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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

How Clogged Gutters Can Be a Cause of Serious Water Damage

8/5/2020 (Permalink)

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Summary: SERVPRO of Lake Travis/NW Austin urges homeowners to keep their gutters clean to prevent water damage.

Gutters and downspouts are designed to capture roof water and direct it away from the home. When the gutters and downspouts fail to perform as designed, the resulting water damage spells trouble for the homeowner, as the following scenario illustrates.

Water Damage Scenario: Clogged Gutters Flood a Basement

The water stain on the ceiling in the bedroom unsettled the elderly couple. Thunderstorms and high winds awakened them several times during the night, so they were not surprised to discover signs of water damage. However, the water damage was not limited to the bedroom. Water had flowed into the basement through the window wells, and an inch or more of water covered the basement floor. Because an inch of water in a 1500 square foot basement is over 900 gallons of water, the situation required much more than a DIY solution. The older couple understood the severity of the problem, so they called in the local SERVPRO water damage restoration specialist.

The team of professional technicians was on the scene in about an hour. The inspection and assessment revealed that the gutters were clogged along the side of the home where the water damage occurred. Water from the clogged gutters seeped into the eaves, damaging the bedroom ceiling, walls, and carpet. Water cascading out of the gutters had seeped into the foundation or poured through the basement window wells, flooding the basement. Both downspout extensions were disconnected. Hundreds of gallons of water had been deposited next to the foundation.

Stopping the water from entering the structure was a relatively easy task. The team would clean the gutters of all debris, re-attach the extensions to the downspouts, and clean out and cover the basement window wells. They would also make sure the ground sloped away from the home at an angle that could divert excessive amounts of water.

Once the inspection and assessment were completed and the homeowner approved the estimate, the damage restoration began. Being able to immediately start the cleanup process limited any further water damage, and removing the water and eliminating the moisture reduced the likelihood of mold issues arising.

Defective Downspouts

The above scenario highlights the importance of regularly cleaning the gutters and checking the downspouts. Gutter downspouts direct water away from the home and its foundation. Usually made of black corrugated pipe, downspout extensions should extend about six feet out from the foundation and drain away from the house, generally towards the street or backyard. If the downspouts are broken or missing or if the extensions become detached from the downspouts, water will collect next to the house and can gradually seep into the basement, pour in through cracks in the foundation, or drain into the basement through window wells or foundation vents.

Downspouts can become damaged and extension pipes can become disconnected due to a variety of causes.

  1. A riding lawn mower can snag a downspout extension, damaging the pipe or disconnecting it from the downspout. If the pipe is secured to the downspout with screws or a bracket, the entire downspout can be ripped from the side of the home. The disconnected extension may not be discovered until the signs of water damage appear.
  2. Water pressure from a heavy flow from the gutters and downspout can sometimes disconnect a downspout extension.
  3. When shrubs and bushes are being pruned or shaped, the extension can be accidentally disconnected.
  4. Dogs have been known to damage or disconnect the black corrugated extension pipe.

Clogged Gutters

Gutters, also known as eavestroughs, are essential to diverting water away from the home to keep the basement dry. Gutters on a house with nearby trees may become clogged with fallen leaves, twigs, seedpods, and other debris during the fall season or after a heavy thunderstorm or windstorm. This debris can impede water flow through the gutters and downspouts. Regular gutter cleaning should be a part of routine home maintenance to prevent any problems with water collecting on the roof, overflowing the gutters, and potentially flooding the crawl space, basement, or the interior walls and ceilings.

Water overflowing from gutters can cascade down the sides of the home where it can pool and seep into the basement. About fifteen minutes after a storm, the homeowner can go out and check to see if the gutters are directing water away from the home and not overflowing.

Ladder Safety When Cleaning Gutters

Some homes may require the assistance of an expert to safely remove all debris from the roof and gutters. According to Industrial Safety and Health News, there are 500,000 falls from ladders annually; 97 percent occur at home or on farms. SERVPRO of Lake Travis/NW Austin urges homeowners to observe extreme caution when cleaning gutters.

Electrocution is also a potential hazard when climbing a ladder to clean the gutters. Touching a power line with any part of the body, the ladder, or a metal tool can cause serious injury or death. Watch out for wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets when working near the edge of the home with a ladder. Bees often build nests under the eaves of the house, on gutters, in the shrubs, or in the ground in the case of yellow jackets. A sudden swarm of bees may result in a fall off a ladder. Also, some people are highly allergic to bee stings, and they may need immediate medical attention if they are stung.


The homeowner must keep a vigilant eye on the gutters, downspouts, and downspout extensions to ensure that water is being diverted away from the foundation and not causing damage. Cleaning out the gutters and checking the condition of the downspouts and the extensions should be a part of every homeowner’s regular home maintenance schedule. If water damage does occur, turn to the professionals at SERVPRO of Lake Travis/NW Austin for help.

For more information about water damage restoration and repair, visit the SERVPRO of Lake Travis/NW Austin at https://www.SERVPROlaketravisnwaustin.com. Contact the office by phone at (512) 318-2202.

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