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Gutter Drainage Solutions (2024 Guide)

Do you have a gutter drainage problem? We explain how to tell and what to do about it.

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Author Icon By Mike Miller Updated 02/20/2024

Several issues can prevent your gutters from draining properly. When your gutters can’t efficiently direct rainwater away from your roof, it puts your home at risk of mold problems or damage to the roof, siding, foundation, and surrounding landscaping. If you don’t address these problems right away, they can cause expensive damage. To help you avoid issues before they begin, we compiled a list of warning signs and gutter drainage solutions.


Signs You Have Gutter Drainage Issues

Your gutter system may seem simple, but it has several parts. The horizontal pieces that line the edges of your roof collect rainwater as it flows down. From there, the water should drain into vertical pieces, known as downspouts, that direct it away from your home. The goal is to deposit the water a safe distance away from your home’s foundation, thus preventing soil erosion and other damage.

Sometimes, your gutters malfunction and water doesn’t drain the way it should. The earlier you notice a gutter drainage problem, the easier and cheaper it will be to fix. When left long enough, these water drainage issues can cause thousands of dollars of damage. Here’s what to watch for:

  • Attic mildew: Mold or mildew in your attic could indicate a ventilation problem, or it could be rain making its way under your roof. If you have a serious drainage issue, moisture can enter your home through your basement or crawlspace, then rise and settle in the attic.
  • Basement leaks: A flooded basement ranks among the most obvious indicators of a drainage issue. However, basement issues can be more subtle. You might notice flaky mineral deposits or water stains high on the wall instead of puddles on the floor.
  • Foundation cracks: If the ground around your foundation becomes oversaturated with water, the foundation will eventually begin to crack. Small cracks may be the result of normal settling. Cracks that are 1/8-inch wide are more concerning, especially if they are growing.
  • Gutter overflow: Debris can build up in your gutters and clog your downspouts, causing water to spill over the sides. Overflowing gutters could also indicate that your gutters are too small or inefficient to handle the water volume flowing off your roof.
  • Landscaping damage: When the soil around your home becomes oversaturated, the water will find other places to go. It might form trenches through your lawn and garden, washing away mulch, gravel, and other loose materials. Plants can become overwatered and die.
  • Pooling water: Clogged or leaky gutters can lead to large, persistent puddles near your home’s foundation. This issue could also be caused by a downspout that’s dumping rainwater too close to the house. In the winter, you might notice unusual patches of ice.

Although some gutter problems are fairly easy to spot, others are less obvious. To catch issues early, be proactive about cleaning and inspecting your gutters regularly.

Step outside and observe your gutters in action for a few seconds during heavy rains, noting any leaks or overflow issues. The next day, check the perimeter of your home, nearby landscaping, walkways, and the rest of your yard for signs of a drainage issue. Check your attic and basement for signs of water damage, too.


Gutter Drainage Solutions

You can fix some drainage issues yourself by cleaning your gutters or installing new pieces, such as a splash guard or downspout extension. Others may require professional help—especially if your foundation has been compromised. Below are a few potential solutions. If you aren’t sure which is most appropriate for your situation, consult a reputable gutter installation company.

Downspout Extension

Installing a downspout extension allows you to put more distance between your foundation and the stormwater exiting your gutter system. These extenders come in a variety of sizes, designs, and materials. Some are flexible and made from vinyl; others are precut sections of aluminum pipe, crimped on one end to easily attach to a downspout elbow. You can even find low-profile gutter downspout extensions and open-top, ramp-like designs.

French Drains

You can install a French drain to supplement buried downspouts. This underground drain system consists of a perforated drain pipe beneath a gravel bed and can redirect water away from oversaturated areas. Water drains into the pipe through the perforations and is then funneled to a yard drainage area or municipal storm drain.

French drains are similar to underground downspouts, but they collect water from the ground rather than runoff from your roof. This water management system is ideal for homes built on a slope or prone to basement leaks. In extreme cases, a French drain may need to be cut into the basement slab and attached to a sump pump that moves water outside.

Gutter Cleaning

Sometimes all your home needs is a thorough gutter cleaning. You can do this yourself from a ladder or even from the ground with the right tools. Alternatively, you can hire a professional, in which case you can expect gutter cleaning to cost roughly $120–$235.

Gutter Guards

The best gutter guards keep leaves, pine needles, and other debris out of your gutter system, preventing clogs and allowing water to flow through unobstructed. The cost of installing gutter guards will vary depending on the product you choose and whether you install them yourself or hire professionals.

Rain Barrel

A French drain or downspouts can funnel water into a rain barrel or cistern. You can place rain barrels above or below the ground to collect and repurpose stormwater runoff. For instance, you can use your rain barrel to supply water for a garden irrigation system.

Splash Guards

Also known as splash shields, splash guards attach to the front edge of your gutters, typically in a corner or roof valley where two slopes meet. They extend upward to prevent water from overshooting or overflowing your gutters. Installing splash guards is a simple DIY job.

*Cost ranges listed are based on data from Angi and HomeAdvisor.


Our Conclusion

If you notice your gutters are not draining water properly, take steps to correct the problem before it causes extensive damage to your home. Common signs of improper drainage include gutter overflow, foundation cracks, attic mildew, pooling water, basement leaks, and landscape damage.

The solutions above, including downspout extensions, splash guards, French drains, rain barrels, gutter guards, and gutter cleaning, can fix many common gutter drainage problems. For persistent problems or expert advice, consider calling a gutter installation company. These professionals can assess your home’s drainage issues, offer recommendations, and install your chosen solution.


FAQs About Gutter Drainage

What is the proper way to drain gutters?

The proper way to drain gutters depends on the layout of your property. Start by cleaning your gutters regularly, including the downspouts. Otherwise, debris buildup can obstruct water flow, causing water to back up into your roof or flood the area around your home’s foundation.

How deep should you bury a gutter drain?

To bury a gutter drain, dig a trench at least 10 inches deep and at least 6 inches wide. The pipe will likely be 3 or 4 inches in diameter, and the line should have at least a 1% slope to allow for efficient drainage. Also, note the location of any utility lines so you can avoid them when you dig.

Why do you need to maintain your gutters?

You need to maintain your gutters to prevent debris buildup and water overflow. Without regular cleaning, clogs can form. Your gutters could begin to leak, sag, crack, or pull away from your home due to the weight of debris and trapped water.

Where should rain gutters drain?

Rain gutters should drain at least 4 feet from your house, but 6–10 feet is preferable. The ideal length and drainage location depend on several factors, including soil quality and ground slope. If your gutter drainage system empties underground, the pipe should extend 10–20 feet from your home.

Our Rating Methodology

The This Old House Reviews Team backs up our gutter guard recommendations with a detailed rating methodology to objectively score each gutter guard product and provider. We conduct research by reviewing product specifications and provider website information, speaking with customer representatives, and analyzing customer reviews. We then score each provider against our review standards for gutter guard design, customer support, the quote process, services, and reviews to arrive at a final score on a 5-point rating scale.  

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