Downspout Facts: Common Problems and Solutions


Everyone worries about their gutters clogging. But where do they typically clog? At the downspout!

Here’s a quick rundown of downspout problems and how to fix them.

On a standard aluminum K-Style gutter seen on most homes east of the Rockies, aluminum downspouts are typically 2 inches x 3 inches or 3 inches x 4 inches. The smaller size is traditionally for a 5-inch gutter, the larger for a 6-inch gutter.

Since both the gutter and downspout have no natural way to connect, an accessory called a gutter outlet is used. Round openings are typically cut into the gutter with a hand tool, and the opening is often smaller than the downspout itself. Depending on the amount of gutter it is supporting (and the ratio is one downspout for every 20 feet of gutter), everything hinges on this one spot: the opening into the downspout below.
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Why Should You Drain Your Downspout?

You can see where we’re going with this. First, to ensure water can drain properly, you really want this opening to be as close as possible to the size of the spout that’s been fitted. Typically, this requires a special tool and a greater degree of precision to cut the opening. Not the thing that the cheapest gutter installer will do, it’s what the better gutter installers will do.

A downspout can be the cause of common gutter problems

This is what we mean about a round downspout outlet. You can tell you’re more likely to get a clog here and that you’re not using the entire opening to collect water.

You may want to find out if your installer has a gutter opening tool, and whether they plan to use it. Gutter outlets are also available in the same shape as the downspout. Make sure your gutters are fitted with this type of outlet. The wider the outlet, the more water can drain. Even more important for those of us who live under trees (or under our neighbor’s trees), the bigger the outlet, the harder it will be for debris to get trapped and cause a gutter clog.

It doesn’t take much debris for a clog to occur. In fact, the rest of the gutter can be clear, but since gutters are pitched so debris gets flushed down the downspout, the issue will naturally occur more frequently when the opening is small.

A downspout often drains directly into an underground drain or is left to empty only a few inches from your foundation. If you have underground drains and debris is getting into them, you may be setting yourself up for a much bigger problem than a gutter clog. Consider protecting your gutters with a gutter guard – it’s much less costly than digging up a drainage system.

If your downspout drains near your home, consider installing an extension that can be raised to mow your lawn. On a hinge with a temporary hook, you’ll be able to take care of your grass then drop the downspout back down.
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Downspouts should empty away from your home to avoid all the water from the gutter system seeping into the ground near your foundation. Moisture near it can have a detrimental effect. It can cause foundation cracks or just slow seepage through into your basement or crawlspace, creating a musty environment in your home.

Make sure you make an effort to keep rain from your gutter system at least 6 feet away from your foundation if you live on level property. If your land drops away from your house, you don’t need to go as far.