8 Alternatives to Gutters: How to Collect & Direct Water From Your Home - Home Inspection Insider (2023)

8 Alternatives to Gutters: How to Collect & Direct Water From Your Home - Home Inspection Insider (1)

Can you build a house without gutters? Yes, you can. However, you would need to come up with a different strategy to collect rainwater.

When rainwater cascades down a roof without gutters, it falls onto the ground around your home. It then erodes the soil and will start to flow towards the house rather than away from it. That, in turn, eventually pushes water towards the lower parts of the walls, crawl space, floor, and basement, thus causing flooding, foundation issues, and damaged walls in the long term. A home without gutters can also end up with water-damaged siding and mold infestation.

Therefore, you need to divert water from your home using a gutter system or another practical method. The article below discusses signs of poor drainage, how to make improvised gutters, and the different ways of diverting water from your home.

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Poor Rainwater Drainage: Signs and Problems

If you spot giant water puddles a few hours after it stops raining in areas such as the yard, then you may have a drainage issue. In addition, water in your driveway and water stains on your siding and in the basement should also worry you.

1. Flooded Basements

A flooded basement is another sign that your home is not diverting rainwater as it should. And considering that it costs an average of $4,000 to clean a flooded basement, you should sit up and take notice of your situation quickly.

The longer you take to ignore the signs of poor rainwater drainage around your home, the more damage your property will experience. Over time, the exposure to water will make the foundation settle, which will strain your entire property.

2. Foundational Issues

Such a problem will show up in the form of cracks in the patio, walls, chimney, and the foundation itself. It will also show up in the form of sticking doors and windows and uneven floors.

And foundation issues are costly to fix too. For minor cracks, you will pay about $500. But if the situation is dire and there are significant issues, then expect to pay upwards of $7,000 to sort them out.

(Video) Home Inspection Training Class #1 with InterNACHI's Ben Gromicko

3. Mold Infestation

Another nightmare is a mold infestation due to water damage on the siding and the resulting rot. First, your home will smell bad, which would make your house unpleasant to live in. But even if you don’t smell the mold, it still poses many health risks.

Some of the health complications you can develop due to mold infestation include:

  • Allergies
  • Breathing problems
  • Aspergillosis
  • Lower respiratory tract problems in children

To get rid of mold, you would need to spend anywhere from $13.33 and $28.33 per square foot. So, the larger the area infested, the more money you will pay.

How Do You Make Homemade Gutters?

It’s safe to say that you need to divert rainwater away from home in some way. And the easiest way to do that is by installing a gutter system. The gutter system consists of:

  • Gutter sections
  • Downspouts
  • Downspout elbows
  • Hangers
  • Pipe cleats
  • End caps
  • Mitered corner
  • Ferrule

It’s safe to assume that complete gutter systems cost money. However, the cost of buying and installing the system will vary. It will depend on the size and design of your home and the type of material you opt to buy. It also depends on whether you install the gutters yourself. So, the price can range from $4 to $30 per linear foot of gutter installed.

For this reason, you may decide to save money by making gutters yourself. You can do that using:

  • 3-inch PVC pipes cemented together and cut into half before being mounted onto the roof eaves. The downspout can be made of an uncut PVC pipe.
  • Scrap or recycled metals bent into a U-shape and mounted onto the roof eaves. You can make the downspout from scrap metal fashioned in the form of a tube.
  • Metal pipes cut in half and attached to the roof eaves. Either a PVC pipe or metal pipe can be used as a downspout.

How To Collect And Divert Water From Your Roof Without Gutters

It is worth noting, though, that you don’t have to install a gutter system. It’s okay not to have gutters so long as you have other ways of collecting rainwater that can do just as good a job diverting it away from your home.

1. Site Grading

Site grading is an engineering process you can use to adjust the soil elevation and slope around your home. For example, if you have a rainwater drainage issue, you can redirect the water flow by ensuring your home stands on a higher ground than the area around it.

