Old leaky gutters can be more than just an eyesore. Each year, water causes thousands of dollars worth of damage to homes. Standing water can cause a leaky roof, leading to wall and ceiling damage as the wood around the eaves and ends of rafters rot.
Standing water can be a health hazard to your family. Mosquitoes breed throughout the summer in stagnant water. As paint peels, insects can invade, bringing a whole new series of problems.
Foundations and landscaping can also be seriously damaged and costly to repair. Driveways and sidewalks can sink and crack due to poor water drainage, while excess water can wash away newly planted grass or landscape materials.
Don t make the mistake of waiting until a water problem is evident to check your drainage system. Most water damage can be prevented by regular gutter and downspout maintenance. The only way to accurately check for blockage is to look inside. Let s face it, it s a dirty job. You can do it yourself or hire someone to do it, but either way, it needs to be done routinely.
Check your gutters and downspouts for debris throughout the year not just in the fall when we typically think of leaves falling. Trees shed debris year-round. Broken twigs or shingles from winter storms can be lodged in gutters throughout the winter. Seedlings, pine needles and errant balls can find their way into gutters in summer months. In the fall, don t wait until all the leaves have fallen to clean out your gutters. A blockage could already be present while you wait for that last leaf to fall. Preventative maintenance is a far better solution.
To clean your gutters, you will need a ladder. If you don t feel secure using a ladder, you might want to hire someone to do the job. You will also need a hose and yard gloves. Starting at one end of the gutter, remove all the debris. If you discover the gutter is loose, fix it as you go along. Leaks can be easily fixed with one of the many sealing products available today. However, it may be necessary to solder a particularly stubborn leak. At the end of the gutter, use the hose to spray water down the spout, making sure it is clear. You may need to clear debris from the end of the spout before you get a clear flow of water.
During the life of a house, the gutters may need to be replaced or repaired. Old gutters can rust and leak. Over time they may pull away from the house. When installing new gutters or repairing old ones, allow one square inch of outlet space for every 100 square feet of roof area. Many houses do not meet this minimum requirement. Gutters should slope toward the downspout at 1/4" drop every 10 feet. If you have a very high-pitched roof, allow for slightly more slope.
There are many different styles of gutters and downspout products on the market today. For example, there are seamless gutters, gutters with different cover devices and gutters that tilt for cleaning. The options are endless and can be expensive. However, poor drainage around your home can be even more costly in the long run. Water that settles near your foundation will eventually crack the block and seep into your basement.
If a damp basement is your problem, a good place to start is to make sure the ground around your foundation slopes away from the house, not toward it. For low spots, add enough dirt or rock to create a slope that will carry water away even after the dirt is compacted. You may have to wait until after a couple of good hard rainstorms before determining if you have indeed added enough dirt and if this solution alone is enough to fix your moisture problem. You may also want to lay plastic beneath the top layer of soil to help direct the water flow. Many landscapers now incorporate this into their design. It also helps prevent weeds.
When determining what type of drainage system will work best for you, research the subject thoroughly. Go to your local home improvement store and ask questions. If you are handy and plan on installing or repairing the gutters yourself, be sure to fully investigate the installation process of the system you are intending to purchase. What appears simple could be frustrating in reality. Search the Internet to discover what products are sold in other areas of the country. You might find something that would be perfect for your situation. A new gutter system can be a substantial investment, so do your homework.
Fixing poor drainage around your home is a win/win situation for the homeowner. Not only will it make your home more aesthetically pleasing, but it will also extend the life of your home.