Clogged or Faulty Gutters & Downspouts


Gutters are the horizontal channels running along the edge to your roof. They collect water coming off the roof and direct it away from the foundation, so that the water doesn’t’t fall or collect around the foundation. The average rain drops hundreds to thousands of gallons of water on the roof.

Clogged or faulty gutters and downspouts are one of the most common problems associated with wet basements.

gutters-and-downspoutsInspect gutters and downspouts regularly, especially in the spring and fall. Where leaves and twigs may collect in a gutter, install a basket-shaped wire strainer over the downspout outlet or place screening across the length of the gutter.

Make sure your gutters are clear and run freely

Clean them out at least twice a year – once in the spring, and once in the fall after all the leaves have dropped. Also, check them periodically throughout the year as it rains, to make sure no water is spilling over the gutters and onto the ground near your foundation. Clogged gutters will cause water to spill right next to your foundation and may lead or contribute to a wet basement.

Make any and all corrections necessary to insure that your gutters are operating efficiently throughout the year.


DownspoutsDownspouts are the vertical parts of your gutter that run from the horizontal gutters to the ground. They carry water from the gutters down the side of your home, to a place that will not harm your foundation. Your downspouts should be going:

  • to the surface.
  • to a storm drain.
  • to a sanitary sewer.
  • to a dry well.

If the downspouts go to the surface, insure that the water is directed away from the foundation

Consider extending downspouts from rain gutters away from the outside foundation. To prevent build-up of water at the opening near the ground, use a concrete gutter or splash block to carry the water away at a slope of one inch per foot. If the ground slopes sharply away from the foundation, the downspout ends should be at least 5 feet away from the foundation. If the ground is rather flat, downspouts should end about 10 feet away. If you live in an area that is very sandy and flat, consider having your downspouts end up to 50 feet away from the foundation. See more information under grading.

If downspouts go underground, try to determine where they go

If possible, try to find the original drawings of your house and inspect the yard, looking for where they discharge. They should discharge at least fifteen feet or more from the house. At least 25% of the time, underground downspouts back up because they don’t work, or they leak because the joints are bad, cracked or separated, leading to water against the foundation. Remember how much water runs through those pipes, and make sure it moves away from your foundation walls.

Check your downspouts by placing a hose in your gutters and running the water full blast for 10-15 minutes. If you have access to the top of the downspouts, run the water directly into them. Insure that the water runs through them freely and that they do not back-up. For downspouts ending on the surface, be sure that the water is running away from the foundation and not pooling anywhere near your home.

If your downspouts go underground and do not come to the surface (i.e., are being discharged into a sewer or dry well) and you are unable to inspect the outflow, watch your basement for any indication of wetness during the 10-15 minute downspout test. If any wetness or dampness is noted, it may indicate a broken or leaking underground pipe needs to be repaired.

Both gutters and downspouts carry a tremendous amount of water away from your home and need to function properly at all times.