Why Downspouts Stop Working

When downspouts are properly attached, don’t have any dents, and rainwater seems to flow away from the foundation as it should, it might seem you don’t have anything to worry about. However, most downspout problems can take time to become obvious. Here are some telltale signs as to why downspouts stop working and what you can do before the situation becomes critical.

Overflowing Gutters

The most probable cause of overflowing gutters is debris buildup. But it can also be a sign that the downspouts aren’t working properly. When clogs have blocked the gutter outlet, the part of the gutter channel that connects the downspout to the gutter system, rainwater can’t enter the downpipes. When too much water collects, it can spill over the sides of the gutters, soaking landscaping and causing water damage to your foundation and/or basement.

Solution: Regular gutter cleaning and maintenance will prevent debris buildup. Check the gutter outlet (or outlets if you have more than one downspout) after heavy storms or severe winds.

Water trickles from Downspouts

Water trickling out of the downpipes instead of flowing in a steady stream is a sign that debris has formed clogs inside the downspout. As mentioned above, debris can clog a gutter outlet; blockages can also be found in the middle of the downspout and wherever there is a downspout elbow.

Solution: Inspect the gutter outlet for debris and remove the clog if there is one. If water still doesn’t flow easily through the downpipes, lightly tap the outside of the downspout. Hearing a “thud” instead of a “ring” indicates a clog. Remove it gently with a plumber’s snake.

Downspouts are not Long Enough

When downpipes deposit rainwater too close to the foundation, they are not long enough. To protect your basement from flooding, the rainwater from your gutter system should exit at least seven feet away from exterior walls.

Solution: Install a downspout extender. There are different types including permanent, hinged, or accordion.

Downpipes are not the Right Size

Standard residential 5-inch gutters are typically matched with 2 x 3-inch downpipes. A red flag that they’re not handling the annual rainfall for their local region is constant clogging even when the gutter system is well-maintained.

Solution: Replace current downpipes with 3 x 4- inch downspouts.

Too Few Downpipes

Overflowing gutters that can’t be attributed to clogs might also be a sign that there are not enough downspouts.

Solution: Add more downpipes. A general guideline is one downspout for every 20 to 30 feet of gutter.