Gutters are installed on most homes, and homeowners just forget about them. What they don't know could be doing a lot of damage to the house and foundation. Routine gutter maintenance should be on every homeowner's mind.
Maintaining the gutter system on your home is probably the most important thing you can do to prevent water damage.
Three recent examples of lack of proper gutter maintenance are worth mentioning.
1) I walked into the basement and immediately noticed water seepage along the edges. The owner said it happens once in a while. I asked when the gutters were cleaned last and he replied. "Never". Uh..oh. I advised to get the ladder out or hire a service to clean the gutters. He did do it himself and shortly after, we had torrential rains and guess what? No water in the basement.
2) On a home inspection the inspector always checks the leaders and recommends extensions if the gutter water is emptying too close to the house and foundation. In this case, the gutters were emptying into a small garden which closely adjoined a brick walkway. The water had been continually dousing that walkway for years and there was considerable degradation. The owner had the leaders rerouted away from the foundation and sidewalk to prevent further damage. However, the walkway needed a costly repair.
3) The wood deck and doors had rot in random places. One look UP showed a few sags in the gutters which explained what must have been a heavy flow of water from the gutters down to the deck over time causing the rot. Another costly repair.
So what should a homeowner do?
Simple. Maintain the gutter system. Here are a few tips that might help in preventing water from getting INTO the house and water damage on the exterior.
The most common problem is clogged gutters and downspouts. They can be so filled with leaves, twigs and other debris that they are virtually useless and may even pull away from the house due to the weight of all the junk inside. Clean or get them cleaned at least once a year, more if you have a lot of trees. There are also mesh covers that will help or gutter guards which keep the debris out of the gutters. Consult a trusted gutter contractor for advice of what is best for your house and budget.
Check the gutter extensions or leaders. The leaders should extend from the downspout several feet from the house, or the water will head for the lowest point -- your basement. Not very expensive and easy to install. Just be sure the water does not empty onto a brick walk like the situation above.
Correct sagging gutters by getting new hangers which is the hardware that secures the gutters to the fascia. There could be some deterioration so they have pulled away from the wood or maybe they might be spaced too far apart to support the weight of the full gutters. Hangers are inexpensive.
There is also the possibility that the gutters may not be pitched correctly. The gutters should have about a quarter inch slope for about every ten feet. How do you know if they are slanting correctly? Inspect your gutters and if there is standing water in them, they are not pitched enough.
Another issue is that the gutter joints could be leaking. There are gutter sealant products and gutter patching kits available in hardware stores.
I am not a gutter specialist, but I am a homeowner with gutters. In the past, I did have a gutter area that was not functioning property and eventually contributed to some wood rot. I learned from a gutter installer how to maintain them. I now have a gutter guard system installed which have kept my gutters clog-free. In absence of such a system, I do suggest regular gutter maintenance.
The issues I described above are only a few of the MANY I have encountered during inspections. As a homeowner, routine gutter maintenance should be on your mind. It does not cost a lot and could prevent costly repairs.