Downspouts Play Important Role in Gutter System

Audrey Bruno
Written by Audrey Bruno
Updated November 29, 2021
 A downspout connected to the gutter on a house’s roof
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When the rain won't go away, a downspout (or a few) will save the day

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  • A downspout is a drain pipe that moves water from the gutter to the ground and protects your home from water damage.

  • You can use a downspout extension or water collector to better divert water in places that experience heavy rainfall.

  • Downspouts need to be cleaned once or twice a year and can last up to 50 years with proper care.

Enjoying a rainy day from the comfort of your couch is much easier to do when you know that your house is well protected from the elements. Understanding what a downspout is and how it contributes to your gutter system will give you peace of mind—as well as the tools and know-how to keep everything in working order. 

This guide offers everything you need to know about this important drainage pipe, including what you can do to maintain it and how it can help you collect water.

What Is a Downspout?

the same material as your gutters—like aluminum, zinc, copper, and steel—in order to create a uniform appearance. And it’s designed to keep rainwater from damaging or eroding your home’s foundation. 

Without downspouts, water would simply collect in your gutters until it overflowed, gradually wearing away at the structural integrity of your siding, roof, and everything in between.

How Does It Work in a Gutter System?

The gutter and downspout connect just above the fascia board—the piece of wood that sits between the bottom of the roof and the top of the gutters. Without a downspout, the fascia board will be the first part of your home to suffer from water damage. 

Before you can attach a downspout to your drainage system, you must first insert a connecting pipe via a hole in the gutter. Then seal the hole shut to prevent leaks and attach the top of the downspout to the connecting piece with either glue or screws. From there, the rest of the pipe is fixed all the way down the side of the building until it meets the ground.

The downspout is curved at both the top and bottom to better catch and dispense water, but this isn’t always enough to ensure that water doesn’t pool at the base of your home. Depending on your surrounding landscape, you may need to install a downspout extension pipe or bury your downspout underground to ensure that excess water is diverted from your home.

How Many Downspouts Do I Need and How Big Should They Be?

In general, your home will need about one downspout for every 40-foot run of gutter. The size of your downspouts will depend on how large your gutters are. The most common gutter sizes range from 5 to 8 inches. Stick with 2-by-3-inch downspouts for small gutters and 4-by-5-inch downspouts for larger ones.

How Often Do My Downspouts Need to Be Cleaned?

The good news is that you only need to clean your downspouts about once or twice a year, which just so happens to be the same amount of cleaning sessions your gutters need, too. If they’re not draining properly or are full of debris, it’s time for some TLC.

Cleaning your gutter system can be done with a few common household items, like a bucket and a ladder—and a bit of willpower. But it’s not as easy as your typical chore. Outsourcing the project to a professional gutter cleaner in your area can cost as little as $120 to take this project off your plate.

Should I Bury My Downspouts?

Burying your downspouts is a good idea if water doesn’t distribute evenly over your lawn or it frequently rains where you live. Doing this involves a bit of work, like mapping a route for your downspout extension and digging a trench, but the results will be worth it if you’re tired of struggling with a faulty drainage system.

How Can I Use My Downspouts to Collect Water?

A downspout working perfectly during a rainy day
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With a water collection tank and a downspout diverter, you can absolutely use your downspout to collect rainwater. Downspout diverters are responsible for moving the water into the collection tank, and some are even equipped with filtration components that allow you to drink your freshly gathered water as soon as it collects.

Cost to Repair or Replace Damaged Downspouts

With regular care and maintenance, the gutter system on your home can last for anywhere from 20 to 50 years. Replacing damaged sections rather than installing an entirely new setup will extend the life of your gutters and cost less to boot. While a complete replacement can cost as much as $2,175, hiring a pro to fix small repairs can be as little as $179. And repairing it yourself can be less expensive than that.

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