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The general rule of thumb is you should grade your site to have a slope of 5%. That translates to a drop of 6 inches in height for every 10 feet distance away from your building. So, when it rains, the water cascades from the roof and away from your home, following the slope direction. As a result, you won’t need to worry about stormwater getting into your crawl spaces, basement, or foundation.

2. Install A Drain Tile System

The installation of foundation drain tile systems is now part of many building codes. A drain tile system redirects surface water away from your crawl space or basement, so it doesn’t flood due to heavy rains or the rapid melting of snow.

Foundation drain tile systems are sometimes known as a French drain after a Scottish wheat farmer called Henry French, who popularized the system to improve soil drainage. Other names for this method of draining water are weeping tile, footing tile, and perimeter drain systems.

Previously, drain tile systems were made of clay. But modern versions are made of corrugated plastic pipes or perforated PVC piping. The holes are usually on one side.

If you opt to upgrade your home and install a foundation drain tile system, you can start by digging a trench around your foundation. It should be at least 24 inches deep and must extend to the footing or bottom of your house’s foundation.

The trench must extend and slope downwards towards a selected drainage point, a swale, storm sewer, pond, etc. But it can also lead to a sump pump that will pump water away to a different area. The latter option works well in flatter areas.

The trench is then layered with gravel before the perforated piping is installed. Then it is covered by more gravel. Next, a fabric, such as gravel tar paper, landscape fabric, or nylon filter sock, is laid over the gravel to prevent silt from covering the piping holes. Then dirt is piled at the top of the trench.

When rainwater falls onto the ground, it follows the path of least resistance and gets absorbed into the network of pipes. Then it is channeled to the selected drainage point through gravity. That, in turn, prevents water from seeping through the foundation, crawl space, or basement.

3. Develop a Rain Garden

You may want to consider developing a rain garden to collect, divert, and manage rainwater not just from your roof but also your driveway. You can also channel water from your foundation drain tile system into such a garden.

A rain garden, in this case, refers to a method of landscaping that enables you to plant flowers, shrubs, grass, etc., in a depressed section of your lawn. Such areas naturally tend to collect water from rain or melted snow. If your home’s exterior is not sloppy, you can create the depressions yourself. For example, if you opted for site grading, you can assign the portion at the bottom of the slope as a rain garden.

The vegetation within the rain garden will filter the pollutants in the runoff water and help it percolate into the soil, thus recharging the groundwater. Also, the rain garden will help reduce soil erosion and attract insects, birds, and butterflies.

(Video) Ways To Direct Water Away From Home Foundations [Drainage Solutions]

And if you use native plant species, they will not need fertilizer and will be low-maintenance in the long term. In the end, these kinds of gardens can aid in improving the beauty of your surroundings while improving the drainage of rainwater.

4. Develop Dry Stream Beds

Dry streams beds are a form of landscaping consisting of a well-designed but functional trench or gully. They do an excellent job directing water away from your home into the ground or a larger drainage area.

The trenches are dug and designed to look like a normal riparian area but must follow the natural slope no matter how they meander across the property. You can then put in a layer of sand or gravel, line them with stones and boulders on the side, and put your preferred riparian plants and grass along the edges of the trench. If you live in an area with a lot of rain, you should consider mortaring the stones into place.

When it rains, runoff water from your roof, drainage extensions, etc., will fall onto the dry stream beds and follow the designated course into a much bigger drainage point. Such points may include a storm drain, rain garden, and wells. The stones and gravel will help water percolate into the ground rather than allow it to rush off and cause soil erosion or develop puddles.

5. Dig Swales

Swales are predominantly broad man-made ditches, which are relatively shallow and have gentle vegetated slopes and berms. They slow water flow, prevent puddles and flooding, and enhance soil drainage.

The vegetation you grow on the ditch, sides, and berms of the swale must be able to withstand both dry and wet conditions. And it should not need regular maintenance that disturbs the soil. Also, consider plants that provide ground cover or have deep roots that spread. Examples of such plants include muhly and vetiver grass. You can also plant fruit trees and bamboo.

