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Archive for Downpipes

Simple Gutter System Maintenance Tips

Cleaning the gutters twice a year is only one element of a total gutter maintenance plan. Homeowners often overlook the other parts of a gutter system, particularly the downspouts. Make your gutters last longer and function better by using these simple gutter system maintenance tips throughout the year.


The first part of a gutter system is the gutter, the horizontal section that is the initial point of contact for water coming off of the roof. Hangers are used to attach gutter section to a house. To ensure gutters are in good shape:

  • keep the gutter channel free of debris
  • wash the outside of the gutters to remove dirt, streaks, and organic growth such as algae or moss
  • check that the hangers are not worn or loose – for older gutter systems using spikes or nails, replace them if they’re loose or rusted
  • check the seams and joints for leaks
  • remove nests and other signs of pest/insect activity
  • trim back trees close to the house to reduce the amount of debris entering the gutter system and to prevent potential damage to aluminum gutters


The second major part of the gutter system is the downspout. If you have more than one, don’t forget to check all of them. Inspect the downspouts once every two months and look for:

  • dents – can restrict water flow
  • scratches – can promote corrosion
  • loose brackets – shifting causes misalignment
  • clogs – they typically form in one of three places; gutter outlet, middle, and elbow

Removing a clog from a downspout is sometimes more problematic than cleaning the gutters. If flushing water through the downpipe doesn’t dislodge the blockage, try using a plumber’s auger.


Drainage is the third integral part of any gutter system. Once water enters the gutters and exits through the downpipes, it must be routed safely away from the house. Check for the following:

  • pooled water underneath the downspout – it might be a landscaping issue or a blockage inside the pipe
  • rust, flaking, and peeling paint are possible signs of leaks or other kinds of water damage
  • distance – water should be deposited a minimum of 7 feet from the foundation
  • if using a downspout extender or splash block, make sure it is positioned correctly and is in good condition

When and Where to Install Gutter Accessories

Gutter accessories are used for a number of reasons such as increasing functionality and protecting a home’s exterior from water damage. Gutter guards, splash blocks and flexible downspouts are just a few accessories for the gutters that are popular with homeowners. But if you purchase a gutter accessory and use it incorrectly, it’s going to defeat the purpose of installing it. Here is a brief guide on when and where to install gutter accessories.


Gutter accessories for downspouts are designed to direct water away from one place or direction to another.

Downspout Extenders

Downspout extensions are used when downpipes deposit water too close to the foundation. Different types of downpipe extenders are intended for specific uses.

  • A standard extender resembles a downspout installed horizontally instead of vertically, then fastened into place.
  • A flexible downspout has an “accordion” section that allows the downspout extender to be positioned around obstructions and areas where water shouldn’t be deposited.
  • A hinged downpipe resembles a standard extender except for the hinge mechanism that allows the downspout to be folded up when not in use.

Rainwater Diverters

Diverters for downpipes are available in a variety of types and styles. Some types of diverters direct rainwater from a gutter system into a rain barrel. Other types of diverters, often resembling a “Y” direct water from one downspout into two different places, such as around a sidewalk in one direction and into a landscaped area in the opposite direction. Some manufacturers use the term “diverter” interchangeably with “downspout extender/extension.” Make sure that the diverter is intended for the function you’re purchasing it for.

Gutter/Leaf Protectors

Many homeowners find some type of leaf protection handy in cutting down the time and cost of gutter maintenance. There are several different types of gutter protectors including all-in-one systems and leaf screens for downspouts and gutters.

Gutter Guards

If you’re considering purchasing a gutter guard system for your home, keep the following in mind:

  • be able to handle the volume of annual rainfall in your area
  • be compatible with your home’s exterior and/or roof
  • openings of screens or covers should match the type of trees growing on the property (wider for deciduous, narrower for pines)

Leaf Screen

Made of vinyl or metal mesh, leaf screens are placed over the top of the gutter. When buying a leaf strainer for a downspout, ensure it fits properly over the gutter outlet.

Preventing Erosion

Since a splash block typically resembles a long narrow tray, it’s sometimes used as a directional downspout accessory. While it does move water away from a foundation where the downspout is too close to the wall, a splash block helps prevent soil erosion. This maintains the landscape design and prevents the foundation from shifting.

When to Install Oversized Downspouts

While downspouts are often overlooked by homeowners when they purchase or maintain a gutter system, downpipes play an important role in protecting a home’s exterior. Standard 5-inch gutters are typically paired with a 2 x 3-inch downspout. However, there are some instances where installing oversized downspouts as part of a standard gutter system is a better choice.

