How To Clean Gutter Downspouts

Text: Gutter DownSpout | Background Image: Gutter DownSpout

Downspouts manage water flow from the roof, ultimately preventing flooding, leaks, and other damage that comes with drainage problems. Just like your gutters, downspouts require regular maintenance. In this article, we’ll explore how to clean your gutters and the tools you’ll need to complete the job.

In this article:

What Are Downspouts?

Downspout cleaning
Photo By Scott Morris / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Downspouts are the vertical tubes connected to the horizontal gutters on your home. An important part of the gutter system, downspouts help prevent foundation problems and soil erosion. During rainfall, water flows off your roof, through your gutter system, into the downspouts, and away from your home’s foundation.

Why Are Clogged Downspouts A Problem?

Just like clogged gutters, clogged downspouts can cause major issues for homeowners. Some homes have downspouts that feed into an underground drain, while others have downspouts that end above the ground. No matter which system you have, they can become clogged at any location. There are many reasons why clogged downspouts are a problem for homeowners:

  • Prevent the gutter system from draining properly
  • Cause water damage to your home’s foundation
  • Can form ice dams in the winter
  • Lead to basement flooding
  • Cause erosion around your home
  • If gutters become too full of water, they will damage your roof, gutter system, fascia boards, and soffit

Tools Needed To Clean Downspouts

In order to properly clean your downspouts, you need the right tools. Depending on the extent of your clogged downspouts, you may not need every item listed below.

  • Garden hose
  • Auger
  • Garden trowel
  • Leaf blower
  • Pressure washer
  • Plumber’s snake
  • Stepladder
  • Extension Ladder
  • Bucket
  • Work gloves
  • Plastic garbage bags
  • Rags

Steps To Clean Downspouts

Fall is a beautiful time of the year, especially when the leaves start to change color. But falling leaves can wreak havoc on your gutter downspouts. Homeowners should clean their downspouts twice a year to help prevent clogs: In the spring before heavy rainfall from summer storms and in the fall to prevent potential ice dams from forming during the winter.

Pro tip: Climbing a ladder is dangerous, especially when carrying tools. It’s a good idea to have someone assist you from the ground while performing this task. Your helper can turn on the water, hand you tools, and steady your ladder.

Step 1

Safely position your step ladder along the edge of the roof on flat, stable ground. Avoid positioning your ladder in wet areas, as it can sink into the ground and cause you to fall. If you’re working from an extension ladder, make sure it’s at an appropriate angle and firmly resting on your gutter.

Step 2

removing downspout extension
Photo Credit: Radovan / Shutter

First, you want to clean the bottom opening of your downspout. If there’s a downspout extension present, remove it. This is very important for downspouts with underground drains so you don’t push a potential clog to where it’s not easily accessible. With your work gloves on, use your garden trowel to scrape debris from the bottom opening. Use a garden hose to rinse any remaining debris from the opening.

Step 3

Clean your gutters next. Use a garden trowel and bucket to remove leaves, twigs, and other buildup from your gutters. If you have a downspout strainer (a piece of mesh that covers the opening of the downspout), remove it and remove any debris from the top of the downspout.

Step 4

Using a garden hose, rinse your gutters toward the top opening of your downspout. If water flows out of the bottom end of the downspout, that means it’s clog-free and your job is done. If it doesn’t, you have a clog.

Step 5

If your downspouts are clogged, insert a power washer, auger, plumbing snake, or leaf blower at the top of your downspout to push debris out of the bottom of the spout. You can also use an auger or plumbing snake to loosen clogs from the bottom opening. These tools should be able to remove stubborn blockages fairly easily.

Additional Tips

  • Continually clogged downspouts could mean your current downspouts are too small. You may need to replace them with larger downspouts.
  • Regular gutter maintenance and gutter guards help prevent clogged downspouts. If you live in an area with heavy tree cover, gutter guards will reduce the amount of gutter maintenance needed each year and benefit your home.
  • If you’re not comfortable working on a ladder, hire a professional gutter cleaning service. It’s better to be safe than risk serious injury.
  • Tap the side of your downspout to loosen stuck debris.

Frequently Asked Questions About Downspouts

What Are The Benefits Of Burying Downspout Extensions?

If you live in an area that gets a lot of rain or your yard drains poorly, it might be in your best interest to bury your downspout extensions. This job should be fairly simple if you enjoy DIY projects. The main benefits include:

  • Reduces the risk of water pooling in your yard
  • Directs water away from your home’s foundation
  • Protects your home from water damage or leaks
  • Boosts curb appeal
  • Improves yard drainage
  • Prevents icy spots during cold months

What Is The Maximum Distance Between Downspouts?

Downspouts should not be installed more than 40 feet apart. To ensure proper drainage, the standard distance between downspouts is around 25 to 30 feet. Remember, downspout installation is not a DIY job. They’re an important part of the roof and gutter system, meaning this should be left to the professionals.

Do Downspout Strainers Work?

While there isn’t a clear-cut answer about downspout strainers, they ultimately prevent debris from entering the top opening of your downspout. However, they can do their job too well. Debris can build up on the cages and require additional gutter cleaning. If you have downspout cages installed, you will need to regularly check them for blockage.

Final Word on Cleaning Downspouts

Downspouts play an integral role in your rain gutter system. It’s important to clean your downspouts a couple of times a year to prevent water damage to your home’s foundation and roof. If you need help cleaning your downspouts, contact one of our home improvement specialists for a consultation.

Photo by Georgi Zvezdov on Unsplash

Whitney Lehnecker

Whitney Lehnecker

A native of Ohio, Whitney Lehnecker is a career journalist and newspaper designer. She now lives in Central Florida with her husband and two pups, Goose and Bindi.