How do I know if I need to replace my gutters?

Gutters play a significant role in protecting your home by diverting water and melting snow away from it. When your gutters are secure and functioning properly, water efficiently flows through a drainage system, directing it away from your home and out of harm’s way. When your gutters are damaged, filled with leaves or disconnected from the downspout, water will cascade erratically from the eaves of your roof, causing erosion in the ground below, puddling around your foundation, and worse, cause ice damming.

How often you replace your gutters varies based on the weather conditions in your region, however, routine maintenance can extend their lifespan.  Typically, galvanized steel or aluminum gutters have an average life expectancy of 20 years, while copper gutters can last as long as 50 years. By inspecting and cleaning your gutters twice a year you should be able to identify any issues before they turn into major problems.

When replacing your roof, it is a good time to consider replacing your gutters and leaders, as having both done at the same time can often provide an overall savings.

There are a few signs that your gutters need to be replaced:

1.     Problems with your home’s foundation. Gutters that are clogged or leaking water towards your foundation instead of directing water away from it could cause cracks in your foundation.

2.     Water is leaking into your basement. Clogged, damaged, or worn gutters are main reasons for basement leaks.

3.     Mold in your basement. Leaky gutters create moisture in your basement, which leads to mold growth.

4.     The paint on your home is peeling, wood is corroding in areas behind the gutter, or you’re seeing rust stains on your home. This is caused by gutter water back splashing or overflowing and running down the back of the gutter along the exterior of your home. Your gutters could be worn, misaligned or clogged.

5.     You’re finding nails or broken fasteners on the ground, which have fallen from loose gutters.

6.     Water channels are forming in your landscaping or parts of your landscaping are washing out or eroding. These are signs your gutters are not performing properly.

7.     Gutters are sagging, pulling away from your home, hanging down or leaning more towards the front instead of being level, or seamed gutters are loose or pulling apart at the seams and are too worn to be reattached.

8.     Your gutters are bent, dented, or have holes or cracks in them beyond repair.

9.     Standing water in your gutters. This is a sure sign of non-performing gutters.

10.  You can see gaps either between gutter connections or between the gutters and the fascia boards to which they are attached.

The spring and fall seasons are the best times to have your gutters cleaned and inspected. A professional inspection company will look for wear and tear, evaluate its alignment, assess whether your gutter system is working properly, and clean your gutters and downspouts. If you clean your gutters today and blow the leaves off your patio or yard, the next time you see leaves out there, there will also be leaves in the gutters. 

If you have determined it is time to replace your gutters, invest in an adequate system.  When interviewing potential contractors, make sure they are licensed and insured, and ask for references from homeowners that have recently worked with the contractor. It is also important that you have a contract, which includes the warranty and a payment schedule.  Never pay for a job in advance of the services being provided.

As far as the installation goes, there are some standard practices that should be followed by the contractor. The gutter supports should be two feet apart, and the back of the gutter should be behind the roof flashing so that water doesn’t leak between the gutter and the fascia board. It is also a good practice to use oversized downspouts so they can hold the weight when there are heavy downpours or a lot of melting snow. Excess weight can cause gutters to sag, pull away from the house, or become bent. Oversized downspouts drain much faster and don’t clog as easily.

Some worry about the appearance of larger downspouts, but standard downspouts are two inches by three inches, and oversized downspouts are three inches by four inches. They’re only an inch wider each way, but it doubles the capacity.

If trees surround your home, you may want to consider leaf protection. A leaf guard or screen can help cut your maintenance down to a minimum. Look for screens that have a no-clog warranty. There are also solid-top leaf guards. Those have a curved bullnose, so when the water reaches that nose, it will actually wrap around due to surface tension and go into the opening, while the debris falls to the ground.

Hardly anybody buys sectional gutters anymore. With seamless gutters, your only leak potentials are in the corners, but with sectionals, you have more leak potential. Also, it’s a little more time consuming to install sectionals. 

Aluminum gutters come in a wide variety of colors. It is rare not to find a workable match for your home. Fortunately, these gutters can also be painted over if you change the color of your house.

When designing your draining system, a professional will determine where the downspouts go, but typically, they are placed at the outside corners of the house. It’s also recommended that an additional downspout be placed in the middle of long runs.

There are times when a splash block is used on a guttery system. It’s only function is to break the impact of water coming out of an elbow at the base of a downspout. If you have a bordered flower bed or some other reason to get that water further away, then typically you would install a downspout extension. 

Most routing can be done with downspout extensions, but properties that are really flat or that slope back toward the house may require underground drainage.

Investing in an adequate gutter system with the right company can save a lot of headache and maintenance over the years. Periodic maintenance along with a good gutter system can keep your home safe from foundation problems, wood rot, erosion, and pest infestations. 

Kamil Maras, President – B&B Siding LLC

(718) 757-2904    www.bbsiding.com