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When home inspectors perform a home inspection, they should also include downspouts and gutters in their examination. This is per the InterNACHI Home Inspection Home Standards of Practice guidelines.

Some vital components that a home inspector should consider including are:

  • The gutter system has an adequate size to prevent runoff.
  • The gutter system has no cracks, holes, and rust to prevent water leaking.
  • The downspouts divert water approximately 5 feet away from the house foundation.

Rainfall water falling on the rooftop can produce thousands of gallons of water in minutes. Homeowners should divert the rainwater from the house’s foundation, or else, it will weaken the foundation by saturating the soil around the building.

When the water enters the house’s interior, it can result in many issues, such as wood rot and mold. Furthermore, it can also result in poor indoor air quality increasing the chances of health risks.


The basics of the gutter system

The gutter system has two parts; the gutter channel and the downspouts. The gutter channels collect rainfall from the roofs as they are horizontally placed on the roof’s edge. The downspouts then collect water from the gutter channels and divert them to the ground.

For effectiveness, homeowners in Alabama should place the gutters in a slight angle at the rate of 1/4 -inch per 6 to 9 feet. Reducing the angle will reduce the effectiveness of water flow, and increasing the edge increase the water flow speed, resulting in overflow in corners and end caps.

close-up photo of gutter system showing angles towards downspout

Generally, home inspectors should not measure the angles of the gutter system. The reason being, it would consume a lot of time and would need a water level or transit; thus, exceeding InterNACHI’S Standards of Practice.

However, home inspectors should use a more practical approach to ensure that the channels are sloping ideally towards the spout. While inspecting, they should look for presence of stagnant water in the channels far from the downspout.

Gutter channels come in three sizes 4-inch, 5-inch, and 6-inch sizes. Besides that, they also come in different shapes, although the form does not affect their performances. They include the K-style gutters with a mold-like shape and the U-style gutters, also known as the half-round gutters. Larger channels increase the speed of water flow, provided that there is an adequate number of downspouts to prevent water overflow.

Downspout basics

Downspouts and the gutter system are built with the same material type. Thus, they all suffer from the same problems, such as cracks, rusts and holes. Home inspectors should always check for:

  • The integrity of the downspout and structure attachment
  • Joint leakage
  • Damage from cars parked in the surrounding area (commercial buildings)
  • The connection between the gutter and the downspout

inspecting downspout for signs of damage


Different types of gutter systems vary in climate specifics. Below are the different kinds of gutter systems and where to install them.

Mixed-dry and Hot-Dry Climates

There is no need to install gutters in dry places. However, equipping a home with a wide roof overhang will help keep the occasional rainfall away from the house. Providing homes with a metal gutter and downspouts will be safer in areas prone to wildfires.

Mixed-Humid and Hot-Humid Climates

In areas prone to massive downpour, homeowners should increase the gutter and rain leader capacity. Furthermore, they should install diverter flashing and kick-outs to prevent heavy rainfall from spilling over their exterior walls.

Cold Climates

Homeowners should avoid installing gutters in areas that have been prone to ice. Ice tends to buildup in the drains during the cold season, resulting in ice damming. This can result in moisture intrusion through the unsealed openings and roof’s sheathing. However, you can always check local building stores for products that can help prevent ice dam’s formation.

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