In greater Orlando, rainfall averages nearly eight inches a month from June to August, followed by six inches in September and roughly two inches a month the rest of the year. Last year’s top one-day rainfall was 2.5 inches on June 9, 2020. With all this water, it’s important to install the correct size gutters, downspouts, and drainage systems to protect your home’s foundation.
Excess water can impact your foundation, causing cracking and leading to crawl space flooding. It can also cause heave in slab foundations, when the moisture moves beneath the slab, causing the soil to expand, push upwards, and cause cracks.
Rainfall Drainage Challenges
There are several elements to consider when assessing rainfall water management around your home. It starts at the roof, routes through the gutters and downspouts, then meets up with still more water already on the ground. Here are the critical items:
- Roof total surface area
- Roof pitch, including hips and valleys
- Gutter size, shape, and slope
- Downspout size, shape, position, and number
- Downspout extensions to direct water flow away from the foundation
- Grading around the foundation to move the water away
- Crawl space waterproofing
Rainfall on a Single-Story 1,600-Square-Foot-Home
In the example shown below, a single-story 1,600-square-foot home accumulates nearly 1,000 gallons of water from just one inch of rain. Add a few more inches and the gallons advance rapidly, hitting nearly 5,000 gallons at five inches.
Rainfall on a 1,600-square-foot home
- 1″ of rain: 997 gallons of water
- 5″ of rain: 4,984 gallons of water
- 12″ of rain: 11,962 gallons of water
It’s easy to see how gutters could be overwhelmed in a downpour. This can cause overflow with hundreds of gallons of water rushing off the roof, over the gutters, and falling directly on your foundation.
Roof Structure and Water Volume
Roof structure further impacts rain collection and the overall flow of water from the roof. As an example, the steeper the roof’s pitch, the more roof surface area and the quicker the rain moves to the gutters. Not only that, but wind can blow more rain onto a steeply pitched roof.
Roof pitch factor is measured by the rise of the roof over a 12-inch run. If the rise is five inches, that’s a 5-in-12 pitch, or a pitch factor of 1.05.
Another thing to take into account is the roof’s peaks and valleys. Valleys can collect water from two roof surfaces and bring all that to a small section of your gutters.
Gutter and Downspout Capacity Calculations
Here’s the list of the items needed to correctly calculate gutter and downspout capacity.
- Home square footage or footprint
- Roof pitch, along with any peaks and valleys
- Gutter shape, K-style or half-round
- Gutter dimension
- Downspout size, shape, and slope
- Expected rainfall intensity in your area
Example Calculation for Orlando
The expected rainfall intensity can be found at the NOAA Weather Service’s detailed precipitation frequency estimates. We selected Orlando WSO AP as the location. Moving to the table below the map, we find that the five-minute expected rainfall burst that’s likely over a 10-year period is 0.723 inches. We need to convert that to inches per hour: 0.723 x 12 equals 8.676 inches.
With an 800-square-foot home with a roof pitch of 4-in-12 and a pitch factor of 1.05, the total roof watershed is 800 x 1.05, or 840 square feet. Then multiplied by the expected rainfall intensity of 8.676 inches, the drainage capacity results in 7,287 square feet.
A K-style five-inch gutter has a capacity of 5,520 square feet. This is far less than our required drainage capacity. Instead, the six-inch K-style gutter with a capacity of 7,960 square feet should be used.
Downspouts must also be sized to handle this level of rainfall. Rectangular 2 x 3-inch downspouts have a capacity of 600 square feet, while 3 x 4-inch downspouts can handle 1,200 square feet. Choosing the 3 x 4-inch rectangular downspouts, we’d need at least seven to handle the expected water flow.
Above Ground and Underground Water Issues
With correctly sized gutters and downspouts, the rainfall can move quickly from roof to gutter to downspout to the ground. Once on the ground, it needs to be routed away from the home’s foundation. That can be accomplished with proper grading of the soil as well as downspout extensions, all correctly positioned to move that water out and away.
However, all that rain falling on your roof has also been falling on your lawn and saturating the soil. This causes underground water to pool, which flows toward the foundation rather than away from it.
It flows in this direction due to the clay bowl effect, which is the result of excavating the soil prior to foundation construction and then backfilling. The backfilled soil has a different drainage factor than the rest of your lawn. It’s loose rather than compact. Unfortunately, this allows the water to more easily flow toward the foundation.
Water Damage Repair Costs
FEMA has developed cost estimates of the impact of several different levels of home flooding. Those are highlighted in the chart below.
Cost of Water Damage and Repairs
(2,500-square-foot single-story home)
- 1 inch of water in the home: $26,807
- 1 foot of water in the home: $72,163
- Damaged foundation: Lose up to 30% of your home value. That’s $105,000 for a $350,000 home.
Numbers like that can serve as a powerful motivator to do all you can to prevent flooding. Correctly sized gutters, downspouts, and drainage around your foundation can help a great deal.
But it is also best to bring in professionals who can fully assess the situation and provide sound advice. For a free inspection, contact the experts at Florida Foundation Authority.