Downspout Facts for Newbies: Common Problems and Solutions

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

Here’s a quick primer about your downspout that you may not know:

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. Since speed is important in the installation process, round openings are typically cut into the gutter–they’re just easier to do with a hand tool. The opening is typically smaller than the downspout itself. Depending on the amount of gutter this downspout 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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Downspout Drainage is Key

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 downspout 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.

You may want to find out if your gutter installer has this tool and if they plan to use it. Gutter outlets are also available in the same shape as the downpout. 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 that live under trees (or under our neightbor’s trees), the bigger 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.

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 of the downspout to collect water.

If your downspout drains near your home, consider installing a downspout 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.

Downspouts should empty away from your home to avoid all the water from the gutter system seeping into the ground near your foundation. Water near it can have a detramental effect. It can cause foundation cracks or just slow seapage through into your basement or crawlspace, creating a musty environment in your home. Make sure you make an effort to keep rainwater 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.

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MasterShield is a manufacturer that produces gutter guards and heated gutter guards for your exterior home improvement needs.
Our innovative microfiltration technology saves homeowners time, effort and money cleaning out, repairing, and replacing unprotected gutters.
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