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Why Having Functional Gutters and Downspouts Is So Important

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When I was a teenager, I drove a lot of old cars because I couldn’t afford a new one. I also did most of the work on them to try to save money. Early on, I learned a valuable lesson when it came to repairs. Always start diagnosing a problem by checking the inexpensive things first. Could it be a faulty spark plug or spark plug wire? Could it be a small fracture in the distributor cap? (Remember when cars actually had those?) Perhaps the brake fluid was low. If you read this article, you may not even know what these things are. The point is that the problem may have been caused by something that is very inexpensive to fix, at least initially.  I also learned that if I didn’t fix the small things when they broke, the small repair would usually lead to larger ones.

The same principle can be true of a home. Sometimes, when simple things are not operating properly, it can lead to bigger problems if not repaired. Gutters and downspouts are good examples of this.

When I appraise a home with gutters that are damaged or clogged, I almost always see the dampness in the basement. The photos in this article were taken by me. It is a home I appraised this week. On the front and back sides of the home, the gutters and downspouts were damaged in some areas and missing in others.


Gutters and downspouts divert rainwater away from the foundation. While this may seem like no big deal, when you consider the amount of water that a roof displaces, the importance quickly becomes obvious! By some estimates, a 1,000 sq. ft. home displaces about 600 gallons of water for every inch of rain. Imagine a considerable amount of that 600 gallons of water oozing into a basement. That can cause a lot of damage!

When gutters and downspouts are clogged or damaged, rainwater can run directly into the basement through porous spots in the wall. Here is a picture of what it might look like.


Excessive moisture can lead to an even more dangerous and costly repair, namely, mold growth.  The picture below is of the same home.  This is what can happen when there is excessive moisture in a basement. My wife scolded me for not wearing a respirator when I went in, and rightly so.  I could actually smell the growth from the outside. I should have worn my mask.  (A good reminder to carry the appropriate type of respirator in our vehicles if there is a chance that we might encounter this type of thing)

I might add that most real estate appraisers, including myself, are not qualified to actually identify this as mold. Only a qualified professional can, as a professional, identify this as mold. So in my reports, I call this a “mold-like growth”. An indoor hygienist or other qualified professional would be needed to officially identify this growth. But if I was a betting man, I would say that this is mold. I am sure that you would too. This point is just a technicality. I am planning on writing an article on mold soon. Stay tuned.

When appraising a home, when I see excessive dampness in a basement, the first thing I look for is the condition of the gutters and downspouts. I have seen people spend many thousands of dollars installing elaborate basement waterproofing systems when there is a possibility that simply having functional gutters and downspouts would have accomplished the same goal. According to, the average cost to waterproof a 1,200 sq. ft. basement is $3,000 to $5,000.

Cleaning and/or repairing gutters is a relatively inexpensive repair that can save a lot of money and help a homeowner to avoid a much more costly repair or repairs, later.

How much money it will cost to remediate mold?

According to it could range from $500 to $5,000 dollars (or more I might add). See their chart for some estimates below.


Mold Removal Estimates


How much would it cost to clean or repair gutters?

See the information from Home Advisor below. On average, a few hundred dollars.




Gutters and downspouts can clog up fairly easily.  A bird may decide during a dry stretch to build a nest in the gutter. There are little screws that point out at the point where a downspout and gutter are attached. Many times in my own home I will find that a leaf got stuck on the sharp part of that screw and then other debris like twigs just keep sticking to that one leaf until it builds up to a point that it clogs. Now going into autumn, a person may have to clean out their gutters several times before winter due to foliage falling into the gutters.

If you have a large roof area, you may also need to consider larger gutters and downspouts that can handle a larger volume of water. I recommend asking a qualified professional what they would recommend for your home.

Some companies specialize in systems that can be attached to gutters to help keep them from becoming clogged. It might well be worth looking into if you have difficulty cleaning out your gutters yourself. Admittedly it’s not fun.

There are other things that can cause water intrusion into a basement. For instance, damaged drain tiles or negative grading in which the land slopes towards the foundation. Usually, these are very costly repairs to make. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. But its always good to start diagnosing water intrusion with the simple potential causes like gutters and downspouts not being functional.

There are a lot of different types of gutters out there. Click here for a glossary of gutter terms and definitions.

The next time you notice some dampness in your basement, I recommend checking your gutters and downspout BEFORE you have your basement waterproofed. It may save you a lot of money!

Thanks, as always, for reading my article!

Just an FYI…

I have a friend who has a photography and editing business.  His name is Michael Williams. He has a fantastic eye for photography and can do amazing things with pictures. I just purchased several photos of Downtown Cleveland from him for use on my websites. Whether you’re in real estate or any other profession, if you’re ever in need of a great photo in Northeast Ohio or to have one of your photos you like edited, no matter where you live, check out his services and some of his work on his website at Click here to go to his website.



Here are some other articles and videos I enjoyed this week! I hope you will also…


Even Rates Are Safety Orientated in Condo Housing – Housing Notes by Jonathan Miller

5 ways buyers have changed since the housing bubble – Sacramento Appraisal Blog

You’re In The Wrong Biz! – The Real Value Podcast

RAC Conference Coverage 100% Appraisers at RAC! – Voice of Appraisal with Phil Crawford

Appraiser Regard to Green Energy – The Appraiser Coach

Do You Have Two Brains? – George Dell’s Analogue Blog

Five Quick Tips For Agents When Communicating With The Appraiser – Birmingham Appraisal Blog

Changes Over Time – Ann Arbor Appraisal

Common Mistakes when Stating a Home – DW Slater Company, Real Estate Blog

September News Letter – DW Slater Company Real Estate Blog


3 thoughts on “Why Having Functional Gutters and Downspouts Is So Important”

  1. Good stuff Jamie. You are so right about gutters. In fact, I am going to need to repair / replace some gutters at my house soon. It’s amazing what happens to the eaves when gutters are not doing their job. It’s such a quick way to product wood decay. As a side note, that’s very cool you bought some photos from a local photographer.

    1. Thank you so much Ryan! Such a simple fix. But easy to forget about. With regards to the photographer, he is an awesome guy and he does great work! There are a lot of free pictures that can be obtained on line. However, buying pictures from a professional makes a big difference when it comes to quality photos. It’s nice to know a good photographer. 😃

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