How Important are Rain Gutters to Your Horse Barn?

How Important are Rain Gutters to Home Maintenance?If you’ve owned a home for a while, you know that water entering the home can be at least a hassle and at worst a cause of major destruction. Not only should keeping water from sneaking into those tiny cracks and crevices be a priority, it could make the difference between owning an asset and owning a money pit. One of the primary ways to protect your home from undesirable moisture is installing gutters.


Most people think that the sole purpose of rain gutters is to direct water coming off the roof toward downspouts to keep it from dripping on their heads over doorways. The value of gutters is much more that that, however. Not only that, water moving off a roof can roll under the drip edge of the roof and seep under soffits and eaves, weakening the wood. It seeps between the joints or masonry and the framework, exposing your home to mold and other damage. If subject to freezing temperatures, the water inside the wood freezes and swells, causing internal damage to beams, joists and framing.

When water is controlled, instead of just pouring off of the roof slope, it can:

  • Prevent damage to siding.
  • Prevent staining on brickwork.
  • Preserve overhead garage doors and exterior doors from damage.
  • Stabilize soil and the home’s foundation.
  • Prevent sidewalks, patios and driveways from settling and landscaping from erosion.
  • Protect basements and crawlspaces from flooding.

Rain Gutters for Horse Barns

Roof gutters may be needed on horse facilities to divert clean water from contaminated lot runoff and to prevent uncontrolled channeling of rainwater resulting in the formation of gullies adjacent to barns. There’s a lot to know about horse barns in particular, and we’ll do another article just about barn gutters in another article. Here’s a scholarly article (lots of information) on the necessity to install horse gutters in an efficient manner.

And here’s another bit of advice from the conservation corner, especially in light of our water emergency and our continuing use of this scarce resource.

“The spring rains will soon be upon us. Great news for those who planted grass seed last month but what will all that rain do to high-traffic areas around your barn or run-in shed? Will the probable deluge leave your horses standing in muck soup? Will it wash gullies in your newly surfaced bluestone sacrifice paddock or even worse through your stalls? How much of a difference can roof gutters and thoughtfully directed downspouts really make? How much rainwater falls on your barn or shed roof anyway?

It’s easy to calculate the expected amount of roof runoff, in a normal year, using the following formula:

  • _____# inches of annual rainfall x _____# of square feet of roof surface x 0.62 = # of gallons
  • 40 inches of annual rainfall in Northern VA
  • 864 sq. ft roof (24 feet x 36 feet small barn)

In our example a small 3-stall barn with an overhang would produce 21,427 gallons of concentrated roof runoff per year! That could really make some mud and/or move some gravel! On one rainy day (1 inch of rain) there’s still more than 500 gallons of rainwater concentrated in our “work areas.”

Areas around barns and sheds typically have higher concentrations of manure and bare soil. Re-directing rainwater away from these areas benefits you and your horse. I don’t know about you but I prefer firm footing when wielding a heaping wheelbarrow or dodging frisky stablemates. Diverting rainwater also means that your horse will have less mud to slip, slide, and roll in which can lessen the likelihood of injuries, lost shoes, skin infections, or weak hooves.

Another great reason to re-direct roof runoff… the fish will thank you! Rainwater is clean. Rainwater mixed with manure and soil is not. Which do you think the critters in the nearby stream would prefer to live in?

Let the guttering begin!

  1. Install gutters and downspouts to your roof.
  2. Attach additional piping at ground level to take the water away from your paddock, manure pile, gate, or other sensitive area.
  3. Direct the water into well-vegetated areas.
  4. Better yet, dig a trench a foot or more deep, and bury the pipe attached to your downspout. Make sure you run the pipe downhill. Commonly available black corrugated piping with a 4-6″ opening works well.
  5. Re-cover the trench. Apply soil, seed, and hay/mulch or your bluestone dust, as appropriate”


Doing gutters right

There is much more to gutter installation than simply hanging them from the eaves. In order for gutters to function correctly, they need to have the correct pitch. In general, the gutters should drop one inch in slope for every ten feet in length so that the water runs toward the downspout rather than pooling up in a low spot.

Check your gutters to make certain they are correctly sloped by placing a hose at the closed end of your gutter and allow the running water to gently flow into and through the gutter. Water should only flow toward the downspout.

Downspouts matter too

Make certain that your downspout actually direct the water away from the structure of your home. Optimal would be extending the terminal end of the downspout several feet away from your home’s foundation or onto a concrete or vinyl downspout extension. Alternatively, install underground drainage that leads away from your home’s foundation to the street gutter, or to a drywell.

Sometimes, the end of the downspout gets damaged or smashed. When this happens, water and debris can back up into the downspout and gutter, rendering them useless and setting up your home for potential damage.


Make certain gutters are clear of leaves and debris. Schedule cleaning gutters into your spring and fall schedules. After a major storm, even if your roof has not sustained major damage, clear shingle residue from gutters to avoid problematic buildup.


If you’re looking at a home to buy, make sure the home has gutters installed. If you want to increase the value of a home you’re selling, installing gutters gives buyers peace of mind about potential water problems.

By Don Reedy

Don Reedy on Google+

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