Gutters: when they’re working properly, you probably pay no attention to them at all. They work just fine without you, right? Well, mostly. Some cleaning and maintenance is required to avoid costly damage to your house.
Water seems so innocent, but it can be destructive, even when it’s just a little bit of rain. The average roof sheds over 1,000 gallons of water per inch of rainfall. That adds up to a lot of water in a relatively small space!
Gutters are installed on houses and garages to protect the buildings and their foundations from water damage during rainfall. It’s essential that you keep up with regular gutter cleaning so you don’t run into any issues with their functioning.
Let’s take a quick look at how they work
Different types of houses may have different types of gutters, but the general set up and functioning are the same.
The main component is – no surprise here – the gutters themselves. These are open sections, most often made of vinyl or aluminum, but they can also be a variety of metals. Gutters are attached to a board (called the fascia) on the side of the roof. They catch the water that runs from the roof and directs it to the downspout.
The downspout is the closed section of the gutter that runs vertically down to the ground. Generally, there is a section that runs either along the ground or under it that releases the water a safe distance from the foundation of your home.
Potential gutter issues
When it comes to gutters, there are two main problems you may run into: clogs and leaks. Both are a result of a lack of cleaning, or inefficient cleaning.
Clogs occur when debris accumulates and water cannot flow smoothly.
Regular gutter cleaning can prevent this from occurring – typically twice a year is good. But you will also need to check after big storms, because heavy rain and winds can blow a large amount of leaves and other debris into your gutters all at once.
Gutter leaks happen when part of the gutter is damaged and water escapes. Cracks can occur along the seams or joints from regular wear and tear and also from built up debris.
You’ll want to make sure you stay on top of cleaning your gutters to avoid these issues.
- Water in the foundation and house
When water doesn’t flow properly through your gutter system, it spills over onto the ground below. The ground around your house cannot handle that much water all at once, and can become unstable. This can also lead to erosion and cracks in the foundation, which can require costly repairs.
With so much water around your foundation, it becomes much easier for water to get into the house itself. You definitely don’t want to deal with wet belongings, not to mention the mold that will quickly begin to grow!
- Damage to roof boards
Overflowing gutters introduce water into areas where it is not meant to be, including the fascia that the gutter attaches to. So much moisture will weaken the wood, causing it to rot. Eventually, it will not be able to support the weight of the gutter and will collapse.
Leaves and debris in your gutters make a nice winter home for rodents. And you know where they might decide to go next? Your nice warm house, which is so close and convenient to the gutters! Yuck. Keep your gutters clean to avoid this, especially in the fall when animals like mice and chipmunks are building nests
- Damage to gutters themselves
Gutters are intended to hold just a little weight – too much built up junk can apply too much pressure to the joints and brackets, weakening them and eventually leading them to break.
If you let the leaves and debris pile up for too long, they will begin to compost and can actually grow plants! This is way too much weight for your poor gutters and their brackets.
Once a bracket is broken, the gutter can fall, damaging itself and anything beneath it.
- Leaf guards still require maintenance
A leaf guard or debris filter can be a great addition to your gutter system, particularly if you have large trees nearby. But even the best cover will need some maintenance.
Depending on your specific leaf guard, you may need to sweep the top of it or flush small debris out of the gutter periodically. You also need to get up there and put your eyes on the gutter to make sure everything is working properly to avoid costly damage or dangerous falls from normal wear and tear.
The standard recommendation is to clean your gutters twice a year, usually spring and fall. But this might vary for you. Do you have large trees near your home? You may need to clean your gutters more often. Likewise, if you live in an area with very little rain, your gutters might be okay with a once a year cleaning and maintenance check.
To clean and inspect your gutters, you will need a ladder that reaches high enough to see into the top of the gutters. If possible, try to avoid leaning your ladder on the gutter itself.
Wear gloves to protect your hands. First, remove all the visible debris from your gutters. If you have standing water, you’ll want to start with the downspout to create an opening for water to flow. You can also use a hose to flush the gutters and downspouts to make sure they are clear and water can flow smoothly.
Once everything is clean, check for any maintenance issues. Are all the fasteners still tight and secure? Does the fascia look dry and solid? Is there any mold growth? Take care of any problems you find, and double-check that there are no cracks or holes in the gutters. This will keep them working properly for years to come.
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