DIY Disaster Doctor: Coming Down Short


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downspoutPhoto: David Grudzinski of Advantage Home Inspections in Cranston, RI (via The Money Pit). Used with permission of the ASHI Reporter.

Here’s a drainage design that stopped short of an actual downspout. Sure, water is being drained from the roof and upper levels of this home, but then it shoots straight into an exterior wall!


Great gutters don’t just keep the bigger raindrops from falling on your head; they’re also integral to protecting the structure of your home. Without a properly constructed and maintained gutter system, you’re inviting a host of water damage in and around a house. That gutter system should seamlessly collect water runoff and send it through sealed, secure downspouts that keep water out of contact with siding, roofing and foundations as it carries the water away from the structure.

In the example here, the downspout stops short, right where the siding begins, and it’s actually aimed toward the siding. Judging by this picture, water is likely pouring under the siding and causing rot inside the walls and puddles along the foundation line. So, that’s two big drainage issues in one shot. Make that three if there’s a basement in this home, because water is probably seeping down into the space and causing persistent basement leaks, pervasive indoor moisture and dangerous mold issues.

Adding a properly sealed and positioned downspout would be a great start here. Tthe end of that downspout should be extended to discharge water at a minimum of four to six feet from the home’s foundation. Proper drainage design also dictates that there be at least one downspout for every 600 to 800 square feet of roof surface. If the structure of the surrounding yard and the local building laws permit, these downspouts can feed into solid PVC plumbing pipes that run underground and release water to the street or to another low-lying area.

The next step in proper home drainage planning is the angle of the soil around the home’s foundation. The standard here is that soil slope down six inches over the first four feet from a structure’s foundation. After that point, the soil can be graded more gradually but should never allow water to run back toward your home.

From there, careful maintenance and seasonal cleaning of the home’s gutter system is critical to steering clear of system backups, leaks and the resulting water damage and flooding.

The lesson learned? Take care of your drainage system, and you’ll never come up short on protection for your home when raindrops fall.

Basic DIY skill is necessary for downspout additions, but hire (or consult) a pro if you need to revamp and redesign your entire gutter system.

Tom Kraeutler delivers home improvement tips and ideas each week as host of The Money Pit Home Improvement Show, a nationally syndicated radio program. He is also author of My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. You can also subscribe to Tom’s latest home improvement podcast or free home improvement newsletter.

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