Don’t Let Downspouts Be Your Downfall
The last thing you would ever worry about are downspouts. What could possibly go wrong with something so simple? They just hang there and water runs down them. They don’t do anything and worse case the rainwater will come down somehow. First thing to consider with downspouts is that much like a leaking roof, you never notice there is something wrong until it’s raining. So that is the perfect time for you to go outside and try to fix them while you get to experience lightening, thunder, pelting rain, blowing wind...ahh the joys of homeownership. Well let me give you some hard-learned lessons about how badly downspouts can ruin your day….
THE DOWNSIDE -Based on my experience, having broken; poorly hung; or clogged downspouts can be catastrophic. You laugh, but here’s the bad news. If your downspouts (and gutters) are not working properly, that water still goes somewhere. And that somewhere is down along side your foundation. Then once the foundation is breeched, you will have to deal with a flooded basement or crawlspace. But wait there’s more… If left unchecked your basement wall will begin to swell and crack. Mine got so bad that between the floor and the ceiling in the basement there was a 4”-6” “potbelly” in the middle where the block wall had bowed inwards. Pretty bad huh? But it gets better…. Then the brick on the outside of the house started cracking and sagging as the basement wall supporting it kept moving. After totally excavating all along the wall down to the footers; realigning the basement wall; pouring concrete support columns; and repairing the brick; we had spent thousands in repair bills. After we were all done with these repairs, the contractor explained that all of this damage was caused by simply not having the downspouts maintained and running the discharge water well away from the foundation. Really? What an expensive lesson.
RULE #1 – DEBRIS: You have to keep all the various crap out of your downspouts. You can either use gutter guards or install the cheap and easy downspout screens. Both will work to keep leaves; twigs; shingle sand and other debris from clogging your system. Once clogged then all that water just overflows and you're back to having foundation problems.
RULE #2 – DISCHARGE LEGS: Once the water comes down the downspout it has to be carried away from the house so it doesn’t leech back to the foundation. This is where you want to have at least five feet of horizontal run to push the water far enough away. This can be using more aluminum downspout; flexible pvc hoses; a French drain; or even a buried piping/tile system. Pay attention to your landscaping too. Make sure that the ground slopes away from your foundation or any water you discharge is just going to pool and run back to the house.
RULE #3 – MAINTENENCE: Murphy’s Law dictates that something can, and will, go wrong. Periodically check your gutters and downspouts. Sometimes they come apart at the seams; the legs get blown off in the wind; birds just love to make nests in them. With maintenance, a penny spent is thousands saved – believe me I know.
As a personal product reference, I found these InvisaFlow extensions at our local hardware store (Lowe’s), and they are really working quite well. Because of their low profile I’ve never had to chase these across the neighborhood during a storm. They are clean-looking and inconspicuous. We even have some buried under mulch in the flower garden to help disperse rainwater. Check them out… but most of all don’t forget to check out your downspouts. It could be the cheapest and easiest way to avoid bigger problems later.
BTW – I also found this little gem online. It’s a downspout blower attachment. Stick this on the end of your downspout, shove your leaf blower in the other side and BOOM – in one quick shot you’ve cleaned out the downspout AND the gutter screen… all from ground level!
Amerimax Home Products 4600 Downspout Extension, Black
Part Number: 4600
Gutter Screen - Set of 5 (White) (35"L x 6 1/2"W (each of 5 panels))
Manufacturer: L.B. Plastics, Inc.
Brand: L.B. Plastics, Inc.
Part Number: ZSW-2000CA
AMERIMAX HOME PRODUCTS 21059 3" Expand Aluminum Strainer
Manufacturer: AMERIMAX HOME PRODUCTS
Brand: Amerimax Home Products
Part Number: 21059
Amazon Price: $5.15