Swales can follow the contour of your surrounding areas’ slope or be built perpendicular to the existing slopes. They can also be dug slightly off contour to help divert water in the direction you want it to go.

Regardless of which option best suits your needs, you must design the swales carefully so you have areas on which you can walk and drive even when it rains heavily. Of course, that also applies if you live on a farm. Also, you can build dry stream beds within the swales to beautify your lawn.

When you need to divert rainwater from your roof, you need to consider developing diversion swales. In that case, you would build a swale starting from the point where your roof drains most of its water.

If the surrounding area has been graded, the swale can start from the bottom of the slope. Then you can dig it in the desired direction.

In addition, these swales can be an end-point for your roof. In such cases, you could channel water from features such as French drains into the swale. You can also use swales to divert rainwater into other drainage points such as a pond or dam.

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6. Build A Dry Well

Dry wells refer to underground structures, which dispose of stormwater and surface runoff. The chamber sides have perforations to dissipate water, while the bottoms of the wells are usually filled with gravel to improve drainage and increase percolation. As a result, dry wells are excellent for recharging groundwater. So, if the area surrounding your home has poor drainage, you can direct rainwater away from your building and into the dry well.

Drywells can also be used as drainage points for French drains, driveways, dry stream beds, and swales. And if you have gutters, you can divert downspout extensions into these wells or the areas within the vicinity of the wells. Also, you can build dry wells so they can absorb water that flows down the graded site near your house.

7. Construct A Water Reservoir

Constructing a water reservoir is an excellent idea for anyone who wants to harvest water and lives in an area with long periods of drought that sometimes experiences excessive rains. They can be in the form of ponds or dams. It enables you to direct water away from your roof and lawns while ensuring that you have enough water for irrigation during the dry months. However, this option is only viable if you have a large area to work with.

You should consider constructing water reservoirs if your home is built on a hill. You can also design your water reservoir to work with your French drains, dry creek beds, and swales, so it fills up or redirects the overflow somewhere else.

8. Install A Sump Pump

A sump pump is a type of pump you can use to remove accumulated water within a sump pit through a discharge line, thus preventing flooding. The crater is usually dug within the lowest area of your home, usually within a basement or crawl space. However, you can also dig a sump pit outside your home, where water accumulates.

The sump pump can divert water into various areas. These include storm drains, streams, ponds, and dry wells. For this reason, they are great for collecting and directing water away from your home, thus minimizing their negative impact on your foundation.

Final Thoughts

While gutter systems are a popular method of collecting and diverting water from your home, you can do without them. However, it would help if you implemented other strategies such as site grading and installing drain tile systems. You can also develop rain gardens or build swales, dry creek beds, dry wells, and ponds. And when everything else fails, there is always the sump pump.


What is an alternative to gutters? ›

Rain chains work as gutter alternatives

Rain chains are both effective and visually appealing. They collect rainwater from the roof and direct the water to underground reservoirs. Also, they come in a variety of designs and sizes, so it's nearly guaranteed to find something that will work for your space.

How can I control water without gutters? ›

Drip Edge. Drip edges are metal devices installed at the edge of a roof. They basically work by moving water away from the fascia to prevent rot and keep water from running down the side of a house. This particular gutter alternative can be used along with a gutter, but it also works just fine on its own.

How do I redirect my gutter water? ›

Redirecting roof runoff is as simple as adding a downspout extension. These are plastic (PVC) or metal extensions that attach to the bottom of your existing downspout. The extension should carry your roof runoff at least three to five feet away from your home to prevent any water damage to your home or foundation.

Do you have to put gutters on a house? ›

The short answer is yes. Though gutters aren't required by legislation, they are necessary for most homeowners to prevent damage to their homes. Read about some of the key reasons gutters are necessary below.