Cleaning the Gutters too Often

If you’re cleaning the gutters four times a year but everyone else in the community is only gutter cleaning once or twice annually, this might be an indicator larger downpipes are needed. When the gutters are generally in good shape, don’t exhibit signs of damage, and are not older than 7 years but seem to become clogged a lot, replacing 2 x 3-inch downpipes with 3 x 4-inch downspouts will improve the functionality of the gutters without the need for replacement.

Not the Right Fit

In Vancouver where a home’s exterior is subjected to a lot of rain, 6-inch gutters might seem more practical. But an oversized gutter system is quite noticeable and can detract from the aesthetics of the home exterior. When oversized gutters aren’t the right fit for the style, size or fascia of the house, oversized downspouts can provide a practical alternative.

Overflowing Gutters

Clogs in the gutter channel are not the only reason gutters overflow. Other reasons include improper slope, an insufficient number of downspouts and the size of either the gutters or downspout or both. When all other causes are ruled out, before upgrading to a 6” gutter system, try replacing just the downpipes first. The outlet of an oversized downspout is twice as wide as a 2 x 3-inch downpipe, allowing more water to exit the gutters and flow through the downspouts.

Blocked Downspouts

Standard downpipes for 5-inch gutters can easily become clogged around the elbows (top and bottom of the pipe) or in the middle due to debris building up around an object that hasn’t been washed out of the gutter system. The wider opening at the top of downspout where it connects with the gutters will handle larger volumes of water more efficiently.

Signs Your Downspouts are Clogged

Gutters and downspouts make up the gutter system that protects your home. But when it comes to being regularly maintained as often as the gutters, downpipes are sometimes overlooked. Like the gutters heading for trouble, there are several telltale signs that the downspouts have become clogged.

Water Flow

One of the first signs a downspout is blocked is decreased or even non-existent water flow. If water trickles from the mouth of the downspout or doesn’t exit at all, most likely it’s because of a clog. Blockages in downpipes typically form around the gutter outlet or in the middle of the downspout or in the bottom elbow where water is discharged.

Gutter Issues

When a gutter system experiences problems that aren’t caused by debris build-up in the gutters themselves, then the culprit probably is the downspout. Standing water in the gutter channels or constantly overflowing gutters can be due to water backing up because of a clog in the downpipe preventing rainwater from flowing down and out.

Leaking Seams

If water escapes from the seams and/or joints of a downspout, it could be an indication of a blocked downpipe. When leaking seams occur in a gutter system five to seven years old, it’s likely that the clog has been there for a while, long enough for the water inside the pipe to wear down the sealant of a relatively new downspout.

Loose or Dented

A gutter system can be adversely affected by loose or dented Downpipes. When downspouts aren’t securely fastened to the house, they can become misaligned, stopping the proper flow of rainwater.

While it might not seem crucial, even a small dent might restrict water flow enough to create places for debris to snag and then form into a clog.

Can’t Remember When

Debris like pine needles, twigs, seed pods, and blossoms are small enough or can break down into tiny bits that easily enter the gutter system. If you can’t remember when you last checked the downspouts, they could already be clogged or be about to cause you trouble.

How to Maintain Downspouts

Gutters and downspouts protect a very important investment – your home. Even though together they make up the gutter system, often downpipes get the short end of the stick when it comes to maintenance. But overlooking the important role downpipes play can lead to costly repairs to not only the gutters, but to also to siding, the roof, or soffit and fascia.

Keep Downpipes Free of Debris

When debris enters the gutters, twigs, dirt, leaves, pine cones, etc. can collect in the gutter channel or in downspout itself if it doesn’t exit the gutter system via the downpipes. Clogs also might form at the gutter outlet where the downspout is joined to the gutters or in the elbow at the bottom of the downpipe. Keeping downpipes free of debris prevents rainwater from backing up into the gutter channel, causing gutters to overflow or allowing water to remain inside the gutter sections.

Periodic Inspections

In addition to regular cleanings, downspouts should be inspected with every change of season and periodically throughout the winter moths. They get buffeted by wind, heavy rains, and branches, resulting in loosened brackets, misalignment and damage such as dents (restricting water flow) and scratches (corrosion or rusting). In violent storms, downpipes can become completely disconnected from the gutter system.

If you use some type of downspout extender or splash block to manage rainwater draining too close to your foundation, check to make sure it is still attached or hasn’t shifted or been moved.

