Gutters & downspouts

The job of guttering is to divert water away from your precious asset and decrease the likelihood of irreparable damage. Living in the US pacific northwest means that this time of year is the wet season. Constant slow rainfall, falling leaves and a little wind means clogged gutters and blocked downspouts. A lot of home owners (especially first time home owners) neglect cleaning their gutters they often don't think about it. I usually clean my gutters 3 times a year. That may sound like a lot, but I always remove several bucket loads of debris. I have a ton of trees around my house and they drop leaves and nuts in the fall and they drop flowers in spring and summer. Clean your gutters Cleaning is easy. You can always pay someone but it is rarely worth it, I would recommend you get a sturdy ladder, make sure you are safe, and do it yourself. However, you may not want to, you may have a fear of heights or you may not have the time. If you have a 1500-2000 sqft house you will be looking at paying between $75 and $200 depending on height, access, roof pitch and general difficulties. If you choose a roof cleaner to do your house ask them about their safety protocol and make sure they are licensed and insured. You do not want to be responsible for an unlicensed, uninsured worker injuring them-self on your property. Consider a roof anchor Most experienced gutter cleaners will ask to install a temporary roof anchor for their own safety. This is fairly standard practice. However, if you want them back year over year you are better off asking them to install a permanent roof anchor. These cost $20-$40 each and an install cost should be $30-50. The prices depend on the style of your roof. The anchor will remain on the roof and for the foreseeable future anyone working on the roof can tie off to one of these. The main guttering issues Clogged Gutters As mentioned above gutters get clogged with debris. Regular cleaning will prevent serious blockage and also prevent some of the following problems that result from overly clogged gutters.

A classic gutter blocked with seasonal leaf litter. Under that mess is a drop outlet.

Sagging Gutters Gutters will sag when they become structurally compromised and/or they are overly weighed down with debris. Sagging is quite common in vinyl gutters, they are a little more flexible than metal or wooden gutters and tend to pop off their hangers more often. Also incorrectly spaced hangers or poor quality hangers can lead to sagging too. The result will be a low point in your gutter run leading to debris pooling in that spot and water overflowing at that point.

This gutter has the tell tale signs of sagging with overflow stains on the edge. In heavy rain this is a gusher.

Pulling Gutters This is a common problem. Gutters will pull away from the fascia board due to poor installation, rot in the fascia or failing hangers. This damage can also be due to kids climbing over the guttering to get a ball or Frisbee off the roof. As a kid I think I single-handedly detached dozens of gutters. Some quick fixes here are plugging old holes in the fascia with epoxy or with wood dowel to improve the inegrity. Or replacing your hangers with new stronger hangers. My favorite fix for a failing hanger is to use the 7" gutter screws, they can be purchased from any hardware or online . You will need to predrill your guttering but once you drive that screw through the gutter into the fascia you will not get that bad boy out again unless you mean to. Gutter Pitch I am amazed at how often I have found incorrectly pitched gutters at the source of a drainage issue. There is some reason for this, guttering, unlike plumbing, drops ever so slightly across a house sometimes just an inch over 20 feet. Something as simple as a settling house or a warped fascia could change the set of the gutter. Put a level in your gutter base and the bubble should be in the middle of the line on the upside of the gutter. Also look for flat spots try to make sure the fall is consistent. Leaks and holes Leaking joins and holes form in all types of gutters. Not everyone has or can afford seamless gutters, obviously the less joins the better. If your joins start leaking clean them out, scrap out all sealant and debris, then use an appropriate gutter sealant to reseal the joints. I like to use GE's silicone based gutter sealant, it skins over in 30 minutes and can get wet after that. If you have holes then you need to inspect and ask the question why. On my own house I have older vinyl gutters.  They are brittle and have formed several holes over the last few years. I will replace them soon but in the mean time I have patched the holes using plastic, thin metal sheeting, sealant and roofing tar. The patches are temporary, the real fix is replacing the section of gutter. I am holding of until a nice sunny summers day to install continuous guttering on my wonderful house. Draining too close The last major issue (I have discussed before) is when downspouts are drained too close to the house. This can cause untold damage to foundations and basements. I have seen houses that after decades of poor drainage have water flow short cuts from their outside areas straight to their basement. Where water reaches the basement in just a few seconds after hitting the ground outside. The solution to this is always draining downspouts and faucets at least 5 feet away from the house, I prefer 10 feet if you can manage it.
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