How to Unclog Blocked Downspouts

Block downspouts

If you notice a smell coming from any place in your downspouts or a mysterious rotting smell coming from who-knows-where, you might have a blockage somewhere along your home’s drainage system. It’s important to get this unblocked and to keep it maintained, so it doesn’t become blocked again with some simple tricks.

Besides the smell, why should you keep it clear?

  1. It could lead to a leaking basement and a cracked foundation.
    In fact, clogged gutters are the number one reason for basement water problems. If rain water is continuously overflowing and sitting around your foundation, it could weaken the footings and lead to cracks.
  2. It could rot your wood.
    Debris piled up around the flashing or shingle line can hold moisture against the fascia board. It can affect the roof sheathing and framing as well if left untreated. Don’t be one of the homeowners forced to spend thousands replacing rotted wood that could have been saved by a simple gutter cleaning.
  3. It could attract animals and wood-eating insects.
    If water ponds in areas, it will breed mosquitoes, plants, birds, insects, and even mice.
  4. It could cause your driveway and walkways to sag and crack due to pooling water.

How should you clean your gutters, especially if you suspect a blockage?

Check for signs:

  • Water spills over the edges of your gutter when it rains.
  • Water sprays from the seams and elbow joints.
  • Water does NOT flow from the bottom of the downspouts.
  • Eroded earth below a gutter.
  • Peeling paint on your siding or fascia.
  • Siding is wet, moist, or dirty beneath the gutter.
  • Gutters that are carrying too much weight inside and are pulling away from the fascia.

Look for the clog:

  • Downspout cage – this is a wire strainer that traps debris but allows water to flow through. It’s located where the downspouts intersect the gutter. Look to see if it’s bent or out of place. This will trap debris.
  • Gutter hangers and spikes – These can slip-free, land in the gutter, and trap debris.
  • Downspout elbows and seams – These are prone to clogs. Tap the outside of the downspout to see if it sounds hollow or full.
  • Downspouts below ground level – If you still can’t find the clog and you have downspouts below ground, the clog may be in an underground pipe.

How to Clean Out Clogged Downspouts:

  • For downspout cages: Remove and clean any downspout cages, remove all debris in the gutter, and replace the cage if it’s in good shape. If not, get a replacement screen. They’re cheap.
  • For loose hangers or spikes: Clean debris from any clogs and reposition or repair the supports.
  • For clogs in the elbows: First, try using a leaf blower from the bottom. Be sure to wear goggles, as you may be getting a lot of debris flying up and out. This will loosen debris that might get stuck if you try first using a hose or a stick. If you can reach the clog from above, try to free the obstruction with a stick, a hose, a plumbing snake, or a pressure washer with a telescoping wand. If you can’t reach it, either way, disassemble and remove the clog.
  • For clogs underground: Before you despair, remove the downspout where it enters the ground. See if there is a clog you can get to with a plumbing snake. Or, using a hose, try forcing it into the underground portion of the line and turning on the water to dislodge the clog.


Unclogging blocked downspouts can save you major headaches in homeownership. Try to check and clean your gutters twice a year to catch blockages early on.

If these simple tricks don’t work, or you don’t want the hassle, contact Renovations Roofing & Remodeling, Inc. to take care of it quickly and professionally – it will save you money in the long run!

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