Downspouts are designed to drain water from the gutters and discharge it a safe distance away from the foundation. They often discharge directly onto the ground, but through the use of extensions and other devices, they should be configured in such a way that roof runoff does not saturate the soil at or beneath the foundation.
Water from a downspout that discharges next to the home’s foundation can wash away soil from beneath the wall, leaving the foundation unsupported in large areas. If too much of the wall loses support, it may settle unevenly or even crack. This can lead to moisture intrusion or even flooding in the basement or crawlspace, not to mention costly repairs.
Downspouts should connect to the gutters securely and be free of debris. They should have some device (such as an extension or splashblock) that will carry runoff away from the foundation before discharging it to the soil. Clogged downspouts will cause runoff to overflow the gutter, which can create hazardous and unsightly puddles.
Some downspouts may be tied into perimeter drains, and this can be a problem when the ground is frozen. Ice may prevent the system from working. When this happens, some homeowners may disconnect the downspout, but they may never re-connect them, which can create new problems.
In-roof gutters sometimes connect to downspouts installed inside the exterior walls. In older homes, these downspouts are made of metal and eventually corrode and leak. Internal downspout leakage can sometimes go unnoticed for long enough to do considerable structural damage, such as decay of home’s the wooden framing.
Now that you know more about what can go wrong when you neglect regular roof-drainage maintenance, you’ll hopefully be less likely to put off cleaning out those gutters. Your home will thank you!
Scott Price, CPI, #1532
Certified Home Inspector
Home Run Inspections
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