Our gutters drain into a downspout pipe that goes underground. It's very clogged with dirt, leaves, sticks, etc., and now water is backing up and leaking into the foundation of our house. I stuck my hand in there and cleared out as much as I could. The problem is that it hasn't been cleaned in a long time, and is very compact. We just bought the house, and I'm not sure when it was cleaned last.

I'm trying to figure out how to unclog it, without luck. I've tried using a regular plumber snake, and tried blasting water down there. Any suggestions for me?

  • 2
    What's at the downstream end? Jamming things into the top isn't usually the best approach for something like this. Can you get a hose in the bottom end?
    – isherwood
    May 21, 2018 at 18:36
  • I'm not exactly sure where it drains out, but I'm assuming it's draining out near the street into a larger drain that goes to a waterway. There's a grate near the street, and I see a couple of pipes (that resemble the downspout pipe) that drain into it. The problem is, we have a very long front yard, so it's a good 150-200 feet or so from where it enters the ground to where (I believe) it drains near the street.
    – Steve
    May 21, 2018 at 19:30
  • Thanks for the advice! I'll try to figure out where exactly it runs.
    – Steve
    May 21, 2018 at 20:04

2 Answers 2


I ran into the same situation on two of my own houses. I knew where the exits were, but they were long runs, with extended, packed blockage (probably never cleared). Initial attempts at clearing them with plumbing snakes and special hose nozzles didn't make much of a dent.

You've got nothing to lose trying to clear the pipes. But if they have many years of build-up that has turned into a giant solid plug, and efforts to clear them don't seem to get anywhere, it may not be worth the time to clear them. That's especially true if you don't own serious pipe cleanout equipment. You can get them professionally reamed out, but that isn't cheap.

At one house, I just dug up the buried pipe and replaced it. If you're careful, you can put the dirt and sod back. That took about the same amount of time that I had already spent trying to clear them, and was cheaper than getting them professionally cleared.

If you attempt to clear the pipe with a snake or hose attachment, can locate the plug and determine how long it is, it might save a little work to cut out and replace that section if it is at one end of the pipe.

At the other house, I abandoned it in place and just used downspout extenders.


I would determine where the pipe exits and work uphill from there. A stream of water may dislodge the plug, or you can use a drain snake with a corkscrew end to pull out debris. Working from the bottom should result in easier movement of debris.

To find the outlet you may need to trace the pipe. Using a spade (shovel), cut small patches of sod out and dig down every 6 feet or so. You should be able to replace the soil and sod with minimal damage.

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