99% of all gutter related problems and damages are the result of a clogged downspout. The signs and symptoms of downspout clogs are easy to recognize. We’ll walk you through all the possibilities and let you know the solution.
Your gutter system consist of gutters and downspouts. The gutters are the horizontal trough that collects the water on the sides of your roofing edge. And the downspouts are the vertical pipe that carries the water from the gutter to the ground.
Downspouts come in all different shapes and sizes, but they all perform the same task. Getting the water to the ground. Most homes have 2×3″ rectangle downspouts, or 3×4″ rectangle downspouts. We just call them downspouts. However some homes will have circular downspouts which are called “round downspouts“. They come in different sizes from 3″ up to 6″, with 4” being the most common. Lastly large commercial buildings will often have square shaped downspouts which are called “square downspouts”
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Downspouts are the only way for the water to drain through your gutter system. Meaning all the water that lands on the roof goes into the gutter which drains down and out via the downspouts. Basically it is the only road through which all water must travel to drain.
When debris goes into the gutters it eventually flushes through the downspouts. However once something becomes lodged inside the downspout it begins to form a blockade. Water is still able to pass but eventually more and more debris will get snagged up and a clog forms. A downspout clog is when the water no longer flows through the downspout.
There is one key point to remember when it comes to gutter problems. You won’t be able to know there is an issue if you do not check the gutter system during rain. Especially downspout clogs. Since the debris gets lodged inside of the downspout you are not able to see it.
One of the first signs people often notice that they have a downspout clog, is when the water overflows the gutter nearby. If you have water going over the gutter directly near the downspout, then you likely have a clogged downspout. The gutter could also be loose in that location, but you would see a gap behind the gutter.
Here is a quick little video that shows how water will look like it is dripping from the gutter. Actually what is happening is it is overflowing the gutter and flowing across the face to where it drips down. This is the result of a clogged downspout.
Whenever you have water overflowing your entire gutter system. That is a for sure sign that you have clogged downspouts throughout your gutter system. All that water has to go somewhere, and if the drain is plugged then it will eventually overflow. If your gutters are completely filled with water like this, they are pulling themselves loose from the wall. Therefore if you see this happening you’ll want to get the gutters cleaned before expensive damages occur.
All water that lands on your roof will travel through the gutter system to where it drains out of the bottoms of the downspouts. Unless you have underground drains you will be able to see all of the draining water. But what does it mean if no water is coming through the downspout? As you might have guessed it means the downspout is clogged. If there is moderate rain and little-to-no water is coming through the downspout then something is up. And that something is a clog in your downspout.
Water can leak from the downspouts in several locations. The next photo is a diagram that identifies the different parts of the downspout and the seams that the water can leak from.
As we’ve stated your gutter system consists of gutters and downspouts. The gutters are horizontal and the downspouts are vertical. The place where the gutter and downspout meet is called the Gutter Outlet. Basically the gutter has a hole cut in it and an outlet is installed. Once the downspout is properly connected to the outlet with a couple screws the outlet is no longer visible.
Water leaking from the gutter outlet is very common and it mean’s only one thing. There is a clog in the downspout below. Most clogs in the downspout occur in or near the elbows. The debris tends to get caught up in the twists and turns. Therefore if the outlet is leaking and it’s near an elbow, there is a clog in that elbow.
In the photo above you can see the three different seams that are marked. All downspout sections are sleeve style. That means they become thinner on one end and slide into the next section. Water can leak from any of these seams. Especially if any sections were sleeved the wrong direction. When something is sleeved in the wrong direction, that means the thinner section is pointed up instead of down.
As you may have guessed water leaking from the elbows is also an indication of clogs in the downspout elbows. However sometimes the elbows weren’t pushed back together tight enough last time they were cleaned. If you can see any sort of gap or if the water is pouring through the elbows then it may be loose and need to be pushed back together or re-secured.
Downspouts essentially are a single sheet of aluminum folder over and crimped together. The crimp seal is always installed facing the home. therefore you never see it because it’s on the back side of the gutter.
When the downspouts become clogged and are left unchecked for a long time more and more debris stacks up in there. Overtime from more and more rain and debris everything gets compacted. The gutters will be overflowing every time it rains at this point because absolutely no water gets through.
Eventually if nothing is done the crimped seal of the downspout will uncrimp and the downspout will split apart. Once the crimp seam on the back side of the downspout is ripped open, the downspout is beyond repair and has to be replaced. Water is able to freely pour out of the seams.
