Drip, Drip, Drip

By Sharon Naylor

June 30, 2017 5 min read

Cleaning downspouts is one of those important tasks that most people don't think about until they experience water damage at the base of the house. When rainfall is not directed properly away from a home through clear downspouts, pooling water can seep into and against the home, causing wood rot and failure at the fascia boards. If you get water in your basement or if a wet inverted-V pattern appears on the wall shortly after a storm, then these can be signs that you have a downspout that's emptying water near your foundation.

On the outside, a clogged downspout can get so impacted that it cracks or breaks, forcing a pricy replacement process. When water and debris gets stuck in your downspout, your gutters don't work as they should, leading to overflow of rainwater around your house, which in heavy rainstorms can damage landscaping and mulch applications. When water sits in your gutters, having nowhere to go, mold can develop and mosquitos and pests can settle in for nuisance during your outside hours.

Danny Lipford, known as "America's Home Expert," hosts the nationally syndicated TV and radio program "Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford." He recommends going outside during the next heavy rainstorm and taking a look. "If the water isn't really flowing out, it's a sign to clean out your downspouts." Lipford recommends cleaning your gutters at least two times per year, "depending upon the types of trees you have on your property and on the size of your downspout. Narrower ones can get more restriction, leading to increased chances of clogs." If you find that your downspouts are getting clogged often, you may wish to change out narrower downspouts for wider ones.

Lipford advises cleaning out your downspouts every time you clear out our gutters. The job is easy to do yourself, as long as you keep safety in mind. The tools you'll need are a ladder, a plastic bucket with a wire handle, work gloves, a garden trowel and a plumber's snake. "A plumber's snake is a stiff, wire with a curlicue at the end that as you push it down and use the turning apparatus on the tool, can dislodge stuck material," says Lipford.

Sal Vaglica, senior editor at This Old House magazine, says, "Here's a good method for attacking the gutters: Start in the corners and clear debris from tight spots, such as corners and downspouts, then head for the straight runs. The connections, from the gutters to the downspout, are a big coke point for clogs. Use a garden hose to blast water down the downspout. If you don't see a stream of water coming out from the bottom, you might want to try a hand-crank plumber's snake, then use the hose to flush out the downspout.

"Start from the bottom up, dislodging and removing clogged debris with your gloved hands and trowel first to remove any visible clogs. Once you breach the clogged material, the downspout clears out," says Lipford. While on the roof, clearing the downspout from the top and depositing clog materials into your bucket, you'll then insert a sturdy garden hose to run water full blast into the downspout. A sturdy hose lets you push it down into the downspout for direct water flow that can aid in clearing the channel. After each of your needed clearing processes, run water through your downspout to clear away any remaining materials.

"Don't be too aggressive while on the roof, such as using a broomstick to push down clogged materials," warns Lipford. "You could knock a hole in your downspout if it's rusted, or cause your downspout to come loose."

Regular maintenance may be able to prevent you from having to hire a professional downspout repair company. "The more regularly you clean your downspouts, the less likely yours will develop greater clogs and damage over time," says Lipford.

When it comes to the annoying dripping sound in your downspouts, a simple way to silence the noise while still allowing rainwater to flow freely is to caulk around the gutter drain and install a length of 3/8-inch nylon rope along the length of the pipe and out the opening below. Then glue the rope to the downspout's elbow. The water will wick along the rope instead of dropping down to "ping" against the metal.

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