What happens if a house doesn't have gutters? ›

Gutters control the water that hits your roof, directing it into a single flow that moves away from your house. Without gutters, it's possible that water runoff will build up around your home, getting into your foundation and causing water damage over time.

How do you redirect runoff water? ›

  1. Dig a Swale. A swale is a shallow trench that redirects water to where it can be safely released. ...
  2. Construct a Dry Stream. Like swales, dry streams redirect water and prevent runoff damage. ...
  3. Grow A Rain Garden. ...
  4. Build a Berm. ...
  5. Route Water Into a Dry Well. ...
  6. Lay Pervious Paving.

How do I redirect water to my roof? ›

Install rain diverters. They're simple, formed strips of metal that slip beneath the roofing and redirect the water sideways. Often diverters are used on roofs above entryways to a house. They shift water away from the doorway so people can enter and exit a little drier.

What can I use to collect rainwater? ›

You can collect rainwater through various methods.
  1. Rain Barrels – This is the simplest and most affordable way to harvest rainwater. ...
  2. Dry System – A dry system uses a larger storage container for the water. ...
  3. Wet System – In a wet system, many collection pipes are connected to the downspouts.
21 May 2019

How do I redirect standing water in my yard? ›

How to get rid of standing water
  1. Water wisely. This solution is for you if you notice puddles in your lawn or driveway even when it hasn't rained recently. ...
  2. Dethatch and aerate. ...
  3. Add compost. ...
  4. Build a rain garden. ...
  5. Add a drainage system. ...
  6. Take care of gutters and downspouts.
16 Jun 2022

Do pop up gutter drains work? ›

The good thing about pop-up emitters is that if there's no steady flow of water, the lid stays shut. That means no debris can make its way into the pipe. It's a great alternative to traditional drain grates that have a tendency to collect rocks, dirt or leaves that'll eventually clog the line.

How do I divert water from the corner of my house? ›

How To Divert Water From The Home
  1. Clean Your Gutters. This task is both simple and free. ...
  2. Extend Your Downspouts. ...
  3. Create A Rain Garden. ...
  4. Install A Rain Barrel. ...
  5. Seal The Driveway. ...
  6. Install A French Drain. ...
  7. Improve The Grading. ...
  8. Install A Sump Pump.
11 Dec 2020

Why don t houses in Florida have gutters? ›

However, a huge portion of homes still have little to no guttering. The fact that Florida has a sandy soil and most moisture is absorbed quickly without homeowners seeing the ponding may be the reason for this. Or, it may be that builders are trying to save on costs and decided that gutters are not important.

Why do houses in Texas not have gutters? ›

It's HOT in Texas and much of the state doesn't get much rain. That's probably why some houses in the state don't have gutters, but that doesn't mean that it never rains there. In 2021, Texans were bundled up with their families and the last thing they were thinking of was – if their home was safe from water damage.

Why do houses in New England not have gutters? ›

Here in New England, most houses and barns have no gutters. Not only is the soil conducive to great drainage, but the snow and ice on roofs also have a tendency to rip gutters off structures when it slides and tumbles off the roofs. Gutters tend to be less than ideal in New England for those two reasons.

How do you collect rain water naturally? ›

You could collect rain water naturally simply by using things you already have around your home like buckets, a child's swimming pool, watering cans, etc. Simply allow them to fill up with the rain water and use the water within a short amount of time.

How do people collect rain water in the house? ›

Redirecting water with pipes: Rainwater will be redirected towards the container through PVC pipes. These PVC pipes or gutters come in cylindrical shapes and can be easily attached to the drain pipes on the roof to redirect the water towards the storage tank.

How do you make a simple rain water collector? ›

This is a really neat idea if you want a simple rain collector. You'll just take a water tank and basically, put a large funnel on it. And that way when it rains, it'll channel all of the rainwater into your tank so you don't miss as much.

What is the most common problem with gutters? ›

The most common problem we see with gutters is clogging. When gutters become clogged, they can't drain properly and can start to overflow during rainstorms. When the water can't pass through properly, it can start to cause problems with your foundation.

