Gutters 101
August 13, 2021
Gutters 101
August 13, 2021


They are very simple devices with a very important job – move water away from the house.  A LOT of water. They must be properly installed and maintained to help protect the home from water damage. Unfortunately, these inconspicuous gadgets are often overlooked and neglected.  That's why gutters and downspouts are scrutinized and discussed a LOT during your Kensa home inspection. We look for things like proper pitch, flashing, extensions, and more.


To use a simple example, a common gable roof (shaped like an inverted V) will typically have one gutter running the entire length on each side, with a downspout at each end.  Two gutters, four downspouts.  But too often that downspout just ends right above the ground at the corner of the house.  Think about the physics of it: roughly half the water from that section of roof is being collected and concentrated into each downspout-- if the gutter itself is pitched properly -- and saturating the ground at the foundation.  Over time this can lead to various water problems, such as seepage into the basement, with possible framing or foundation damage.  In this scenario the gutters are actually doing harm, the opposite of their intended purpose!

A downspout that needs to be extended . . .

SO close!
YES!  This heavy duty downspout extension starts off great! But, see the next photo . . .
. . . sigh . . . it just ends up literally watering the house! (please excuse the awful photo :)
Another sigh . . .
Note the staining -- this one has not been draining properly for a long time.


The other common thing we always recommend is to clean the gutters.  Also simple, also vital.  On that note, if you are not properly trained and experienced in doing work at the top of a ladder, please do hire someone to clean your gutters!  Being up on a ladder requires some skill and obviously can be very dangerous (Safety!).  Back to the point, a gutter that’s overflowing or not draining properly because it’s filled with leaves and debris simply isn’t doing its job.  We recommend at least annual cleaning after the leaves fall.

Extreme gutter garden at an abandoned house


The good news is that sometimes the best solutions to the most common problems can be very easy, and that is usually the case with gutters and downspouts.

To continue the downspout example, you would simply add some extensions which are easy to find at hardware stores and home centers.  Basically, you just slide the length of pipe onto the end of the gutter, no tools required.  Presto-change-o, et voila!  By adding the extension you have moved the exit several feet away from the house. Now that water can drain away from the foundation instead of soaking it.  Small change, huge difference!


Water the yard, don’t water the house!”
I might move it just another few inches onto the grass, but this is about as good as it gets!

Above is a common type of downspout extension gadget mentioned earlier, the white pipe on the ground. Below is another option that also works:

Easy to move when it's time to mow! Also easy to put back -- you WILL put it back, right?  :) 
Fancy underground permanent drain. The downspout connection for this exit is in the background.


Okay.  Your gutters are clean.  Your downspouts are extended.  So, check that box, right?  Almost.  The best way to know if your gutters are actually working properly is see them in action.  

After you move into your new home, put your raingear on and go outside during the first extended, steady rain. Look at all the gutters and downspouts. Is water flowing freely from every downspout? If so, is it pooling up at the exit, or is it draining nicely away from the foundation?  Is there any water overflowing in the middle of a gutter?

There should be no overflow from anywhere on a gutter.  There should be water coming out of every downspout (assuming a steady rain) and draining away from the foundation.  There are other things that a professional would look for, but take 5 minutes to spot the most common and obvious problems yourself. Call a gutter contractor if you see anything that doesn’t look right.


Sometimes there are no gutters by design.  There might be an extended eave.  Or, a flat roof will drain to an internal drain, or it might have scuppers instead of gutters.  Sometimes downspouts go to an underground pipe and the exit isn’t visible.  There are other configurations possible.

A flat roof center drain; there are multiple issues here . . .


Well, there you have it, yet another example of how Water and Safety are key to every Kensa home inspection!