lawn in front of a toronto home with a disconnected downspout clearly visible

What is Downspout Disconnection and Why Do It?

Posted: 05/12/17 - Category: Eavestroughs & Gutters

As a result of serious flooding that has occurred in recent years, there has been a lot of talk about what can be done to mitigate the potential for flood damage in places like Toronto and Mississauga. One of the measures that has been identified by the local governments is the disconnection of downspouts from sewers and storm drains.

For many homeowners in the areas of Toronto and nearby Mississauga, the benefits of performing this work is still unclear, and they still have some questions as to what they actually need to do. In this article, we are going to explain downspout disconnection, and the reasons that it needs to be done.

What is Downspout Disconnection?

disconnect downspout in a home in mississaugaThe gutters on your home are there to manage the water that flows down your roof. The eavestroughs connect to downspouts, and the downspouts channel the water down from the roof. On some homes, the downspouts connect to an extension that releases the water onto the ground and away from the home. On other homes, the downspouts connect to pipes that connect to the local storm drains or sewers.

Downspout disconnection is the process of disconnecting your downspouts from the municipal wastewater drainage systems. Basically, you disconnect the downspouts from the pipe that runs into the ground, and refit them in a way that allows the water to flow onto the ground.

Is downspout disconnection necessary?

All homes in Toronto and Mississauga should disconnect all downspouts from the sewers and storm drains. This is a program that will be mandatory in both cities, and homeowners that fail to act could be subject to a fine.

In both cities, these programs for downspout disconnection started a few years ago. The requirements were rolled out in phases, with different areas having to comply before others. In Toronto, the last phase of the requirements expired near the end of last year, so if you live in the city, it is very likely that you already need to have your downspouts disconnected from the local sewer and drainage systems.

While most homes will need to comply, there is the possibility that some homes could receive an exemption. If you can demonstrate that disconnection would be unsafe or technically unfeasible, then you could apply for an exemption.

Why is downspout disconnection important?

Downspout disconnection has been identified as an important measure for preventing flood damage, and for protecting our local waterways. By allowing downspouts to empty into the sewers and storm drains, it could expose the homes of you and your neighbours to basement flooding, and it could also expose local rivers, lakes and streams to the potential for contamination from polluted storm water.

When sewers and drains are built, they are designed to handle a certain amount of water. During times of heavy rain or snowmelt, an excess of water can cause the sewers and drains to become overwhelmed. This could cause wastewater to back up into the drains that are in people’s homes or it could result in contaminated water being releases into the local waterways.

When your downspouts are connected to the sewers or drains, it contributes to these problems. By disconnecting the downspouts, you take some of the stress off the local drainage systems, and instead, the water is released onto the ground. Once on the ground, the water can be absorbed into the local water table.

Where should the downspout release the water?

a downspout connected to gutter of a toronto home after disconnection serviceOnce you disconnect the downspouts from the pipes that run to the sewer or storm drain, you are going to want to make sure that the water drains away from your home. Allowing the water to accumulate around your foundation could cause damage, so you want to be careful about where the water is released.

Once you have the downspout disconnected, you are going to want to attach an elbow and an extension that directs the water away from the home. In general, you want this extension to be at least six feet in length. Another point is to make sure that your downspouts are not emptying onto a neighbour’s property, and that you are not creating a hazard by releasing the water into a certain location.

How much does disconnection cost?

The cost of disconnection could vary significantly depending on the property. Some disconnections will be very simple, and others may require a significant amount of work. For the simplest of downspout disconnections, it might be possible to get the work done for less than $100. For the more complicated disconnections, the costs could go beyond $1000.

If you hire a contractor to perform your downspout disconnection, it is important to make sure that they are a licensed professional. It might cost a little more, but you want to ensure that the work is done right, and that you are dealing with a professional that will stand by their work.

Some homeowners may also be eligible for financial assistance. The level to which you can expect financial assistance will depend on factors like where you live, your age, your income and if you are disabled.

Can I do the work myself?

Yes, you can perform your own downspout disconnection. Simple disconnections can be done by homeowners, and you do not even need a permit. This could be a good way to save some money, but many people may not feel comfortable performing even the simplest of disconnections.

To perform the work yourself, you will need an assortment of tools and materials to get the job done. The City of Toronto does have some resources posted online that could provide you with information about getting ready to disconnect your downspouts, and some DIY tips for doing the job yourself.

This is a mandatory program for both Mississauga and the City of Toronto, so if your downspouts are still connected, then you should probably start thinking about what you are going to do about disconnection. Take the time to learn about any rebate programs that might be available in your area and start getting some quotes from local contractors that are qualified to do the work.