There is only on way to take care of a downspout clog, and this is to clean the downspout. The first place to start is you will have to physically take the downspout apart at the elbows. Most downspout clogs occur in the elbows of the downspouts. That is because this is a high seam area but mostly because of the twists and turns. The longer the clog was there, the more compact the debris will be inside the downspout. If there is a lot of debris you may have to remove the entire downspout from the wall to get it out of there.
Fortunately for people who do not want to deal with that there may be gutter cleaning service providers in your area. Here at My Gutter Pro gutter cleaning is our specialty. We have 1000’s of customers signed up for automatic yearly gutter cleaning services. So when it comes to gutter cleaning we know what we are talking about.
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For more information on gutter cleaning check out some of these related articles.
If you have trees very close to the home it’s likely that you have a downspout or two that become clogged all the time. There are a few solutions to help with this so you don’t need to pay for so many gutter cleaning services.
The best way to prevent debris from entering the gutter system is gutter covers aka gutter guards. There are many types of gutter covers available on the market at many different price points. We have other articles that explain the pro’s and con’s of all of the different types of gutter covers so we won’t get into that here.
In our opinion gutter covers are the number one way to keep debris out of your gutters and downspouts. In fact the style that we use and recommend, perforated aluminum gutter covers, only allow smaller particles into the system. As long as everything is pitched correctly smaller particles will flush through the gutter system when it rains. And they will never become clogged because nothing big enough to clog will fit through the tiny holes.
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The thicker the downspout the less likely something will become clogged. Therefore upsizing your downspouts to a larger size is a good way to prevent clogs. The problem with this is you can only upsize to what is compatible with your size gutter. For example let’s say you have a standard 5″ gutter with a standard 2×3″ downspout. You would be able to upgrade to a 3×4″ downspout on the 5″ gutter, but that’s as wide as you can get. You would not be able to have a 4″ round downspout installed to the 5″ gutter. With a 6″ gutter you would be able to upgrade from a 3×4″ downspout to a 4″ round downspout. Depending on how many downspouts you have and how tall your building is, it may be cheaper to just have gutter covers installed.
There are several products on the market labeled as downspout drain covers. Basically they look like a ball of wire and they shove the pointed end into the gutter outlet so the ball is sticking up in the gutter. What this does is blocks larger debris like leave from going down the downspout. The problem with these is that the debris piles up rather quickly around them since they can’t flush down the drain. You’ll still need to have the debris removed from your gutters once water starts leaking or overflowing. Because of this we would only suggest these for one story homes that have easily accessible gutters that the homeowner is able to reach. Otherwise you’ll be spending more on gutter cleanings than you would without these.
Last but not least we get to the downspout filter. We’ve heard a few different names for this and we’ve also seen a few different prototypes but they all provide the same function. And that is to trap the debris in the downspout so the homeowner is able to manually remove the debris themselves. This may sound like a good idea but there are a few flaws to this plan.
The main issue with these is these are located on the downspout itself. Any debris that has made it past the elbows at the tops of the downspout was likely going to wash the rest of the way out of the bottom of the downspout. Therefore there really is no reason to trap the debris once it has made it past those elbows. Another issue with these is people don’t realize how often you need to clean out this trap. If you leave the trap blocked it forms a clog rather quick.
Well there is one reason for these to be useful, and that is if you have underground drains. If your downspouts lead to underground drains then you need some type of protection from debris going underground and clogging. Gutter covers are always suggested but if you are not able to afford those then gutter drain covers or these would be recommended. The bottom line is you need some type of defense for your underground drain system.
Keep in mind that if you have underground drains they can also become clogged. The signs and symptoms of clogged underground drains are exactly the same as clogged downspouts. You’ll first want to verify that your downspouts are not clogged before hiring a plumber to clear your underground drains.
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There is no straight answer for this question. It all depends on the tree coverage in your area and how close they are to your home. We always suggest scheduling your cleanings for the end of fall or the end of spring. Try to figure out what schedule works best for you and stick to it. That way you don’t forget before it is too late.
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If you let downspout clogs go on for long enough it will destroy your gutter system. The gutters will pull themselves loose from being too full. However if your fascia board is loose or rotting it could even pull the whole system down. Even worse if your fascia is connected to soffit. Basically the more stuff your gutters are attached to, the more stuff that will get damaged when the gutters fall down from being too heavy.
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Downspout clogs are pretty easy to identify so as long as you keep an eye on your gutters every few times it rains, you’ll be able to spot problems before they get too bad.
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