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A Guide to Gutters and Downspouts

Just like a roof, gutters and downspouts are vital to any building. They are an integral part of the overall system that protects your property, including its foundation, from rainwater. Gutters, downspouts, downspout extensions, splash blocks; it's all so we can collect the rainwater and direct it away from the foundation.

Below you will learn:

  • What is a gutter
  • Why you need a gutter
  • What is a downspout
  • The importance a downspout
  • Why you should direct water away from your foundation
  • The disadvantages of using a chain instead of a downspout

roof gutter installation

What is a gutter?

A gutter is a shallow trough used for collecting rainwater as it flows off of your roof. They attach at the bottom or lower end of a roof.

Vinyl, Aluminum or Steel Gutter?

Although you can get gutters made of vinyl, our gutters are made of steel or aluminum. Aluminum gutters last longer than vinyl, are stronger than vinyl and come in a wide variety of colors compared to vinyl gutters.


Gutters come in many shapes or profiles, but ours are K-style. 'K' is just a vague term used to describe how the gutter looks from the side, compared to what's called 'half round' gutters.

Why do I need a gutter?

You need gutters because you need to collect the rainwater as it flows off your roof and redirect it to a downspout. Without gutters, rainwater runs off your roof, along the entire length, and pools right next to your house or building. This pooling can cause a lot of problems. See below.

Looking to keep debris, such as leaves, out of your gutters? Check out the GutteRx Gutter Guard.


What is a downspout?

Downspouts are a tube or pipe that connects to the bottom of the gutter and directs the rainwater to a specific location on the ground. Often downspouts are made of the same material as the gutter, such as sheet metal. Once off the roof and directed towards the ground, rainwater is directed away from the property a number of ways:

Sewage Standpipe

Some downspouts connect to a sewage standpipe that's buried in the ground. This is not ideal because debris such as leaves and birds can get into the standpipe and cause drainage problems. Cleaning a standpipe can be difficult since it's underground. Often, the end of the standpipe gets covered by dirt preventing rainwater from existing the standpipe.

Downspout Extension

Some downspouts connect to a downspout extension located horizontally on the ground surface. This method of directing rainwater away from the house or building is preferred because;

  • they are easy to clean debris out of if they get clogged,
  • they can be hinged to the bottom of the downspout then lifted out of your way when you mow the lawn,
  • the extension can be any length,
  • you can easily change-out the downspout extension for a longer or shorter one.

Splash Block

A splash block is a product that directs water away from the foundation. They are often open on the top and roughly 11" wide and 24" long, and made of either vinyl or cement. Splash blocks are used instead of a downspout extension or with one.

Why do I need a downspout?

You need to direct the rainwater coming off the roof into one location. Without a downspout, rainwater exists the gutter and pools next to your house or building. This pooling can cause a lot of problems. Continue reading to learn more.

Why you should direct water away from your property:

As discussed above, the point of gutters and downspouts is to collect rainwater and divert to a specific point on the ground. You want to do this to prevent water from pooling close to your foundation because over time, this pooling of water weakens your foundation and can cause your foundation to crack, your basement to flood, your house to sink, sagging or uneven floors, doors that don't close properly, and more.

sunken area in front yard

sunken area in front yard

cracked cement wall on front of house

cracked cement wall on front of house

Why you shouldn't use chain in place of a downspout:

It's become trendy to replace a downspout with a chain. Here are a couple reasons why this is a bag idea:

Sometimes people grab a metal chain from their garage or their truck and attach it to the fascia board of their house. The problem with this is that the fascia board wasn't meant to hold that much weight. Also, drilling into the fascia board, people often forget to seal that hole-up, which leads to other problems.

Whether the chain is made of steel or plastic, the rainwater coming out of the gutter and hitting the chain links splash all over the place and it makes collecting all that water very difficult. Remember, collecting rainwater and diverting it to a specific location away from the foundation is the whole point of all of this.

a chain in place of a downspout on a gutter on a house

a chain in place of a downspout on a gutter on a house


Although we can't collect all the rainwater that might damage a house or building's foundation, we can collect and divert the rainwater that falls onto our roofs. With properly installed gutters, downspouts and downspout extensions, your foundation and house, or commercial building, will last longer and cause you fewer headaches.


  1. Angie Miller on October 18, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    Thank you for this short yet comprehensive article. Although I knew what a gutter was, I did not know that the piece coming down from the gutter was called something different (the downspout). I thought it was all gutters 🙂

    I also did not know it was so important to get water away from my house! We just bought a new-to-us house and I now see that the downspouts need extensions or splash blocks. I will get that taken care of.

    I was considering chains in stead of downspouts because I saw them on HGTV (I thought they looked cool), but now that you’ve explained why that’s a bad idea (and how important it is get water away from the foundation), I will not being do that.

    Thanks, again!

    • Bob Behrends Roofing and Gutters on October 18, 2018 at 4:38 pm

      You’re welcome. Thank YOU for leaving a comment. We’re glad we can offer some information to help you out.