Water bearers: Lawrence couple develop device to put roof rain water to good use

A Burblebox installed in the ground at a home in west Lawrence diverts rainwater away from the house from the downspout. Greg Frost, of Burblebox Systems of Lawrence, is pictured with his device.

The soaking rain clouds might not be hovering over our homes right now. But if you live in Kansas long enough, you know they’re coming.

I generally love a good soaking rain. It gives us an excuse not to go on that run, or work in the yard, or wash the car. In the back of my mind, I know my garden is particularly pleased with the dark, foreboding clouds that bring the promise of rain.

However, for many, a handful of days when it is steadily raining means only headaches — sump pumps churning, buckets and squeegees out of storage, and sleepless nights.

Greg Frost knows this all too well. He has worked in the masonry profession for more than 30 years, and in that time he has seen that most home restoration needs were caused by poor or desperate attempts in dealing with a downspout issue.

Armed with his extensive firsthand knowledge of flooded basements and cracking foundations, he and his wife, Melissa, decided they could do better, so they invented the Burblebox. Their Web site describes the Burblebox as a passive, environmentally sound system that redirects and recycles roof rain water to the garden or lawn. So for those of you with perennially leaky basements, you might be able to sleep soundly this spring.

A Burblebox installed in the ground at a home in west Lawrence diverts rainwater away from the house from the downspout. Greg Frost, of Burblebox Systems of Lawrence, is pictured with his device.

How does this invention work? Melissa Frost explains:, “It is connected to the end of a downspout where the Burblebox system directs roof rainwater to the garden or yard. When rain gets into the Burblebox, water gently rises out of the 2 1/2-inch holes exposed at the ground surface.”

But will my yard and garden be torn to bits installing this contraption? Melissa replies, “No, the Burblebox system is low-impact to your yard. In most installations, a 4-inch pipe is in a trench 6 inches deep progressing down to 9 inches deep. The Burblebox itself is 15 inches deep and 15 inches wide by 23 inches long.”

The Frosts say that more than 300 homes and businesses are using the Burbleboxes, and the results are quite glowing.

“It will protect the capital investment of your home’s foundations,” says Melissa. “Plus, during the rainy season it can water your garden or yard, and a well-planned garden can be irrigated with the Burblebox systems in a drought as well.”

The Burblebox would most likely lessen utility bills in the spring, summer and fall as well. However, the couple have not kept track of those records to know with any precision just how much money one might save. But it certainly would rest a worried mind to know exactly where excessive rainwater is headed when the floods come. As the rains fall, the Burblebox makes a “burbling” sound, hence the name of their invention. Imagine such peace of mind in the next torrential storm — the box is burbling, the plants are soaking, the grass is lush and thick, and your basement is bone dry. There has to be a certain joy in the security of feeling like the foundation of your home isn’t going to slide right out from under your feet.

— Jennifer Oldridge, a Kansas University graduate, is an avid gardener who previously operated a landscaping business.