How to figure drainpipe size?

charlesmartorelliOctober 25, 2006

I will be collecting water from 2 or 3 downspouts and sending it around the house to the street. I have enough slope but not sure what size drain pipe to use. I plan to use 3" corrugated pipe but would 4 inch be better? How do I figure how much each pipe can handle. My roof is about 1500 sq ft and this will be draining about half of the roof.


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If you are just using the pipe as a conduit, then why use corrugated pipe? Use straight wall PVC and glue your joints. Corrugated pipe is flexible and permits bending but will retain water in the corrugations.

calculate the crossectional area of the downspout and use roughly the same crossection of pipe and should be OK

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 10:32PM
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If I have 2 - 3 inch drain pipes going into one pipe what size should that pipe be?

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 11:03PM
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When comparing the volume of dissimilar pipe sizes we cannot compare diameter but rather we must use a formula that compares cross sectional area.

The formula is ...


Example... Let us compare a 4" pipe to a 3" pipe

(4 x 4) / (3 x 3)= 16 / 9 = 1.77

This means a 4" pipe has the equivalent volume of 1.77 pipes that are 3".

We must also remember that the velocity of flow in a vertical pipe (down spout) is much greater than the velocity of flow in a horizontal pipe (horizontal storm drain).

The actual volume of a horizontal storm drain would be effected by such factors as the length of run, the pitch of the pipe and the "friction head factor" of the pipe material selected.

A basic rule of thumb is that a 4" horizontal drain line with a minimum of 1/4" per foot pitch can handle the same volume as a 3" downspout thus combining two 4" pipes into one pipe would require a 6" pipe.

(6x6)/(4x4) = 36/16 = 2.25

Thus a 6" pipe has the equivalent capacity of two 4" pipes or two 3" downspouts.


CORRUGATED POLY PIPE: the advantages of corrugated poly pipe are:
1. Inexpensive- typically a 75' roll of 4" roll poly is about $35 to $40. Check prices carefully, you may find that running two 4" side by side would be cheaper than running one 6".
2. User friendly- corrugated roll pipe comes in 50', 75' and 100' rolls. This means you can usually run the entire run without joints. When joints are necessary they have connectors that just slip on the pipe and require no gluing.
3. Uneven terraine- being flexible roll pipe is more suitable to uneven terraine conditions.

PVC "SDR PIPE" If you look in your hardware or home supply center you will find a thinwall PVC pipe which is labelled on the pipe as SDR 20, SDR 30 or SDR35. SDR indicates the pipe is made to the "Size Dimension Ratio" standard. Under the SDR standard the actual thickness of the pipe wall is determined by dividing the pipe diameter by the index number thus a 4" SDR-20 pipe would have a wall thickness of 4"/20= 0.2". SDR pipe may not be used for DWV (Drain, waste & vent) applications but it is approved for storm drainage. SDR pipe may be white like sched 40PVC or it may also be light green or light blue in color and usually it will have a preformed end bell on one end of the length to permit joining. It may be glued but glueing is not required for storm drains. SDR pipe has an advantage on long runs because it has a much lower "friction head factor" than corrugated roll pipe.

SCHEDULE 40 PVC: Schedule 40 PVC is code approved and it would be perfectly suitable although it would generally be considered overkill and it would be the most expensive.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 12:25PM
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Lazypup -- what's the carrying capacity of these pipes? If I did my math correctly, rainfall of an inch/hour means about 1 gallon/minute of water for each 100 sq. ft. of roof. So for 750 sq. ft. of roof, even a heavy rain (2"/hour) means about 15gpm of drainage. That adds up, but is 3" PVC sufficient to carry that much water?

    Bookmark   January 30, 2008 at 4:11PM
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Couple of notes from experience of having many water issues at my house. I live on clay soils over ledge so water runs everywhere as it cannot leach into the ground. my crawl space would flood every rain, but not any more!

Use 4" or 6" main to the street. If you plan to run over it with equipment, cars, etc, use sch 40, otherwise, use sch20 sewer pipe as mentioned above.
Use 4" corrugated to tie each downspout into the 4" main if you want. I would avoid it if possible, but it has its place.
Do not glue it. You do not need to, and once its in, you may decide to add drains. Nothing more tempting than adding drains to a system you know is there.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 7:50AM
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how can we determine the sizes of drain pipes when we connect multiple drain lenes? (ex: connecting drain lines of air conditioning VRV unit's condensate drain in a multi storied building)

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 1:24PM
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"how can we determine the sizes of drain pipes when we connect multiple drain lenes? (ex: connecting drain lines of air conditioning VRV unit's condensate drain in a multi storied building)"

The problem is usually trying to calculate the volume of condensate.
It is usually a rather small amount, thus the reason you can get away with small lines and small condensate pumps for each unit.

Each condensate pump has a small holding tank to accumulate enough condensate the pump can run for a few minutes the volume is so low.

Most of the time it is just a few ounces per hour.
Condensate is cold distilled water and tends to be aggressive.
Plastic lines are a good idea.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 12:20PM
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