While homeowners might remember to clean the gutters, often the downspouts, an important part of the gutter system, are overlooked. Just like the gutters, downpipes need to be free of debris, dirt, and other types of matter that can form clogs or blockages. Ideally, they should be cleared out at the same time as gutter cleaning, but if not, it should be done at least once a year. Spring maintenance for downspouts will help you prevent roofing, siding, and foundation issues in the future.
Regular Downspout Cleaning
When twigs, leaves, dirt, pine cones, etc. enter the gutter channel, they can eventually make their way into the downspout where clogs form. Downpipes generally become blocked in one or a combination of three places inside the downspout: the top of the downspout where it connects to the gutters; in the middle; and around the elbow or where sections of the pipe (seams) are joined together.
Downpipes must be free of debris in order for rainwater to flow freely through the gutter system and into the downspouts. Clogs inside the downspout often cause water to back up into the gutters, making them overflow; it can also force runoff down into areas where the water pools and seeps into the foundation. Because downpipes are enclosed, debris inside a downspout is an ideal place for a bird’s nest or a home for squirrels.
Cleaning the downspouts regularly helps prevent debris buildup and eliminates the likelihood of animals and birds building nests inside the downpipes. The best way to clean downspouts is to turn on a garden hose with a high-pressure nozzle. If water still doesn’t exit freely, gently use a plumber’s snake to break up the clog.
Firmly in Place
Downspouts should be firmly attached to exterior walls with brackets. If a downspout can be shifted, even slightly, there if the possibility it can pull away, reducing its ability to effectively direct water where it’s supposed to go. Tighten or replace any loose or damaged brackets.
When downpipes shift or move around, they can develop leaks and be prone to blockages. To prevent shifting, wherever there are screws, they need tightening if loosened or replaced if stripped or rusted.
Repair or Replace
Downspouts can’t do their job if they’re damaged or have become totally disconnected from the gutter system. Aluminum downpipes, for example, can be easily dented in a wind storm. Depending on the severity of the dent, the downspout’s ability to guide water out of the gutter system has been significantly reduced, resulting in clogs. Regularly inspect the downspouts for damage and/or missing sections of pipe.
Re-Grading around the Foundation
If water has been pooling beneath the downspout for a long period of time, your landscaping could be suffering. When the earth is washed away from the foundation, it can jeopardize the structural integrity of your home. Re-grade around the base of exterior walls by applying fresh soil. If landscaped areas near the foundation, don’t mix the soil with mulch as this can encourage water seepage.