Take Action ASAP

After inspecting the downspouts and you discover loosened nails or a clog in the mouth of the downpipe, don’t ignore it. Weather permitting, make time to fix what’s wrong. Tightening loose nails, screws and fasteners will stop the section of pipe from being loosened even more or worse, becoming dislodged. You want to reposition a splash block or reattach a downspout extension immediately to avoid pooling water or rainwater from washing soil away from the foundation. Taking the time now to repair downspouts can help you avoid the cost of extensive repairs while extending the life of your gutter system.

Gutters and Downspouts – Making them Work Well Together

A gutter system is designed to collect rainwater from the roof and channel it to the downspouts, where they direct water away from the foundation. But it’s not just about functionality: to improve your home’s exterior, gutter and downspout profiles should complement each other. Whether you’re having a new gutter system installed or plan to improve the functionality of your current gutters, understanding how they work together will help you choose what’s best for your home.

Corresponding Sizes

For 5-inch gutters, the typical corresponding downspout size is 2×3 inch rectangle or 3” round. Larger residences that use 6” inch gutters have 3×4” downpipes (rectangular) or round 4-inch downspouts.

Because of architectural design, roof configuration, climate, microclimate, or a combination of these factors, every house is unique. Standard gutter system guidelines can be adapted to accommodate specific situations. For example, a homeowner might install standard 5” gutters on an average sized home but need one 3×4” downpipe since there is no room for two downspouts.

Location, Location, Location

For gutters and downpipes to work optimally in conjunction with one another, the location of the downspout is especially important. Aesthetically speaking, downspouts should be placed discretely, out of eye-line, such as at the corners, on the side of the structure or at the back.

Functional considerations of downspout placement include enough space for the downpipe to deposit water safely away from the foundation; not too close to a neighbour’s property line; and sufficiently sloped downward from the house to avoid washing away soil.

Number of Downpipes

The general guideline is one downspout for every 35 feet to 40 feet of gutter. It also depends on the size of the roof – the larger the surface area, the more water enters the gutter system. A roof configuration that includes multiple levels might need a gutter system with more than the recommended number of downpipes per linear feet of guttering.

Connecting Gutters to Downspouts

In order for water to flow properly from the gutter channel and into the downspout, two key parts, the gutter outlet and a downspout elbow, are required.

The gutter outlet connects the downspout to the system. Whatever its shape, the outlet should correspond in size to the downspout being installed. A 3-inch round gutter outlet can be used on a 2×3” (rectangle) downpipe.

The downspout elbow, (where it joins to the outlet), dictates the direction of the downpipe, either directly onto the wall or away from it. The type of elbow selected for the downspout should be compatible with the gutter outlet.

When Buying Gutters Decision No. 3 – Size

The third decision a person buying a gutter system makes is the size of gutter. Gutter size is the measurement from the back to the front of the opening to the gutter channel. The larger the gutter, the more expensive the gutter system will cost. But it’s important to get the gutter size right – too small, the gutters won’t be able to handle the amount of rainwater flowing through the system; too large, they can become expensive overkill.

Determining the Required Gutter Size

While the total square footage of the roof is the main determining factor, there are other things to consider when selecting the correct gutter size that will protect your home. These other factors include:

  • calculating the square footage of the drainage area
  • establishing the annual rainfall for the past seven to 10 years
  • determining the number of inches falling per hour in extreme rainfall conditions
  • establishing the gutter system’s handling capacity based on profile (shape), including the number of downspouts

If you plan to install the gutters yourself, there are a number of gutter size calculating tools available on the internet.

Gutter Sizes

The most common residential gutter sizes capable of handling the typical amount of rain that falls in the Vancouver area are 5-inch K-style and 5-inch half-round gutters.

For larger homes or homes with a multi-level roofing system, standard 6-inch K-style or 6-inch half round gutters would be used.

Depending on climatic and microclimate conditions, a six-inch gutter system can channel up to 45% more water than 5-inch gutters.

Downspout Sizes

An integral part of the gutter system is the downspout. A determining factor for how many downpipes your gutter system might need is one downspout for each 30-foot section of gutter.

A rectangular 2 x 3 inches downspout or a round 3-inch downspout is typically paired with 5-inch gutters.

Standard 6-inch gutters are commonly matched with a rectangular 3 x 4 inches downpipe or a round 4-inch downpipe.

When added gutter size, for example, a 7-inch gutter system, would spoil the aesthetics of a home’s exterior, often 5-inch gutters are used with a larger downspout size to help an increased volume of water exit the gutter system.

If a Downspout is Clogged

Downspouts channel rainwater from the roof collected in the gutters to the ground and away from the foundation of your home. If a downspout is clogged, water is unable to flow freely out of the gutter system. Here are some tips for identifying when a downpipe has become blocked and what to do about it.