How often does a house need new gutters? ›

Gutters are an essential part of any home. They ensure water properly drains off of your roof, helping to protect the roof, siding, landscaping, and foundation from water damage. On average, gutters need to be replaced every 20 years. However, they can last longer if you care for them properly.

Do you need gutters if your house is on a slab? ›

Conclusion. Whether you have a slab foundation home, or whether you have a basement, water control is vital. As such, it is essential to have gutters to protect your home's foundations.

What can be used to redirect water? ›

Redirect Runoff. Intercepting and redirecting runoff provides an opportunity to safely discharge the volume to a place beyond the problem area. This can be done using swales, French drains, catch basins or downspout and sump pump extensions.

Will gravel around house help drainage? ›

Gravel Beds Provide Natural Drainage

Water drains more quickly through gravel compared to most types of soil, so puddles form less-readily on gravel-covered pathways and borders than they do on soil surfaces.

What should be constructed to divert the flow of water? ›

Diversion dams are installed to raise the water level of a body of water to allow the water to be redirected. The redirected water can be used to supply irrigation systems, reservoirs, or hydroelectric power generation facilities.

What is the fastest way to divert water from a house? ›

The three best options for redirecting water away from home foundations include French drains, gutter systems and swales. However, all of these options require professional installation to ensure they function as intended and drain or collect water in a responsible manner.

How do you divert water runoff from roof without gutters? ›

Solutions To Handle Roof Runoff Without Gutters
  1. Rain Dispersal System. Rain dispersal systems are typically made of metal edging that can be installed onto various locations under the roof shingles. ...
  2. Rain Chains. ...
  3. Re-Grading of the Yard. ...
  4. Ground gutter or French Drain. ...
  5. Drip Edge. ...
  6. Drip Path. ...
  7. Built-in Gutters.
13 Oct 2021

How far should you direct water away from your house? ›

As mentioned above, the water should be diverted at least 4 to 6 feet away from the house. If a home has basement walls, it should be at least 6 feet away. The furthest away from the foundation the better. Putting gravel or rocks at the end of the downspout to avoid erosion is a great idea.

What is the easiest method of rainwater harvesting? ›

Rain Barrels

This is the easiest and cheapest method of rainwater harvesting, especially for homes. In this method, barrels or water tanks are installed below the downspouts of a rooftop guttering system. The water is then funneled or directed into the tanks.

Is it illegal to collect rain water in the US? ›

Is it Illegal to Harvest Rainwater? In almost every case, no. Out of the lower 48 states in the U.S., Colorado and Utah are the only states that are currently heavily regulated to keep homeowners from harvesting and using the rain that falls on their property.

What plant soaks up the most water? ›

The Best Water-Absorbing Plants and Flowers
  • Daylily.
  • Purple Coneflower.
  • Bee balm.
  • Globeflower.
  • Golden club.
  • Japanese iris.
  • Primrose.
10 May 2021

What grass absorbs the most water? ›

Indian grass is a type of grass that absorbs a lot of water. It is native to North America. It is a warm-season grass that forms clumps in areas of the Midwest.

How do you dig trenches to divert water? ›

Dig a trench that is 18 inches deep and 9-12 inches wide. Lay water-permeable landscaping fabric in the trench, followed by 3 inches of gravel. Lay your perforated drain pipe in the trench, cover with an additional 3 inches of gravel, and cover the drainage ditch with rocks, soil, or stones.

Why put a sponge in your downspout? ›

This foam or sponge acts as a trap by intending to filter any large debris out of the water that flows down the gutter. Sponge gutter guards are a do-it-yourself product and can be found at most home improvement stores.

Can I use a French drain instead of gutters? ›

If you have a sloped yard and need a way to control water at the bottom, you can install a French drain to do just that. Gutters have to be attached to the house, but they can manage water before it reaches the ground level.

