 5-10' may be sufficient to keep things moving--though I'd rather have it clog near the downspout where I could clean it then 10' away under ground at a hump created at a glued coupling, so you'll want to see what they do to be sure it remains sloped the entire time. I'd also rather have an angled pipe exiting the ground with a proper slope, then a buried pipe that will clog. If the area is mulched it might be too bad, so Pls8xx's suggestion may be the best.

I'd talk to the contractor about it and not make too many assumptions until then. Pipes need slope to drain, standing water at the start of the pipe means you don't have that slope, which means the drainage system he installed is not correct.

You haven't paid, so you have some leverage. Personally I wouldn't outright tell him I'm not paying him because it's sloppy work, I would start by showing him the issue and telling him that the problem needs to corrected before he is fully paid and ask him how he thinks you should both proceed. Be open to paying less and then correcting yourself (or with another contractor). If you hit a roadblock with all that, then you drag out the idea of the small claims court--tho I'd only do that if you have written contract and are prepared with photographic evidence of the improper install.
We know which section is running uphill since some of the other downspouts that connect to the same line are draining without issue. Kind of hard to explain, but I'm confident I know where the slope is wrong.

In light of the work that has been done, I decided to pay 75% of the job. The remaining 25% is more than enough to cover any additional work from another contractor if he fails to fix things. As you mentioned, I didn't lay into him with "sloppy work comments" and basically said "Here is 75%, and the remaining 25% comes when the issues are corrected." He says he will be out soon to address the issue, but feels it is "not that big a deal". As long as he is coming out to address it, then I am not going to get into any kind of debate with him on it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sdsester View Post
Cannot even have underground drains from downspouts to the curb here. Too much of a load on the sewer system. Most places I have lived do not permit such things. Are you sure it is legal where you are?
Yes, it is legal here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fantastic View Post
You're totally going to have issues if slope is not right.

If you've got water in the pipe now what will happen in a good down pour? I bet the rain water backs up into your down spout! Then instead of running away from your foundation it will be running against the foundation wall between the soil and potentially cause you issues in your basement!

If its not done right it's simply not done right. You haven't paid and your contractor needs to fix it. You don't have to be crazy rude to him/her you just need to show your concerns and point out the obvious... Water in pipe means not sloped correctly. The reason you did this was to get the rain water to run away from your home, not stay or come back in.

I think Donald Trump says it best for situations like this... It's not personal, it's just business! Job done wrong= no pay.
Fortunately, the uphill slope is causing it to collect about 1 inch of water, but anything more than that, and it manages to overcome the slope issue and flow properly. There's no way it could back-up to the downspout unless it got clogged.
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Old 05-22-2012, 08:27 AM   #9
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Underground downspout drainage: Water standing in my brand new drainage pipes


A reverse slope is unacceptable.

The contractor will have to come back and correct the situation.

You will need to take some measurements, such as putting a dip stick down each vertical drain opening and comparing it with a perfectly level horizontal string you hung and stretched above ground. This will prove how much of a reverse slope exists.

You need to promptly proactively write him a letter detailing what is wrong and needs to be corrected. (Specifically to put it in writing.) Don't say anything about money in that letter. Keep copies of all letters and documents.

If worse comes to worst and there isn't enough vertical room or play, you can have it perfectly level in places and a downslope along the rest of the run.

For correcting the slope it is probably not necessary to unglue or disassemble or replace the pipe.
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Old 05-22-2012, 09:30 AM   #10
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Underground downspout drainage: Water standing in my brand new drainage pipes


If he comes back and raises the pipe at the downspout 1", will that be satisfactory?
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Old 05-23-2012, 07:58 PM   #11
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Underground downspout drainage: Water standing in my brand new drainage pipes


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If he comes back and raises the pipe at the downspout 1", will that be satisfactory?
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I assume that would put the buried train pipe at surface level. That wouldn't be acceptable to me!
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Old 05-23-2012, 08:26 PM   #12
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Underground downspout drainage: Water standing in my brand new drainage pipes


I'll ring in to say it has to get corrected. Even if they are glued; he should be able to raise the final run a bit and fix it. If I can do it myself with a shovel and a weekend (over 70 feet); then a pro has no excuse at all.
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Old 05-24-2012, 09:03 PM   #13
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Underground downspout drainage: Water standing in my brand new drainage pipes


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I assume that would put the buried train pipe at surface level. That wouldn't be acceptable to me!
1/4" inch? Just who is trying to screw who? Drill a hole in the bottom. The one cup of water in there will drain out.
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Old 05-24-2012, 09:56 PM   #14
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Underground downspout drainage: Water standing in my brand new drainage pipes


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Indeed, it took several men 3 days to complete the necessary digging
There can be a whole lot of things going on here,you should check the flow of you pipes one at a time with some food coloring.
Run a hose in each drain for five min's or so and add some food coloring,use two colors alternating back and forth.Make sure you run the water to flush the previous color out.
There should BE NO WATER standing in any of you pipes,it defeats the purpose.


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Old 06-05-2012, 10:04 PM   #15
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Underground downspout drainage: Water standing in my brand new drainage pipes


I hate to disagree normally but assuming there is 1/4" of water in a solid pvc pipe what happens with 1 1/2" will it run then? If it does this is not a serious issue. The one inch of water in the pipe will do nothing bad (except attract a few bugs maybe).

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