Downspouts are normally constructed of aluminum, copper, or galvanized iron. Copper and galvanized downspouts that have aged often have corrosion holes in the elbow sections. In some cases, the copper corrodes so that cracked sections are paper thin and can be stripped away easily. If you see this condition, it indicates that those sections should be replaced. Some downspouts have loose and open seams along their length that interfere with their effectiveness.
If you do not specifically look for the downspouts, you might not realize that some of them are missing. Figure 3-10 shows a missing downspout with water stains on the asbestos-cement shingles. In this case, it is obvious that a downspout is missing; however, if the house is inspected during dry weather, you might not see any stains, and this item can be overlooked. Check the assembly of the downspout at the various joints. The lower portion of the downspout should be outside the upper portion. Otherwise, water will leak around the joint. Figure 3-11 shows an incorrect downspout assembly. On occasion some downspouts come loose from their connection to the gutters and should be resecured. Loose support straps around downspouts should be resecured.
The water from downspouts must go somewhere; it can be piped away underground to suitable drainage or discharged onto the ground at the base. Any water discharging from the base of the downspouts must be directed away from the structure. Otherwise, it can accumulate around the foundation and can eventually enter the lower level. To help deflect this water away from the structure, there should be an elbow at the base of the downspout and a splash plate below on the ground. Effluent discharging around the foundation should be indicated on your worksheet.
Sometimes the downspouts terminate directly into the ground. It is usually not possible during an inspection to determine whether the downspouts are connected to free-flowing drain tiles or to dry wells. Free-flowing tiles are more desirable; dry wells can become clogged or will become ineffective if the level of the subsurface groundwater (water table) is high. Occasionally, some free-flowing tiles are visible at the street curb. If there are outlets at the curb, they must be kept clear.