Why do we have downspouts and gutters? Partly, we have them so that when we step out of the house we don’t get gallons of rainwater on our heads. We also have them so that the downspouts can channel water away from the foundation of the house.

Houses that are set on large tracts of land don’t necessarily need gutters and downspouts as long as the land is graded away from the foundation. If the rain water can flow away from the foundation, and there is space for the water to flow, and not puddle near foundations or walkways.

In urban areas, gutters and downspouts keep rain water and sometimes ice away from foundations and away from walkways. Because there’s less space there, there’s more likely to be puddles and ice on walkways if we didn’t have gutters and downspouts.

Problems with gutters and downspouts

Working downspout

Picture 1: Working downspout

Gutters run along the bottom edge of the roof and are prone to collect leaves and dirt. When that happens, the small hole that leads to the downspout can get clogged. Clogged downspouts can get disconnected from their gutter. When that happens, it can lead to trouble.


In picture one, you see a working downspout. Notice that the downspout comes out of the bottom of the gutter and water can flow down to ground level.




Downspout disconnected

Picture 2: Downspout disconnected

In picture number two, at the left, you can see the downspout that has been disconnected from its gutter. This can happen because leaves and debris have plugged that hole where the downspout should be connected. It could be because ice had moved the downspout out of the hole. Once the downspout is disconnected, water will flow down the side of the house.


The result can be significant damage to the siding of the house, if the disconnected downspout is left unattended. Rainwater can wear away paint and wood siding, making for quite an expensive fix. (See picture 3 for an example. Ouch!)


What to do about your downspouts

Now that it’s spring, walk around your house and check that all your downspouts are still connected and are still secure to your house.

If you’re househunting, and you see a wet basement, check the downspouts right near the part of the basement that’s wet. There’s a good chance that there’s a downspout there and it is not adequately taking water away from the house.

Where they are a happy homeowner or house hunter, don’t be too concerned about a disconnected downspout. It is not an expensive repair. However, if you neglect it, it could be.

Missing downspout

Picture 3: Missing downspout & damage done