Gutters 101: Why Your Home's Gutters Should Not be an Afterthought

A home's roof plays an important role in keeping rainfall and moisture from entering the home. Just as important, however, is a home's gutter system. While the roof collects rainfall, it's the gutters that work to catch it and properly disperse it away from the home's foundation, thereby minimizing the potential for foundation erosion and basement water intrusion. However, if the gutters aren't well maintained, then the potential for overflowing during periods of rainfall and the formation of ice dams during the winter can occur. Bottom line: Your gutters should not be an afterthought. Here's what you need to know about maintaining them.

How to Maintain Your Gutters

  • Clean Them Out: You should be cleaning out your gutters at least twice a year, perhaps more if you live in an area with lots of trees. We recommend doing this in the fall and then again in the spring. Clearing out your gutters of leaves, twigs and debris will ensure that the downspouts are kept clear and rainwater can drain properly. If you feel it's unsafe for you to be on a ladder cleaning your gutters or you just don't like doing it, you can either hire a professional to do it for you or invest in gutter guards.

  • Inspect Them: Over time, your gutters may show signs of sagging. This often occurs when the hangers, which connect the gutters to the home, become loose or damaged. (Note: Damage to the hangers may occur when too much weight is placed on the gutter, as is often the case when they're not frequently cleaned out and leaves and debris has an opportunity to accumulate.) You don't want sagging gutters or gutters that have pulled away from the roof line, as it may cause runoff to drip in gaps between the roof and gutter itself. The good news is that this is an easy fix and replacement hangers are inexpensive.

  • Leaks and Holes: Grab an umbrella the next time it rains and head outside. Look to make sure that the gutters are draining properly and also pay attention to the joints where the gutters connect to the downspouts. Look for leaks around these joints and for holes that may be dripping water elsewhere. If any leaks exist, pick up a gutter patching kit and some gutter sealant to repair the issue.

  • Poor Pitch: Gutters should be pitched about a quarter-inch downward for every 10 feet to ensure that they're channeling water correctly to the downspout. An easy way to ensure that your gutters are pitched right is to grab a ladder after a rainfall and see if there's any standing water in the system. If there isn't, things are likely all good. If there is, you'll need to make the fix.

  • Proper Drainage: Proper gutter drainage doesn't just involve making sure that they're free of clogs, but also how far away from the foundation the downspouts are dispersing water. Generally speaking, you want them dispersing the water several feet away from the home and away from the foundation or you risk basement water intrusion. If this is an issue, pick up some gutter extenders and/or consider building up the soil base around the home.