Downspouts 101: Understanding How Downspouts Work

Gutter systems operate on a basic concept of gravity and water flow, where the sloped gutter channel directs rainwater to the downspout and moves it away from the home. Understanding the purpose and importance of the downspout can ensure that you pay proper attention to this component to keep your gutter system operating at peak performance year-round.

How They Work

A downspout is a lightweight tube that extends vertically from gutter trough to the ground. While downspouts can be installed at any low point along a gutter system, they are typically placed at the end of the trough along the corners of a home. A downspout is designed to carry water that flows off the roof and into the gutters safely down and away from the foundation, where it could cause damage. It is typically made from the same material as the gutter, and in the same color, to create a uniform look. A good rule of thumb is one downspout for every 40 feet of gutter.


Most downspouts curve outward at the bottom to keep water away from the foundation. A splash block at the base of the downspout will keep the soil underneath from eroding. Another option is to install an underground drainage system that the downspout empties into to carry water far away from the house.


While it can be simple to remove clogs from gutters, clogs in a downspout can be more troublesome because they can’t be seen. Be sure to check each downspout anytime you clean out gutters. If a clog develops, rinse it out with a hose. Difficult clogs may require the downspout to be removed and disassembled.


To eliminate the threat of clogged downspouts and gutters, go with America’s #1 choice in gutter protection for more than 30 years: Gutter Helmet®. Gutter Helmet gutter protection offers clear advantages over standard gutter guards, gutter covers and gutter filters.


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