The most important thing you can do to prevent water damage to your home is to maintain your gutters.
Gutters are only intended to accomplish one thing: redirect water away from the foundation. They are important to the structural stability of your home. However, in order for gutters to function properly, they must be kept in good shape and free of clogs, holes, and sags.
Fortunately, most common gutter problems are simple to repair by homeowners. And the effort is worthwhile. “Gutters are one of those things where routine maintenance and inspection can really prevent bigger problems down the road,” says Jason Stutzman, Denver’s director of home maintenance and repair.
Here are the most common gutter issues encountered by professionals, as well as the recommended solutions.
This is the most common issue of them all. Gutter and downspouts become so clogged with debris that they become useless if left unattended. Leaves, twigs, and standing water can also cause them to sag and pull away from the fascia.
Clean them at least once a year, and twice if there are many trees around. Gary Mindlin, managing partner of Top Hat Home Services in New York City, schedules gutter maintenance four times a year, with additional checks after major storms.
If you’re comfortable on a ladder, don’t mind getting wet and dirty, and don’t live in a particularly tall house, you can unclog your own gutters. After you’ve cleared the gunk, flush them with a garden hose to make sure they’re running properly. If you’d prefer, you can hire someone to do the job for you for between $50 and $250, depending on the size of your house.
Another method for dealing with consistently clogged gutters is to outfit them with gutter covers. These include mesh screens, clip-on grates, and porous foam. They still require regular maintenance, which might cost more than the gutters themselves.
Sagging Gutters and Gutters Pulling Away from the House
This is usually a problem with the hangers, the hardware that secures the gutters to the fascia. They could have deteriorated over time, the fasteners could have backed out of the wood, or they could be spaced too far apart to support the weight of full gutters. The cost of repairing sagging gutters yourself is low; hangers typically cost $10 or less per piece, and fasteners cost about $1 each.
Leaks and Holes
According to John Eggenberger, vice president of training and corporate development for the Mr. Handyman chain of home repair firms, leaky gutter joints can be fixed by sealing the seam from the inside with gutter sealant. A tube costs approximately $5. Very small holes can be filled with gutter sealant. Larger holes will require a patch. If you can’t find a gutter patching kit at your local hardware store, you can make your own out of metal flashing.
Improperly Pitched Gutters
For water to flow effectively, gutters must be sloped toward the downspouts. A quarter inch of slope is required for every 10 feet. Get on a ladder after a rainstorm and look in the gutter; if there’s standing water, it’s not pitched properly.
To correct this on your own, measure from the peak to the downspout. Draw a chalk line between the two and mark the areas where the gutter is misaligned. Bending the hanger may allow you to push it up into place. If that doesn’t solve the problem, you might need to take a section down and rehang it. If you have seamless gutters, contact the company that installed them to get the problem resolved.
Downspouts Draining Too Close to the Foundation
Downspouts must extend several feet away from the house or they will dump directly into the basement. Gutter extensions connected to the downspout’s bottom will discharge water far beyond the foundation. They’re affordable and straightforward to install. “I like the downspout material extended four or five feet and bolted on,” says Reggie Marston, president of Residential Equity Management Home Inspections in Springfield, Va. Cost: less than $20 per downspout.
Consider installing gutters if your home does not have any. The price is determined by the material. The majority of residential gutters are made of aluminum, which is lightweight and long-lasting. “Unless an aluminum gutter is destroyed by something, it will survive forever,” says Scott McCurdy, vice president of Jacksonville, Fla.,-based catastrophe recovery contractor Coastal Reconstruction. Vinyl, galvanized steel, and copper all are viable options.
Aluminum gutters cost between $4.50 and $8.50 per linear foot installed. On a 2,000-square-foot house with around 180 linear feet of gutters, that’s roughly $800 to $1,500.
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