Your home’s gutters are there for one reason — to protect your home from serious water damage. They work by channeling rain and snow away from your home’s roof and foundation. But, if your home’s gutters are not inspected and maintained properly, you can’t be sure they are really protecting your home as well as they should. Now is an excellent time to ensure that your gutters did not sustain any damage over the winter.
There are a few common problems with gutters — and if left unattended, any one of these conditions can cause basement flooding, foundation cracking and settlement, soil erosion, dry-rot, paint damage, mold, siding damage and more.
Clean Your Clogged Gutters
Typical problems with gutters include leaking, sagging, overflowing, pooling runoff, and clogging; however, clogging is the most common problem of all. If they are not cleaned regularly, gutters and downspouts can get so clogged with debris that they are basically useless. The excess weight of leaves, twigs, and standing water can also make gutters sag and pull away from the fascia. It’s recommended that you clean your gutters at least once per year, and twice per year if there are a lot of trees near your home. After a big storm, it is a good idea to check your gutters to ensure that they did not accumulate storm debris. If your gutters are chronically clogged, you should consider outfitting them with gutter covers.
Find Out Why Your Gutters Overflow
Gutters that overflow can present serious problems to your home’s walls and foundation because the rain is not being channeled away from your home. If your gutters overflow during a heavy rain, either the gutters and/or downspouts are clogged, the gutters are sagging and thereby preventing water from reaching the downspouts, or the gutters and downspouts are not large enough to handle the volume of rain runoff. In most cases, gutters overflow because leaves and debris are clogging them, essentially creating dams that prevent water from flowing to the outlets above the downspouts. In fact, these clogs often occur right at the outlets. Find out what is causing your gutters to overflow and take steps to correct it as soon as possible.
Check Your Gutter Joints for Leaks
If your gutters are leaking, the prime suspects are the joints between sections. Standing water in gutters eventually will rust galvanized steel seams or seep through the seams in aluminum gutters. Leaking gutter joints can be sealed by caulking the joint from the inside with gutter sealant. Very small holes can be filled with gutter sealant. Larger holes will require a patch. If you can’t find a gutter patching kit at the hardware store, you can make a patch from metal flashing. If the gutters are too rusty, and have too many holes to patch, you may need to invest in new a new gutter system.
Fix Sagging Rain Gutters
When full of water, rain gutters can become extremely heavy. As a result, gutters made of flexible materials such as aluminum, vinyl, and galvanized steel can begin to bend and sag and their hangers will loosen. As this happens, they cease to do a good job of draining rainwater efficiently, allowing water to pool along their lengths. This, of course, just exacerbates the problem, making them heavier and causing them to sag even more.
To determine if your rain gutters sag, check for signs of standing water or water marks along the inner sides of the gutters. With a level, check the slope—gutters should drop about 1/4 inch for every 10 feet of run toward the downspouts. To fix sagging gutters, you may need to replace the hangers or, at the very least, re-seat them.
Re-Direct Roof Rainwater Runoff
Downspouts that dump rainwater right at the base of your exterior walls can create serious problems. As water pools and soaks into the soil, it can eventually work its way into the foundation. For this reason, it is important to direct rainwater away from the house.
The best way to do this is to use downspout diverters or gutter extensions attached to the bottom of the downspout.
Even the most expensive and elaborate gutter system won’t perform well unless it is properly maintained. But, it’s important to note that getting up on a ladder to clean gutters is dangerous work. Each year in the U.S., approximately 200,000 people are treated for ladder-related injuries. You can avoid accidents by hiring a reputable, professional contractor to assess, maintain and repair your gutter system.