Downspout Basics

The downspout is part of the gutter system and is designed to direct rainwater collected from the roof to the ground where it can be safely deposited away from the foundation. But often its importance is overlooked and underrated. Understanding some downspout basics goes a long way to having a gutter system that works efficiently and protects your home.

Material and Color

Downpipes are made from a variety of materials including vinyl, aluminum, copper and galvanized steel. They are typically matched in material and color to the gutters. But by using a different color for the downspouts and trim than the gutter sections, a homeowner can make the exterior of the house stand out (in a trendy way).


Downspouts are attached to gutters, often at the corners or other parts of the structure where they will be inconspicuous. Downpipes should deposit the water at least a minimum of five feet away from the foundation. When a downspout is located in a tight spot or awkward place, a downpipe extension can be used to direct water away from a neighbor’s property, a basement window well or a driveway.


A standard 5-inch gutter system is typically accompanied by a 2 x 3 inch downspout in areas ranging from light to heavy annual rainfall. In geographic locations where the annual amount of rain is high or the drainage area of the roof is very large, you might need wider gutters and a larger sized downpipe, such as a 6-inch gutter paired with a 3 x 4 inch downpipe.

One or More

Depending on the size of your home, the configuration of the roof and how much rainfall you get, you may require two or more downspouts to effectively handle runoff.


The most common reason that a downspout stops working properly is debris. Whatever lands on the roof, such as toys, birds’ nests, twigs and leaves, will eventually end up in the gutter system. Regular maintenance can help prevent downspouts from becoming clogged.