Solving Common Rain Gutter Problems

Your gutters are designed to perform one simple, yet very important task—collect and move water away from your foundation. While this sounds like a very simple function it is also critical in protecting your home from flooding and structural damage. Even with only a ½” rain, on a 2,000 square foot roof, produces 1,000 gallons of water for your gutter system to move. Now that’s a lot of water!

For your gutter system to perform its duty properly, they have to be kept in good shape, clean and free of clogs, holes, and sagging. A well maintained gutter system will provide you with years of service and protect your home from costly basement flooding and foundation repairs. Fortunately, solving common rain gutter problems is fairly simple, requiring only a ladder, a hammer, a three foot level and a little free time.

Missing Gutters

If your house has no gutters, consider having a system installed immediately. The amount of damage that uncontrolled rain water can cause is staggering. It is not a coincidence that Texas has many homes without gutters and they also have the highest incidence of foundation problems. Missing gutters can also have devastating effects on windows and siding. The costs of adding gutters varies greatly due to options, materials and linear footage.

Leaking, Dripping Gutters

Leaking gutter joints need to be sealed by caulking the joint from the inside with a gutter sealant, found at most hardware stores. This is a fairly simple repair that only costs about $5. Other than large areas of damage, gutter sealant will seal holes and joint issues. If you have a large hole or a severely disconnected seam, using gutter sealant with a patching material usually will suffice. Many Kansas City hardware stores carry a gutter patching kit with simple instructions.

Clogged Gutters and Downspouts

Clogging is the most common gutter problem. Whether from leaves, roof debris or toys, gutters can get clogged and cause water to flow over their edges and down along side of your foundation. Left untended, clogged gutters and downspouts will contribute to possible basement flooding. Recently I had to remove eight golf balls from my downspout that was overflowing (evidently golf balls sound neat running down gutters and downspouts). The amount of debris that can buildup within your gutters can really add up to a significant amount of weight that can cause sagging and standing water. You can clean your gutters yourself if you’re comfortable on a ladder, don’t mind getting wet and dirty, and don’t have an extremely tall house. After cleaning out the heavy deposits, flush the gutters with a garden hose to make sure they’re flowing properly. If you prefer, you can hire someone to do the job for you for, between $50 and $250. Cleaning, or having your gutters cleaned at least once a year, or twice a year if you have a lot of trees nearby is standard. If you have many trees hanging over your home or have a chronic clogging problem, some type of gutter cover may be necessary. Most area hardware stores have mesh style covers that can be effective. There are also many different proprietary gutter covers on the market, such as the Gutter Helmet, Gutter Guard, LeafX, Gutter Topper and LeafGuard. Each has its own unique design yet they all are designed to keep debris, including golf balls, out of your gutter system.

Poor Gutter Slope

The first rule when dealing with water is – water runs downhill. Gutters need to be sloped toward the downspouts for the water to flow well. The standard is ¼” downward slope per 10’ of horizontal run. This is where your level comes into play. A visual inspection inside your gutter will also let you know if you have a gutter slope or pitch problem. Grab your ladder after a rain or cleaning and look in the gutter; if there’s standing water, you have a problem.

Downspouts Draining Next to the Foundation

Downspouts that drain next to your foundation is the number one cause of basement flooding and foundation repairs. Rain water needs to be directly at least 10’ beyond the foundation. This can be accomplished above grade or below grade. While splash blocks help they just are not long enough to keep water away from your foundation. Due to mowing and aestitics, running drain pipe below grade to a exit grate or popup emitter is the best solution. Professional waterproofing and foundation contractors can do this project at very reasonable rates. While this project seems fairly simple, many variables must be considered and this is best left to professionals due to its importance.

Fortunately, most common gutter problems are easy to fix. A general maintenance plan is simple and well worth the effort to prevent much larger problems down the road. Take the time to walk around your home next weekend and look for visual clues to your overall water drainage system. Are the gutter and downspouts running clear? Are the downspouts discharging at least 10’ from the foundation? Is the soil around your foundation sloped away from the foundation? Has there been obvious spillover from your guttering system? Take some time to solve these problems or call a local Kansas City professional to look at them for you.

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