How To Fix a Clogged Downspout

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  • Gutter Downspout Extension
  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Allison in Illinois is on the line and has a question about some gutters. What’s going on at your money pit? A clogged downspout?

    ALLISON: Hi. So, we just bought our first home. And it’s in the city, so it’s very close to the house next to us. They’re small lots. And so we’re probably 5 feet from our neighbors on the south side. And we’re hoping to finish our basement, so we are looking into waterproofing that. But we also just have this enormous puddle that happens every time it rains, in between the two houses, which is not in use.

    TOM: OK.

    ALLISON: But anyway, so giant puddle. I don’t actually know if a French drain is OK in Chicago. But yeah, just wondering what we can do about that. It’s pretty un-level ground.

    TOM: OK. So, first of all, you mentioned that you’re planning to waterproof your basement. If you do this right, you probably won’t have to do any further waterproofing of your basement. Because when your basements get damp and wet as a result of rainfall and puddles forming around the foundation, that is the source of the leak. So, if we can control that, we know that the basement will stay dry. Now, when you have two houses that are close together and there’s no place for the water to run, you need to try to do everything you can to kind of manage it. Now, did the roofs on these houses both sort of dump into the space between it? Do they have gutters that are working? What kind of water management is there now?

    ALLISON: Sure, yeah. Our gutters do work. We have a lot of trees, so we have to clean them out frequently but we’ve done that already. Our neighbors’ does not; his gutter goes into the ground. And it’s – we can see – there’s a little hole in the side of one of them that’s just packed with dirt and leaves. He has a clogged downspout.

    TOM: OK. Yeah, so that’s going to be a problem because your neighbor is going to dump a lot of water in your way. Can you chat with your neighbor about fixing this clogged downspout?

    LESLIE: Or diverting it?

    ALLISON: I don’t even know how you clear out a gutter like that that goes into the ground.

    TOM: Well, what you do is you basically – it’s kind of like Roto-Rooter. You know, you hire a drain cleaner to clean out the clogged downspout.


    TOM: And essentially, what has to happen here is you’ve got to manage this water any way you can. So I would tell you this: I would put oversized gutters on both houses. So, instead of a 4-inch gutter, I would put a 6-inch because they clog a lot less frequently. I would try to have the downspouts discharge to the lowest part of the property. And I would extend the downspouts so that the water does not collect around the foundation. Either over grade or underground, you extend them and get them out. If I was still collecting water in the space between the two homes, what I would do is I would put a French drain. And basically, that’s a trench that’s roughly 12 to 18 inches square. And then you put some stone in the bottom of it. You lay a perforated pipe in the stone and then you put more dirt and stone around it. And essentially, what happens is as the water collects in that area, it goes into the pipe and it runs out. There’s a type of French drain that’s actually premade these days, where you don’t have to do the whole stone thing. And then you’ll find that at home centers where it’s – it looks like a plastic perforated pipe but it’s wrapped in a cloth that has what looks like packing peanuts in between the cloth and the pipe itself. And that’s sort of the aggregate and that can go in in one piece. But however you do this, you’ve got to put that drain in and it’s got to pitch so – at least about a ¼-inch a foot so that the water that’s collecting there can go somewhere. And that’s the key: you’ve got to find out where that somewhere is. If it’s the backyard, great. If it’s the front yard, you might be able to drop it into the street if the town lets you do that. But you’ve got to manage that water. If you don’t manage the water, it’s going to have no place to go but down, saturate those foundation walls and it will show up as a leak in both basements, potentially. But you can fix this if you manage the water. If you search on our website how – if you search on our website at about leaky basements, you’ll find how to solve a leaky basement and stop a basement that floods. You’ll find some really good posts that we’ve done over the years on it. Some of the basement content on the site is some of the most popular that we have. That’ll actually walk you through this, step by step. It just shows you all the ways that this causes the floods, OK?

    ALLISON: OK, great. And there’s room for that in between the two houses with the 5 feet?

    TOM: Oh, that’s plenty of room for it. Done it with less. Alright?


    TOM: OK, Allison. Good luck with that project.

    ALLISON: Thank you.

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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