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How Gutter Downspout Extensions Can Protect Your Home’s Foundation

gutter downspout extension
gutter downspout extension

A gutter downspout extension is a device that extends the length of your downspout so that runoff is directed away from the foundation before release.

Looking for information about gutter downspout extensions and how they can help protect your home’s foundation? If so, you’ve landed on the right page, because that’s what we’re going to review in this article. We’ll go over how water causes most foundation problems (yep!), how gutter downspout extensions can help protect your foundation, and other things you can do to help prevent foundation problems.

The Two Most Common Causes of Foundation Problems

The two most common causes of foundation trouble are differential settlement and hydrostatic pressure.

Differential settlement

It’s perfectly normal for a foundation to settle slightly into the ground after it’s built. As long as the settlement is uniform, there’s nothing to worry about. The problem is differential settlement, or when a foundation settles unevenly into the ground. Differential settlement puts a lot of stress on a foundation and can lead to severe structural damage if it isn’t corrected.

Differential settlement can cause the floors to become uneven and the walls to crack, affecting the overall stability of the building.

Differential settlement is often caused by water

Differential settlement can happen for various reasons, but the most common cause is water. When there’s too much water in the ground around a foundation or not enough, things tend to go wrong. Here are some ways this can happen:

  • Expansive soil – Expansive soil expands when exposed to moisture and then contracts when it dries out. When this cycle of expansion and contraction happens repeatedly (usually seasonal), it creates movement under the foundation. This can eventually cause differential settlement.
  • Erosion-prone soil – Because of its composition, erosion-prone soil is vulnerable to degradation caused by the effects of water. This can cause voids to form in the ground under the foundation leading to instability and, eventually, differential settlement.

Other causes of differential settlement include the following:

  • Inadequate soil preparation – Before construction begins, the soil must be tamped down to remove spaces between the particles. If this isn’t done, the structure could settle unevenly into the ground after it’s built.
  • Earthquakes and other natural disasters – Seismic events, floods, tornados, etc., can all cause differential settlement.
  • Excavation too close to the foundation – If your neighbor digs a big hole too close to your house, it could destabilize the soil under the foundation and cause differential settlement.

Hydrostatic pressure

When the ground around the foundation becomes saturated with water that can’t drain off, hydrostatic pressure builds up and pushes against the foundation walls. If it isn’t relieved, the foundation walls will eventually start to bow inward and even crack, compromising the building’s structural integrity.

Hydrostatic pressure is caused by excess moisture in the ground, along with poor drainage. The best way to prevent hydrostatic pressure is to ensure proper drainage around the foundation, and this includes installing gutter downspout extensions.

Hydrostatic pressure is strong enough to push water through invisible cracks in the wall and into your basement.

What Is A Gutter Downspout Extension?

A gutter downspout extension is a device that extends the length of your downspout so that runoff is directed away from the foundation before release.

A gutter downspout extension is just as it sounds. It’s a device that extends the length of your downspout so that runoff is directed away from the foundation before release. We recommend releasing water at least 15 feet away from the foundation.

Unless you live in an extremely arid region, gutter downspout extensions are critical to avoiding water-saturated soil around the foundation, which could lead to the build-up of hydrostatic pressure or problems with expansive or erosion-prone soil.

The Benefits Of Gutter Downspout Extensions

If you’ve read this far, you can probably already guess why gutter downspout extensions are beneficial: They help prevent the ground around the foundation from getting saturated with water. Without gutter downspout extensions, runoff would be deposited too close to the foundation, potentially causing trouble that could result in costly repairs.

Other Ways To Keep The Soil Around Your Home Dry

Because water is a leading culprit behind foundation trouble, you can go a long way toward helping prevent problems by simply controlling groundwater around the foundation. Gutter downspout extensions are just one way to do this. There are others, including the following:

  • Regrade the yard around the house so it slopes away from the foundation. This will prevent groundwater from draining toward the foundation.
  • Clean gutters regularly so they’re not clogged with leaves and other debris, which could cause water to flow over the side of the house and soak into the ground around the foundation.
  • Keep trees away from the foundation. Large trees often have extensive root systems that can invade the ground under the foundation, causing trouble. Homeowners can avoid problems by planting trees at least 10 feet from the foundation.
  • Install a drain tile system – Installing a drain tile system is one of the best ways to help prevent foundation issues. There are two types of drain tile systems; exterior and interior. An exterior drain tile system is installed around the outside perimeter of the property at the footing level. An interior drain tile system is installed around the inside perimeter of a basement or crawl space. Both systems collect and channel groundwater away from the foundation via a sump pump. Drain tile systems are particularly useful for homes built in an area with a high water table or heavy rainfall.

How to keep water away from a house foundation

If you’d like expert advice on keeping the ground around your Chicagoland home dry – including how to properly install and use gutter downspout extensions – contact The Real Seal today to schedule an appointment.


Austin Werner

Austin Werner is the Owner of The Real Seal LLC, a basement waterproofing and foundation repair company. Austin believes that having a highly trained and happy team is the key to success. This is reflected through hundreds of 5 star customer reviews his company has received online.

2 Responses

  1. Thank you for this enlightening article on gutter downspout extensions and their role in safeguarding a home’s foundation. I had been wondering about the importance of these extensions, and your post provided a clear and concise explanation.

    Understanding the two most common causes of foundation problems, especially the concept of differential settlement, was eye-opening. It’s reassuring to know that this issue can be addressed with proper drainage solutions like gutter downspout extensions.

    I appreciate that you not only highlighted the problem but also offered a solution and additional preventive measures. This article has been incredibly helpful in educating me about the importance of taking care of my home’s foundation. Keep up the great work in providing valuable insights like these!

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