When you bought your home, you probably focused on the number of bedrooms, not the gutters. The fact is the gutters are part of a complex system that protects the entire structure from water damage. Storm water can infiltrate the roof, damage landscaping, and even seep down around the foundation, weakening your home's structural integrity. So if rainstorms constantly wash the mulch out of the flowerbeds around the house, it could be a sign that bigger problems are on the way.
Although they look like an afterthought, downspouts are a key part of the gutter system. They keep storm water contained so it can be drained away without eroding the soil near the house. They also protect your home's siding from stains or water damage.
Downspout trouble usually has one of four causes: clogs, damage, bad connections, and improper sizing.
Clogs normally occur at the top or where the downspout bends away from the house. Leaves, pine needles, and windblown debris can build up over time, blocking the flow of water. If birds or rodents have been living in the gutters, nesting material can be washed into the downspout. Clogs at the top of the spout can be scooped away. If the blockage occurs further down, you can usually clear it with a garden hose.
Damage comes from a number of sources. Vines can loosen the spout, causing it to leak. Impacts from storm debris, stray footballs, and beginning drivers may deform the downspout or crush it completely. Even a slight distortion can lead to clogs, so visible damage should be repaired right away. Loose downspouts should be reconnected as soon as possible. If the spout is corroded or crushed, it should be replaced.
Bad connections still let rain water flow, just not where it should. If you notice water dripping from the top of the spout, or running down from any of the joints, the problem is a faulty connection. These can be fixed by taking the joint apart, cleaning it, and putting it back together with sheet metal screws and sealer. Note: if the joint is not properly sealed, the leak return and may be worse than before.
Improper sizing is a common cause of overflowing gutters. This can happen if the builder didn't install enough downspouts or used material that was too small to handle the water volume. In some cases, this can be corrected by installing a larger downspout with a larger drop outlet. A drop outlet is a special piece of hardware that joins the downspout to the gutter repair system. Once the opening in the gutter is enlarged, the new drop outlet channels water through to the larger downspout, giving the system greater capacity.