Spring has settled in this year and flowers, trees, gardens are basking in her tepid showers. We all enjoy watching our gardens sprout and the joy of long-awaited, temperate sunny days. Yet there are dangers for your house inherent in those avid spring downpours, most of which can be solved with properly installed and maintained gutters.
Gutters are essential to the longevity of your home, not just because to venture outside in a rain shower without gutters means sprinting through a waterfall of run-off from roof eaves, but also because gutters keep your house dry and protect siding, windows, doors and your foundation from water damage.
Those sunny days between spring rain showers are a great time to get up on a ladder or your roof and inspect your gutters. Gutters can accumulate a lot of debris, mostly leaves and twigs, over a winter which will inevitably cause clogs and overflow. This is especially bad for your roof because standing water in a gutter can get up under your roofing and begin to rot your fascia and subroofing. Given any avenue, water will find its way into your home.
Gutter maintenance consists mainly of keeping gutters and downspouts clean and clear. If you find a section of gutter that has been clogged for an extended period of time, check for sags or separation from the fascia board. Congested gutters get quite heavy and the aluminum from, which most gutters are made, cannot handle very much weight. A maintenance schedule depends mainly on where you live. On average, once a month is a fine frequency for gutter inspection, but if you live with frequent and heavy rainfall and you have a high number of trees in the vicinity of your home, then a more diligent regimen will be necessary.
If you discover separation when you clean out your gutters, some repairs may be in order. Oftentimes this is simply failure of your gutter supports (straps, spikes, brackets) and you will need to inspect the specific support and replace what pieces are necessary. Gutter spikes tend to work their way out of the fascia over time and may simply need to be re-driven into the fascia, provided there is no water damage to the wood.
Joints such as downspouts and seams are common trouble areas for gutters. This is where leaks usually start through failure in the caulking or hardware. If you find a bad downspout joint, simply take it off, inspect the hardware and material for damage (replacing whatever is necessary), remove with a wire brush any existing caulking. Now simply put it back together, reapplying caulking to the outside of the male and inside of the female ends.
In some circumstances, a section or sections of gutter may have been damaged beyond repair by falling debris or rust. It is usually not too difficult to replace small sections on your own. You will need to cut out the bad section with a hacksaw (it is a good idea to place a 4x4 wood block inside the good section to protect its shape as you cut). Then cut a replacement section out of new material that is around two inches longer than the bad section. Apply some silicone caulking inside the old, remaining gutter sections where overlap will occur. Then place the new gutter inside the original and install rivets to securely fasten the two pieces together.
It may happen that, upon inspection, you find your gutters in utter disrepair with far too many sags, dents, leaks and damage for you to deal with. An entirely new gutter system will be the best solution.
NOTE: If you are planning to have a new roof put on your house this is the best time to have a new gutter system installed when it can be fully integrated into the roof system.
There are several options when seeking out new gutters. Most gutters are made from aluminum but there are also copper and sheet metal gutters. Copper is attractive but easily the most expensive and sheet metal is cheaper but more prone to rust, requiring more attention and maintenance.
Gutters come in two main profiles: the simple “U” shape and “K” shaped which has an S-shaped front and is vaguely reminiscent of the letter “K.” Gutters are typically 4, 5, or 6 inches in diameter. Larger diameters are better because they are more resistant to clogging. Gutters also come in different thicknesses (.032, .027, .025) and the thicker the better.
Seamless gutters are by far the most popular gutter system today. The aluminum is simply fed through a seamless gutter machine and comes out the other side shaped like a gutter! These are popular because your contractor can form the gutters right there on the job to the proper size and length, and with no seams in the field.
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