Is your mind in the gutter? Well, it should be if you want to have a house that is in good working order. Rainwater is a natural element that can wreak havoc on a house if it’s not controlled by properly installed and maintained rain gutters. There are many misconceptions about gutters and as a result there are many mistakes homeowners are making. In some cases these mistakes are causing damage rather than preventing it.
The Benefits of Gutters
The importance of properly installed and maintained gutters can’t be stressed enough. Every house should have gutters, and in recent years building officials across the land have been recognizing this. Many municipalities around the country are now requiring gutters on all new residential construction. Here’s why rain gutters are so important:
- Soil around the house is stabilized
- Foundation problems can be avoided
- Flooding under houses and in basements can be prevented
- Erosion can be prevented and this preserves landscaping and turf
- Water damage to siding can be prevented
- Water staining on brick and stone masonry can be prevented
- Settling and cracking of sidewalks, patios and driveways can be lessened
- Exterior doors and garage overhead doors can be preserved
The one downside to rain gutters is they require work. Homeowners must be vigilant in keeping them clean and in working order. Chances are, if you have gutters you probably don’t clean them out often enough. If you wait until they are full of leaves and if you are scooping soil out of your gutters, you are waiting far too long. If you have weeds and grass growing in your gutters you probably have caused some damage. After all, gutters aren’t intended for gardening. Here are the problems that clogged gutters cause:
- Water damming occurs which can cause damage to eaves
- Water can leak into the house and cause damage to walls and flooring
- Mosquitoes can breed in the standing water
- Leaves in gutters can be a fire hazard, especially in areas prone to wild fires
- Deterioration of gutters occurs which causes leaks and eventual failure
The frequency with which you should clean out gutters depends on your house. Determining factors include proximity of trees to the roof line, the type of trees (deciduous vs. evergreen), and the slope of the roof. Low sloped roofs can require more frequent cleaning.
For houses with trees within ten feet of the roof line, gutters will need to be cleaned out twice a year at a minimum. In some cases gutters may need to be cleaned out a couple times in fall alone. One myth about gutters is that houses with no trees don’t need to be cleaned. Gutter cleaning may still be required, especially on houses with asphalt shingles. Over time these shingles lose their granules and these granules make their way into the gutters.
Properly Installed Gutters
The majority of houses with gutters don’t have a system that is complete and installed correctly. A properly installed gutter system will include seamless gutters on every sloped roof edge. The gutters should not hold standing water, should not leak, should be securely fastened to the fascias, and should have downspouts that are securely fastened to the exterior of the house.
Finally, downspouts should not terminate close to the foundation. This is a common mistake that installers and homeowners make. What’s the use of having a complete gutter system that dumps all the water from the roof at the side of the foundation? What’s needed is a minimum of three-foot diversion away from the foundation. In many cases a section of flexible black plastic diversion piping can be used, or a section of downspout can be attached at the end of the elbow. It’s important to note that the concrete diverters that are often seen under downspout elbows are not adequate for water control.
There are many products out there that claim to be maintenance-free leaf guards that keep gutters clean. Some of these products are effective and some actually create problems. The products available are either metal mesh or sheet metal gutter helmets. In some applications these products can tend to dam leaves on the roof which can cause damage to roof decking and eaves. Some of the sheet metal gutter helmets and leaf guards products don’t actually work in a heavy rain. Yes, leaves and debris won’t be in your gutter, but water won’t go into the gutter either. Before buying any of these products do some homework and read reviews of these products online. In some cases good old fashion gutter cleaning may be a better option.