The gutter system in your house is the first and most crucial line of defense that protects your property from water damage. If water collects in locations such as your foundation, basement, and roof, chances are you’ll need major repairs.
As an integral part of your home’s drainage system, the purpose of the gutter system is to effectively direct water from rain and storms away from the perimeter of your house.
But what if your gutters get blocked? Can clogged gutters cause basement flooding?
In today’s guide, we’re explaining how gutters work, what causes their clogging, what happens when gutters get clogged, and how you can deal with this issue.
A gutter is a channel drain typically made out of steel, aluminum, zinc, vinyl, or copper. It’s installed to catch water runoff from a roof and carry it to a downspout.
A downspout is the end of a downpipe or tube that hangs vertically on the side of the structure and connects to the gutter at the edge of the roof. It carries water collected in the gutter down to the level of the ground.
- Tip: each downspout line in your drainage system should drain from the gutter that’s no longer than 35 feet. Generally, the recommended length of gutter per downspout is around 20 to 25 feet.
After that, the water is directed away from the house’s foundation via extensions through which the water flows. This prevents flooding.
The water that’s moved away from your home gets into a drainage destination such as a drainage pit, a rainwater collection system, or a rain barrel.
So, how far should the downspout be from the house?
Well, the minimum distance that a downspout should drain away from a house is 5 to 6 feet. It’s even better if you extend that distance farther away to about 10 feet.
That said, multiple factors can affect the final distance of your gutter downspouts such as codes and regulations where you live, the slope of your yard, and the ability of the soil around your house to take water in.
The important thing is to make sure that the downspout is far enough from the house to stop the collected water from soaking through the walls of your foundation or basement.
As we mentioned earlier, a downspout is the part sticking out at the end of the downpipe. It carries water away from your house’s foundation and spills it into a drainage destination.
When installing the downspout, you need to make sure it dumps the collected water beyond the backfill zone; an area where water can flow back toward the house if it stops there.
If your downspout is poorly positioned and water comes out within the backfill zone, it can readily build up against your house.
When the gutters or downspouts at your house become clogged, it can be tricky to pinpoint the exact culprit since there are various potential causes to consider. Here’s a breakdown of the most common ones:
During heavy rains and storms, gutters and downspouts can get blocked because of debris washed in by the water. This debris can be leaves, plastic bags, sticks, and more.
Once the debris in the gutters and downpipes builds up to a certain level, the flow of the water is obstructed and eventually stopped. This leads to overflowing, causing the water to spill directly below the gutter.
Leaves, in particular, can easily build up in your gutters and downspouts during the fall season.
As leaves detach from trees, they can find their way to your roof and gutter system. From there, they form clumps of foliage that result in clogging your gutters, leading to overflowing.
If you live somewhere with a cold climate or you happen to be going through winter months, you should keep an eye out for ice dams as they can be the cause of your gutters’ clogging becoming worse.
Ice dams are water that gets frozen in gutter lines along the lower edge of a roof. As the ice builds up, draining becomes more hindered until it eventually stops, which forces the water to soak into the walls and enter the house.
Ice dams are more likely to occur in gutters that are already starting to clog, making matters worse and creating an even more stubborn blockage.
Yes, clogged gutter and downpipes can lead to basement flooding. There are multiple ways this can happen, but here are the most common ones:
When gutters become clogged, runoff water from rain and storms is bound to overflow.
With the pipes blocked and not offering a drainage route for the water, it’s forced to spill over the edge of the gutter, covering the side of the house and seeping into the basement and the foundation surrounding the house.
The last thing you should see in your gutter system is overflow. If you notice this happening, you should clean out the gutters and downpipes, or contact a professional to perform an inspection and service the system as soon as possible.
If your gutters are sagging, they can also cause basement flooding.
When gutters sag, it’s because the bolts and screws that are used to fasten them in place become loose, break, or come off. This can happen due to debris trapped inside the gutter, ice dams, or strong winds.
As a result, the gutters will gradually sag, which not only can lead to water flooding your basement, but also damage your foundation.
If you notice sagging gutters around your house, you can try a DIY fix or contact a professional to service them as soon as possible.
Last but not least, trenches formed by rain and/or stormwater are another way that clogged gutters can cause basement flooding.
You see, when gutters are overflowing or sagging, the water spilling around the house can end up creating a trench enclosing the foundation. Then, the water can seep into your basement and flood the structure.
In addition to basement flooding, clogged gutters can cause many problems including the following:
- Foundation cracks: driving water away from the house’s foundation is the main purpose of a gutter system. With a clogged gutter, water will soak into the foundation and soil surrounding it.
The more water seeps in, the more pressure is exerted on the foundation wall. This can lead to mold growth, basement flooding, and developing cracks that threaten the safety of the house
- Wood rot: the wood component in your roof can become rotten due to water seeping in after the gutters get clogged. It won’t even take much time to happen; a few hours can trigger wood decomposition and compromise the integrity of the structure.
- Saggy roofs or leaky ceilings: the standing water on your roof or ceiling caused by a clogged gutter can make its way inside the structure via small gaps. This can lead to sags, leaks, or even collapses.
- Spillage: the more water spills over the side of the house, the bigger the chance of its structure and foundation sustaining damage. Not to mention, if this water freezes, the expansion can lead to cracks or worsening of already existing cracks.
- Sagging driveways: if water manages to reach your driveway and pools there, it can wear down the concrete over time and cause it to sag and crack.
So, can clogged gutters cause basement flooding? The answer is yes, this can happen due to overflowing gutters, sagging gutters, or rain/stormwater trenches.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and over 10 years of experience working in IT. As a homeowner, I love working on projects around the house, and as a father, I love investigating various ways to keep my family safe (whether or not this involves tech). I’ve also played guitar for almost 20 years and love writing music, although it’s hard to find the time these days.