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 ignored, any one of them can lead to 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
Ineffective gutters fail to divert water away from your home, potentially posing major issues to your home’s foundation and walls. If you have ever seen your gutters overflow in the midst of a summer downpour, there’s a good chance that you have a problem. The most common cause of gutter overflow is clogging. When sticks, dirt, and leaves build up in your gutters, they essentially create an impassible wall through which rain cannot flow. If your gutters are debris-free but still overflow, you may have a blockage in your downspout or your gutter system may simply be too small to take care of the amount of runoff produced by your roof. It is also possible that your gutter is sagging in certain areas, making it impossible for water to move due purely to gravity. It’s crucial to determine why your gutter is not working properly right away – before overflow causes serious problems.
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.
Ensure Gravity Can Do Its Thing
Gutters are typically made out of materials like galvanized steel, vinyl, and aluminum. These materials are durable, but they are susceptible to buckling and flexing under the intense weight of lots of water. When gutters buckle, the sagging causes their hangers to pull away from your home – making the drooping even worse, and forcing water to collect in weak spots instead of going down your downspouts.
If you aren’t sure if your gutters are loose or not, there are a few things you can do to check. If you climb up on a ladder, you can look for areas of pooled water that have not drained properly. From the ground, look up underneath your gutters for water marks that signal overflow problems. You can also measure the slope of your gutters: every 10 feet should decline 0.25 inches. If your inspection seems to point to some sagging, you will need to repair your gutters by either replacing their hangers or reseating them.
Re-Direct Roof Rainwater Runoff
If your downspouts are letting water flow toward your home’s foundation, you may be in for some major problems. Downspouts should direct water three to four feet away from your home’s exterior. If they don’t, the water can slowly damage the structural integrity of your home. To ensure that rainwater is going where it needs to go, you can install downspout diverters or gutter extensions 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.