As a brand new homeowner, there are a million and one things you have to learn about maintaining your property.
Is the water heater functioning correctly? Does that crack in the foundation mean something? Who do I call about the weird noise the garage door started making when it opens?
You’ll get it all eventually.
In the meantime, make sure your house gutters are on your list of topics to cover. Because when it comes to gutters, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Read on to get the lowdown on everything gutter-related.
What Are House Gutters?
Let’s start with the basics.
Gutters are the attachments at the lower edge of your roof. They’re usually made of metal, plastic, or vinyl. They are long horizontal channels that run the length of the roof line.
As water, either rain or snow, falls on your roof, the gutters collect it. They usually have a slight downward angle toward the corner of the house. This ensures that the collected water will roll downhill toward the downspout, which is located on the corner.
The downspout is a vertical pipe that allows the water from the roof to run down toward the ground. The bottom of the downspout is a curved pipe that directs the water flow away from the house.
The base of the downspout sometimes features a splash block, which better distributes the water as it hits the ground.
Problems Caused by Clogged Gutters
Typically, gutters fail to function because they are clogged with debris. Leaves, twigs, and other trash material can accumulate inside, blocking water flow.
Gutters that don’t function properly can cause many headaches for homeowners. The following list highlights some of the big issues. If you want more information on the damages that clogged gutters cause, you can read more here.
Clogged gutters are filled with standing water. As dead leaves and organic matter decompose, mold will grow in the gutters.
Cleaning mold out of your gutters is tricky, expensive, and frankly, gross. It’s always better to prevent mold than deal with cleaning it up.
Making sure the water can flow freely will save you a mess later.
Cracked or Broken Gutters
Standing water in your gutters can freeze in the cold. This can crack your plastic or vinyl gutters.
Now you have to replace your gutters…
Leaking Basement and Foundation
A clogged gutter or a gutter that has cracked will deposit water right next to the house instead of sending it down the downspout away from the house.
As this water pools next to the house, it can affect your foundation in a major way. The pressure from the saturated soil on the foundation can cause a crack in the basement walls. Over time, as water continues to pool, these cracks will start to leak.
A leak in the basement is a nightmare.
The pooling water could also erode away the soil from around the foundation, causing settling. This may result in cracks in the walls, an uneven floor, or a leaning chimney.
If the rain and snow aren’t draining off your roof, they may be soaking through it.
As the water soaks through your shingles, it can rot support beams, cause water damage to your ceilings, and ruin your home.
Bugs and Other Critters
The moist, warm, decomposing leaves in your gutters breed bugs.
Leaves are a great food source for many insects. Once you have insects in your gutters, it’s a matter of time before you have insects in your home.
Clogged gutters may also be a haven for birds, squirrels, and other critters.
Damage to Landscaping
Water that pools near the house can rot the roots of delicate plants and grasses. Your yard will become patchy as too much of some things grow while not enough of other things grow.
Too much water is just as damaging as not enough water.
Water can also freeze on walkways and driveways, creating a slip hazard in the winter. A saturated ground that freezes in winter can cause frost heaves that destroy areas of cement or asphalt.
Set a Cleaning Schedule
Are you convinced that clogged gutters are bad news? Great!
How do you prevent clogged gutters? You clean them out.
Ideally, you clean your gutters twice a year on schedule — once after the trees have shed their leaves, and once in the spring.
An easy way to remember to clean your gutters is to associate it with another biannual task. Some homeowners do it on schedule with resetting their clocks for Daylight Savings Time. Other options could be lining it up with when you rotate your car’s tires, when you visit the dentists for a cleaning, or when you test the smoke detectors.
You may have to clean your gutters more than twice a year depending on where you live.
Following a big storm that broke branches and blew leaves everywhere, you should inspect the gutters and potentially clean them if necessary.
If you have a lot of trees that hang over your roofline and drop leaves, you may need to clean them more often. Pine trees drop needles year round.
If you live in a particularly cold climate, you’ll want to check for debris throughout the winter so that ice doesn’t form in your gutters. Ice can mean no drainage and a ruined roof by spring.
Other Preventative Measures
On top of a good cleaning schedule, you can invest time (and money) in some other preventative measures to keep your gutters clean and functioning.
Gutter guards help keep large debris out. They can be installed aftermarket by a professional. They’re not cheap, but they may be a worthwhile investment if you’ll be living in your home for many years.
Flushing out the downspout when you clean gutters is another easy way to prevent clogging. What good are nice, clean gutters if the water still has nowhere to go? Make sure the downspout gets the attention it needs.
Keep your gutters in good condition and laying flat along the roofline. If they aren’t aligned well, they can form traps for leaves and other debris.
How to Clean the Gutters
There’s no real science to cleaning out your gutters.
Some people like to use a garden hose or other power sprayer to spray out the debris. Others use their hand/trowel/spade and a bucket to scoop out the leaves. If the debris is dry, you can try a shop vac with an extra long hose; this works well for pine needles.
Hiring a company to clean the gutters is always an excellent idea. A contractor will do the job right. It won’t cost you an arm and a leg, and you don’t have to deal with climbing up and down a ladder.
Replacing Your House Gutters
At some point, you may have to replace the gutters. If you (or the previous owner) haven’t been good about annual maintenance, you may have cracked, gaping, or otherwise broken gutters.
Years of weather and outdoor exposure will also eventually break down all gutters.
Metal gutters should last the longest of all materials. They are sturdier and more durable. Plastic or vinyl gutters will need to be replaced sooner.
Regardless of the type, properly installed and well-maintained gutters should last about 20 years.
If you think your gutters need to be replaced, call a roofer for an inspection.
One Less Worry on Your List
Your list of a million and one things to learn about maintaining your new home has just been reduced to a million things.
You’re a pro when it comes to house gutters. You have a plan to inspect, clean, and maintain. It’s easy prevention that will save you money and hassle in the future.
For more advice on home ownership and houses, check out our other articles.