How well do you know your gutters?
Bad rain gutters are the number one mechanical contributer to the deterioration of your home. Over years of experience dealing with faulty and failing gutters, HPS has learned the main contributing factors are one or more of the following: 1) poor design, 2) defective installation, and 3) nearly all are so poorly maintained that they have suffered damage or premature deterioration.
Because gutter maintenance can be difficult and time consuming for home owners, it is a commonly procrastinated chore. Many gutters are difficult or near impossible to access and require putting yourself at risk. According to a 2007 study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy: around 136,000 American’s end up in hospitals for ladder-related injuries each year. Proper gutter maintenance for homes with trees usually requires three to four cleanings a year (although for dry years, two cleanings should be enough). HPS professionally maintains our client’s gutters as part of our standard seasonal maintenances. For those not in our service we highly recommend using an insured professional to clean your gutters.
A more difficult to understand fact has to do with defective gutter installations. Of the many (over 2500) gutter systems we have cared for in Northern California and Oregon, 88% suffered from blatant construction defects. Missing flashing, leaking seams, standing water, and improperly placed or missing downspouts are the most frequent issues. We also routinely discover improperly sized gutters, unpainted interiors, sloppy sheet metal work, and defective support mechanisms. The long term integrity of a home’s structure is dependent on the effectiveness of its gutter system, but many builders and designers tend to overlook their importance.
Unsure if your gutters have been installed correctly, or are in good shape? Check out our list of Gutter Sins below:
The Seven Deadly Gutter Sins
1. Clogged Gutters
Clogged gutters cause water to stand and stagnate at the bottom of the gutter and often overflow. Consequences: erosion, mosquitoes, rust through, roof damage, foundation damage, siding damage, and damage to the gutter and roof support system from excess weight. Potential repair cost: $3000-$100,000
2. No Drains or Splash Blocks
When water leaves the downspouts it needs to be directed away from the structure. Newer homes usually have underground drainpipes connected to the downspouts while older homes carry the water safely away by means of “splash blocks” installed at the downspout’s. Without either of these water will find its way into and under the foundation. Consequences: standing water in the crawl area, mold, mildew foundation settlement and dry rot. Potential repair cost: $5000-$40,000
3. No Flashing at Eaves
Lack of flashing between the back of the gutters and the wooden support structure of the roof is a very common problem. Without flashing, bare wood is exposed to the water and debris passing through the gutters. Consequences: Dry rot, termites, roof rot and insect infestations. Potential repair cost: $500-$10,000
4. Defective Pitch
Defective gutter pitch prevents water from flowing to the downspouts. This slows the water’s evacuation and can create areas of standing water. Consequences: erosion, mosquitoes, rust through, roof damage, foundation damage, siding damage and damage to the gutter support system and roof from excess weight. Potential repair cost: $500-$10,000.
5. Poor Downspout Placement
Improper location of downspouts, or not having enough of them, can lead to standing water and overflows during heavy rains. Consequences: erosion, mosquitoes, rust through, roof damage, foundation damage, siding damage and damage to the gutter support system and roof from excess weight. Potential repair cost: $500-$10,000
6. Overgrown Gutters
Allowing shrubs and trees to overgrow the gutters can cause considerable problems. We have seen first hand examples of Wisteria plants that have completely removed the gutters from the structure and filled both gutter and downspouts with vines to the point they are no longer functioning. Consequences: gutter, roof and structural damage, foundation damage, siding damage, window and door damage, termites, ants. Potential repair cost: $2,000- 12,000.
7. Loose, Damaged or Non-existent Gutters
These problems allow water to flow off the roof uncontrolled. When this occurs, water will find its way into the siding, trim, windows, doors, foundation and other areas where it is not wanted. Consequences: erosion, dry rot, foundation damage, landscape damage, siding damage, window and door damage, crawlspace moisture, mold and possibly structural damage. Potential repair cost: $2,000- 12,000 (shouldn’t this be $40,000?)