Fixing Gutter Problems

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Gutters are a channel at the eaves or on the roof of a building and are designed to carry off rainwater. As such, they play an essential role in protecting the structural integrity of your house. That’s why maintaining your gutters is the most important thing you can do to prevent water damage to your home. But as with other structural parts of your home, to do their job properly they need to be kept in shape and free of clogs, holes and sags. 

Routine inspections and simple fixes can go a long way in preventing bigger problems down the road. Maintaining gutters is the perfect fix-it-yourself project that most homeowners can do themselves. Here are some common gutter problems along with fix-it yourself solutions.
 
Clogs
At this time of year, living in an area that is blessed with mature trees gives you a wondrous canvas of flaming color that makes fall so appealing. But along with the bevy of colorful leaves lurks a potentially serious problem. Clogged gutters are a common problem and if left unattended, they can get so full that they no longer function properly. Excess weight from leaves, twigs and standing water can cause your gutters to sag and pull away from the fascia. 
 
A more serious problem can occur after a mega snowstorm. If gutters are clogged, melting roof snow has nowhere to go. At night that water will freeze and get under the roof, causing ice damming that will create water stains on your walls and ceiling.
 
This is where prevention is worth the effort. To avoid clogged gutters, clean them at a minimum of once a year; twice if you live in an area that is full of mature trees. You can clean your own gutters if you don’t have a very tall house, you’re comfortable climbing a ladder and you don’t mind getting wet and dirty. Once you pull out all the debris, get a garden hose and flush the gutters to make sure they’re flowing properly. If you don’t want to do it yourself, there are many, many businesses that offer this service from $50 to $250, depending on the size of your house. 
 
You can permanently solve clogged gutters by getting covers. There are a number of these on the market, including mesh screens, clip-on grates, and porous foam.  Shop around and talk to qualified installers about what type of cover is best for your home.
 
Sagging Gutters
If your gutters are sagging or pulling away from the house, it may be because of a problem with the hangers—the hardware that secures the gutters to the fascia. Over time, these may deteriorate and the fasteners may have worked their way back out of the wood. They could also be spaced too far apart to support the weight of a gutter that is filled with debris. This is an inexpensive and easy fix, as hangers usually cost $10 or less each and the fasteners are only around $1 each.
 
Holes and Leaks
If you have leaky gutter joints, seal them by caulking the joint from the inside with a gutter sealant. A tube of caulking is only around $5. Very small holes can be sealed with gutter sealant, but larger holes will require some patchwork. You may be able to find a gutter patching kit at your local home center. If not, you can make a patch from some metal flashing.
 
Pitched Gutters
It may sound obvious, but gutters need to be pitched toward the downspouts in order for the water to flow properly. Rule of thumb is to have at least a quarter inch of slope for every ten feet of gutter. The way to determine if your gutters are properly pitched is to see if you have standing water in the gutter after a rainstorm. If you do, the gutter is not pitched properly.  
 
You can correct this by measuring from the peak to the downspout. Snap a caulk line between the two and find the spots where the gutter is out of alignment. Bending the hanger can sometimes push it up into place. If not, you may have to take a section of gutter down and rehang it. If you have seamless gutters, call the company that installed them to correct the problem.
 
Draining Too Close to the Foundation
Since downspouts are designed to channel the water away from the foundation, it’s important to extend them several feet away from the house. You can attach gutter extensions to the bottom of the downspout to discharge the water well beyond your foundation. Gutter extensions are less than $20 per downspout—and easy to install.
 
Missing Gutters
Believe it or not, there are some homes that either do not have gutters, or who had gutters that were taken down and never replaced. If your home has no gutters at all, they are a wise investment. The cost depends on the material. Most homes have lightweight and durable aluminum gutters.  Vinyl, galvanized steel, and copper are also available options. A 2000 square-foot house can be outfitted for $800 to $1500. 
 
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