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Roof Scupper vs. Roof Drain: What’s the Difference?
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Roof Scupper vs. Roof Drain: What’s the Difference?

Posted on June 26, 2024

Estimated Reading Time : 4 Min.

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roof scupper vs roof drain

Many Dayton homeowners find roofing terminology confusing, particularly if they are new to the industry. “Roof scupper” and “roof drain” are two frequently mixed up terms. While both manage water drainage, they have distinct characteristics. 

In this blog post, we will explain the differences between a roof scupper vs. roof drain, allowing you to make more informed roofing decisions for your home.

Understanding Roof Scupper vs. Roof Drain

What Is A Roof Scupper?

Roof scupper
Roof Scupper

A roof scupper is a drainage system used on flat or low-sloped roofs. It consists of an opening in the parapet wall or roof itself, allowing water to drain off the roof and away from the building. Scuppers channel the water from the roof surface to the outside, where it can be safely drained with the help of downspouts. Their purpose is to prevent water accumulation on the roof and potential water infiltration into the building’s interior.

Types Of Roof Scuppers

  1. Channel Scuppers: These are openings in the wall, directing water down the building’s sides to prevent pooling and leaks.
  2. Through-Wall Scuppers: Constructed from materials like copper or galvanized steel, these boxes are integrated into the roof, featuring a sealed faceplate on the exterior wall.
Simple Design: Minimizes clogs and maintenance costs.Clogging Risk: Debris may block smaller scuppers and downspouts.
Efficient Drainage: Handles heavy rainfall, preventing pooling and leaks.Maintenance Needs: Regular cleaning and inspections are vital.
Cost-Effective: Affordable installation and low maintenance.Water Damage Potential: Neglect can harm the building’s structure and interior.

What Are Roof Drains?

Roof drains
Roof Drains

A roof drain is a complex system involving internal piping and downspouts to divert water from the roof. Typically placed in recessed areas, it captures water and directs it through pipes. The water then exits the building through downspouts or underground systems. These drains use a slight roof slope to guide water to openings, preventing accumulation. Essential for managing water flow and protecting the structure, they’re commonly installed on flat or semi-flat roofs.

Types Of Roof Drains

  1. Internal Roof Drains: These drains are designed for large flat roofs on commercial buildings. They collect water at the center of the roof and guide it through pipes inside the building.
  2. Siphonic Roof Drains: Also used on larger flat roofs of commercial buildings, these drains work quickly to divert water away through a single pipe, using a special method called siphoning.
Prevents Water Accumulation: Reduces leaks and structural damage.Clogging Risk: May lead to leaks if neglected.

Easy Maintenance: Ensures efficient water flow and extends lifespan.
High Installation Cost: Initial setup can be expensive.
Enhanced Longevity: Protects flat roofs from water damage.Limited Design: Affects building aesthetics.

The Difference Between Roof Drain vs. Scupper

1. Location

Roof scuppers, which are located either along the parapet wall or the roof edge, act as channels for water, directing it downward to prevent interior water infiltration. Roof drains, on the flip side, are centrally located and connect to internal piping, allowing larger volumes of water to be channeled through the building’s structure.

2. Drainage Path

Scuppers provide an external drainage path, effectively preventing water entry into the building and reducing potential damage. Roof drains, on the other hand, use internal piping systems to remove water quickly and efficiently without compromising structural integrity.

3. Clogging

The design of scuppers, with their openness, makes them less susceptible to clogging, allowing debris to pass through and ensuring uninterrupted water flow. On the other hand, roof drains may accumulate debris, necessitating regular maintenance to prevent blockages and ensure continued effective drainage.

4. Freezing

In regions with colder climates, scuppers face a heightened risk of freezing due to their exposed drain lines, potentially leading to structural damage. Insulated by the building’s interior heat, roof drains are less vulnerable to freezing, ensuring continuous drainage without the risk of damage from cold temperatures.

5. Cost

While the scupper units are relatively affordable, installation costs can vary due to caulking, welding, and compliance with local regulations. In contrast, although roof drains may incur higher material expenses, they often offer lower installation costs, potentially making them a more economical choice in the long run.

6. Aesthetics

Available in different designs, scuppers can seamlessly integrate with the building’s architecture, enhancing its visual appeal. Conversely, roof drains are typically more discreet, potentially lacking the aesthetic enhancement scuppers provide.

7. Maintenance

Regular maintenance is essential for both scuppers and roof drains to uphold their functionality. This includes clearing debris from scuppers and inspecting roof drain piping to prevent clogging and maintain efficient drainage, thereby prolonging the lifespan of the entire drainage system.

8. Building Type

Scuppers are commonly utilized in regions with heavy rainfall, particularly on flat or low-sloped roofs prone to water accumulation. Roof drains, however, are versatile and can be employed across various building types, including those with steeper roofs or in areas with moderate precipitation.

Scupper vs. Roof Drain: Which Option Is Better?

Scuppers and roof drains both work well for flat roofs, but each has pros and cons. Scuppers are wall openings that allow direct water drainage, bypassing gutter maintenance. However, due to exterior drain lines, they may freeze in cold weather. 

Roof drains use internal piping to prevent freezing and leaks and protect against water backup when outdoor drainage is impossible. The decision depends on building design, climate, and drainage requirements, but both are effective when properly installed and maintained.


Choosing between roof scuppers and roof drains depends on many factors. But in the end, the decision lies in your roofing needs, whether to go for roof scuppers that fit smaller roofs or roof drains that work well for larger buildings. For the best gutter services, trust All Around Roofing, Siding & Gutters for expert advice and quality services to secure your property. Call us today at (937) 902-2839.

roof scupper vs roof drain
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