A rain gutter’s purpose is to protect your home from water intrusion by collecting rainwater from the roof and diverting it gently onto the ground away from the house. In addition to proper grading and drainage, this system is designed to help protect the landscaping and more importantly, the foundation of the home. However, maintenance of gutters and downspouts is typically neglected. Over time, the result can be costly repairs to your home.
I see numerous homes in the area with leaves and debris piled in the roof valleys and in the gutters — some even have plant life growing from this material. Big problems can arise directly from the moisture that becomes trapped on the roof coverings and in the gutters and downspouts. You may not notice, but gutters should be installed with a downward slope that moves water toward each downspout. Pollen, dirt, leaves, granules from asphalt shingles and other debris can trap water, and the increased weight can make gutters sag which will exacerbate the problem. This additional weight can begin to pull the facia from the structure making your home susceptible to water intrusion that, in turn, can cause significant water damage to your home. In more severe cases, these openings allow insects and vermin to enter the home leading to even more problems.
I took a look at one home in particular. In this case, it was not the gutters that caught my attention, it was the downspouts. They were damaged by lawn equipment and each section collapsed to the point that debris from the second-story roof had become trapped inside the downspout.
After the homeowner had those pieces removed for replacement, he was surprised to see how much material was trapped inside. The image below shows how much material was trapped in those four short sections. Fortunately, this particular house had almost no tree branches growing above the roof line, therefore the majority of the debris was accumulated by wind. This accumulation would have been more substantial if there were overhanging tree branches as so many houses in our area typically have.
These damaged sections cost as little as a few dollars and are available at most local hardware stores. They took little effort to replace. In addition, downspout extensions will help your downspouts direct water to specific areas away from your home.
You may also benefit from a thorough evaluation of your home’s gutter and downspout system to make sure it is functioning well. Ultimately, the goal is to divert rainwater away from the foundation of the structure. Excessive water intrusion into the soil and under the foundation can alone lead to differential settlement in your home’s foundation. This can often lead to considerable structural damage.
Steps you can take to keep your gutters clear
Gutters will get dirty. It’s inevitable. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep them clean and functioning well. Here are some things you can consider to help maintain the integrity of your home:
- Trim any branches that are hanging over your roof. Not only will trimming back branches protect your roof covering, it also reduces the amount of leaves that may fall into your gutters.
- Check your roof for worn out shingles. If you notice a significant amount of shingle granules accumulating in your gutter troughs, this can lead to other issues beyond clogged gutters.
- Animals can cause major damage to gutters and surrounding areas. They often tear up fascia boards and shingles in an attempt to move into your attic or walls. Squirrels use materials from gutters to build nests. Pigeons and other birds can clog gutter outlets above downspouts with their nests. Pigeon droppings alone can pose a very serious health risk.
- Check downspouts regularly to make sure debris or leaves havent collected at the bottom of the spout.
- Installing gutter screens not only help reduce the material that gets trapped in your gutters, but also reduces the potential for pests to make nests in your home.
Consider scheduling regular inspections as a part of your annual home maintenance routine. This will help ensure that your home’s components are working properly to protect your investment and, most importantly, your family for years to come.