Small pleasures…gutters, downspouts, rain chains and diverters!

It took all of a week for Mother Nature to transition from a nearly perfect autumn ‘gutter-mounting’ day to today’s overcast rainy afternoon, but it’s really great to see rain water heading to the fields, the rain gardens and, eventually, to our cistern, just as we’d planned.

Most of us don’t really think much about gutters until they get clogged with leaves or begin pulling away from the eaves—or, as in our case, when you build anew.


Dennis, of Clark’s Seemless Gutters in rural Rochester (MN), walked us through the options earlier this year as we neared completion of the house exterior. Choosing colors was easy—match the finish behind them. Where and why to mount them in the first place took a little more time. Ultimately Dennis (above, with Nancy) and his crew arrived equipped with materials to mount gutters along the south (below) and east sides of the house and garage; these are the areas we’ve observed where gutters would benefit us the most. Runoff from the roof on the north and west sides has an easier time following the natural flow to plants and trees, and away from the house.


While gutters are mostly used to keep water away from the house and its foundation for structural purposes, there’s a growing number who look to collecting and ‘reusing’ rain water to reduce our demand on municipal utilities and private wells—and we’re among them.

We’re big fans of rain gardens and will eventually have two or three surrounding the house. The largest of these (below) collects runoff from land being restored to native prairie and from around the garage. A smaller less-descript one will be fed directly by water routed through gutters on the south side of the house. A third is yet to take shape, but will likely benefit from the north-side house and garage runoff, and will slow the water that ultimately runs into a series of cascading swales to a lower part of our property.


Our other major goal is to channel a significant amount of rain water into a 1000 gallon cistern that will support our vegetable garden. There are two points in the gutter system where we can divert a portion of the rain water into the cistern—and as the cistern fills, we can easily divert the water back out toward the rain gardens. [Below left, positioning a diverter; below right, the mounted diverter with one downspout heading toward the cistern, the other emptying over the rocks to the yard. A second diverter is mounted on the far end of the garage.]


We still have to complete the final leg of routing water through PVC pipe and into the cistern, so we’ll likely not see much water collection until the spring. The cistern (below, left) has been patiently waiting for over a year; inasmuch as it had to be lowered into the storm/root cellar before any framing could take place, it was among the first deliveries to arrive at the site nearly 14 months ago. Somehow I think there’s a lesson to be learned here by anyone involved in house construction! ☺


One other note: This is our first experience with rain chains, so it was particularly interesting today to watch them in action (above, right); look closely and you can see the water trickling down the chain from one gutter to the next. We’re using a couple rain chains to channel water between three different tiers of gutters, and a third one to feed a yet-to-be installed rain barrel (this will put a ready spigot of fresh water on the patio for watering around the pergola and the breezeway).

So today the rains returned; the gutters collected, the rain chains and downspouts channeled, and the diverters diverted.

And we can check one more thing off the list!!

Ahhhh…small pleasures…

  1. David and Lynn Tryggestad, Luther alums, class of 72

    FASCINATING ongoing story and photos!! We first “got wind” of it in the LutherAlum Magazine. David and I live in Duluth, but we are getting more familiar with your neck of the woods since our eldest son Erik has moved with his family to a small farm just outside Oronoco. Erik is a medical physicist at Mayo and Angi a new organic farmer. Theirs is an old, added-to farmhouse, and they are getting ready to work on a re-model getting it warmer, etc., with a smaller energy footprint, but without much, if any, expansion. I have sent Erik your online address, as I am sure he and Angi will also be very interested in your experiences and insights.
    Best wishes for a lovely winter (and NOT so cold) in your beautiful new digs!


Lanesboro, Minnesota
Climate Zone 6 (cold/moist)
Latitude: 43° 44' 18'' N
Longitude: 91° 54' 48'' W

House Size

Net Treated Floor Area: 1,514 SF
Gross Square Footage (House only): 2,210 SF

Building Envelope

Roof: R-99
Wall: R-61
Ground: R-53

Windows & Doors

Glazing: U-0.10 BTU / hour / sq. ft.
Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC): 0.48”
Frame: U-0.19 BTU / hour / sq. ft.

Modeled Performance

Specific Primary Energy Demand (Source Energy Demand): 12.1 kBTU / sq. ft. / year

Specific Space Heat Demand: 7.0 kBTU/sq. ft. / year

Peak Heating Load: 7,047 BTU / hour

Space Cooling Demand: 0.44 kBTU / sq. ft. / year

Peak Cooling Load: 3,625 BTU / hour

Pressure Test Goal: Whole House Air Changes Per Hour (ACH) = 0.4 ACH 50


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