Signs of a Clogged Downspout

When debris such as twigs, leaves, dirt and pine needles enters the gutters, it can build up, creating blockages in the gutter channel and/or the downspout. Typical signs of a clogged downspout are:

  • water trickles instead of flows from the bottom (mouth) of the downspout
  • gutters continually overflow
  • gutters pull away from the fascia due to the weight of standing water
  • plant life or nests in the gutter channel

Fixing a Clogged Downspout

Debris build-up in downspouts can form in one or all of three places: at the gutter outlet (top of downspout), in the middle, or above or below elbows and seams (where sections of downpipe are joined).

Check at the top of the downpipe to see if the gutter outlet is free of leaves, etc. If it is, then the clog is somewhere inside the downspout.

Start up and work down tapping the outside of the downspout. If the inside of the downspout is free of debris, you should hear “ringing” (free of debris) rather than “thudding” (build-up blocking the flow of water).

At the gutter outlet, use a garden hose to flush water through the downpipe. If that doesn’t work, try dislodging the clog with a plumber’s snake. Removing the elbow (bottom of downpipe) might provide easier access to the clog.

Tips for Maintaining Downspouts

Keep gutter channels free of debris.

Ensure downspouts are properly secured to the house.

Dents can restrict water flow and create places for debris to become snagged. Fix or replace dented sections as soon as possible.

Make sure downspout extensions are properly attached. After a bout of stormy weather, check to see if they are still attached to the downpipe and working as they should.

Signs of Poor Drainage

While drainage problems typically become prevalent during spring and winter months, signs of poor drainage can manifest themselves year-round. The signs can be subtle; look for these symptoms of poor drainage to help you spot and fix potential headaches.

Overflowing Gutters

Overflowing gutters are typically caused by debris buildup clogging gutter outlets, preventing water from exiting the downspout as intended. When water escapes from over the top of the gutter, it can cause water damage to your home’s siding, soffit and fascia.

Unchanneled water might also be responsible for soil erosion, which can result in serious structural damage when soil is removed from around, or the earth shifts beneath, the foundation of your home.

Standing Water on the Ground

Puddles that don’t vanish 24 to 36 hours after a rainfall are often to blame for persistent wet areas and standing water. Standing water too close to the foundation causes soil erosion and basement flooding.

Pooling water in landscaped areas of your property can result in grassless muddy patches, washed-out flower beds, and dying plants suffering from too much water.

While improperly working gutters and downpipes are a common contributing factor, the real culprit might be the lay of the land. If the ground is sloping toward the foundation rather than away, you might need site grading. Regrading the land will correct the problem by improving stability of uneven landscaped areas, stability of the foundation and preventing improper water flow.

Cracked Foundation

Two main causes of a cracked foundation are soil erosion and water damage. Small cracks in a foundation naturally occur over time from normal aging. But large cracks, where you see space between the lines, are signs of real trouble, especially if the crack grows larger rather than remains static. This might be an indication of a drainage problem needing the attention of a professional.

Splash Block Installation Tips

Splash blocks are designed to direct water exiting from the downspout. Since they are available in a variety of sizes, shapes and styles, a splash block should be selected based on the specific requirements of the existing gutter system. But to prevent rainwater from the gutters being deposited too close to your home’s foundation, it must be the right kind and installed correctly.

Right Type of Splash Block

When a downspout is too close to the house, standing water can result, which over time can lead to a number of issues, all related to water damage. The right type of splash block will help safely guide water draining from the gutters further away from the foundation.

A simple splash block resembles a shallow trough or flat tray with sides that has a slight downward slope. However, if you live in an area that receives medium to heavy rainfall, you might need a more complicated splash block that will divert water, preventing soil erosion.

Splash blocks are made of various materials, including concrete, metal and plastic. Select a splash block material that is suited to the local and regional climatic conditions of where you live.

Installation Tips

Splash blocks are installed directly beneath the downpipes. There should be one splash block per downspout.

Splash blocks must be set into the ground; avoid just placing them on top of the surface underneath the downspout.

If the splash block is open at one end and closed at the other, the closed off edge should be against the exterior wall or flush with the foundation. The water needs to flow away from the house, rather than toward it.

While splash blocks typically have a built-in downward slope, you might need to adjust the angle of the downspout in relation to where the splash needs to be installed, or the angle of bother the splash block and the downspout.

Maintenance Checks

After the splash block or splash blocks have been installed, check up on them after each rainfall for five consecutive rainfalls to see if they are working properly or need some adjustments. Periodically check splash blocks for standing water, obstructions, shifting or misalignment, and soil erosion.