How far should a gutter drain away from the house? ›

Gutter downspouts should extend a minimum of four feet away from the house; however, they may need to extend much further depending on your soil, the slope of your house and local buildings codes. Here's what you need to know to determine if your gutter extenders are far enough away from your home.

Should I put plastic around my foundation? ›

The best way to move surface water away from the foundation is to install an underground roof (also called below-grade flashing) made from heavy-duty plastic or roofing membrane attached to the foundation and sloped away from the house. The depth depends on foundation plantings, soil type, and amount of surface water.

Do rocks help with drainage? ›

Gravel (and other rocks) act as barriers that shun rain and other forms of precipitation away from a building's foundation. Another benefit of using rock for drainage is that exposed rock absorbs the heat from sunlight more than other materials like mulch.

How do you divert water runoff from roof? ›

Solutions To Handle Roof Runoff Without Gutters
  1. Rain Dispersal System. Rain dispersal systems are typically made of metal edging that can be installed onto various locations under the roof shingles. ...
  2. Rain Chains. ...
  3. Re-Grading of the Yard. ...
  4. Ground gutter or French Drain. ...
  5. Drip Edge. ...
  6. Drip Path. ...
  7. Built-in Gutters.
13 Oct 2021

How do you route water away from foundation? ›

The three best options for redirecting water away from home foundations include French drains, gutter systems and swales. However, all of these options require professional installation to ensure they function as intended and drain or collect water in a responsible manner.

What are the cheapest type of gutters? ›

Vinyl Sectional Gutters

Vinyl gutters are also far heavier than aluminum gutters, making them heavier on your house—especially when they are filled with water and leaves. Vinyl gutters are the least expensive gutter at about $2 per linear foot, materials only.

What can I use instead of downspouts? ›

Here are four alternatives to downspouts that you should consider.
  • French Drains. French drains direct water away from your foundation after it has reached the ground, rather than before. ...
  • Rain Barrels. ...
  • Rain Chains. ...
  • Copper Pipe.
25 Mar 2020

How do I divert standing water in my yard? ›

You can fix standing water in your lawn by building a dry well and a French drain, dethatching and aeration your soil, watering more wisely, extending downspouts, re-grading your yard, adding compost, and creating raised plant beds.

What methods are commonly used for roof drainage? ›

There are several roof drainage systems but these three are the most common options.
Three Roof Drainage Options
  • Internal Drains. ...
  • Scuppers. ...
  • Gutters.
12 Nov 2021

How do landscapers keep water away from foundation? ›

Keep gutters clean, and make sure your downspouts direct water as far away from your foundation as possible. To help steer the stream, miniature landing pads of gravel or river stone will help minimize erosion and direct the water away from your house.

Will rocks keep water away from foundation? ›

Gravel (and other rocks) act as barriers that shun rain and other forms of precipitation away from a building's foundation. Another benefit of using rock for drainage is that exposed rock absorbs the heat from sunlight more than other materials like mulch.

How much does it cost to put gutters on a 1500 sq ft house? ›

For a homeowner of a 1,500 square foot home, the average cost to purchase and install new gutters is $957 to $4,473 for 160 feet of gutters, or $6–$14 per linear foot, depending on the type of gutter installed.

What does home Depot charge to install gutters? ›

Q: What does Home Depot charge to install gutters? A: The average cost to install galvanized or aluminum gutters is approximately $4 to $9 per linear foot. There are also vinyl gutters which are much easier to install, and which run at roughly $3 to $5 per linear foot.

Are underground downspouts a good idea? ›

Underground downspouts are considered the more effective alternative to above-ground downspouts because they're easy to tuck out of the way. If you have a large lawn or just want to preserve the aesthetic of your landscaping, underground downspouts will keep your home safe without turning into an eyesore.

Are buried downspouts a good idea? ›

Is Burying Downspouts a Good Idea? Yes, especially if your lawn tends to hold water in uneven places or you live in an area where it rains often. When water doesn't drain properly away from your home, it can damage your foundation.


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