Gutters & Downspouts Maintenance tips

  • Gutters and downspouts work hard to protect your house from moisture damage. If gutters leak or downspouts are clogged, water can spill out and accumulate near foundations, soaking the soil and causing foundation walls to settle. In worst-case scenarios, moisture-laden soil presses in on basement walls, causing bulging and cracking. Water can even be forced inside by means of hydro-static pressure.
  • Keeping gutters and downspouts cleaned out & in good condition requires regular maintenance. It is advisable doing this chore twice each year, once in the spring and once in the fall. If you are not comfortable or experienced on a ladder, hire a professional to clean them, one fall and you can be paralyzed or even lose your life.

Steps To Clean Your Gutters

  • Clean leaves, sticks, needles and seeds from gutters, scooping out debris with a garden trowel or gloved hand.
  • Don’t try to remove the debris with a hose because that may cause downspouts to clog.
  • Remove the pasty gooey substance made up from the tiny granules from asphalt roofing shingles that have mixed with dirt and water.
  • Flush out residual matter, using a garden hose.
  • To clean downspouts, turn on the hose full blast and thread it into the drain opening.
  • Check gutters after flushing for pools that indicate low spots. Gutters should be sloped about one vertical inch for every 15 to 20 horizontal feet so that they drain properly. Adjust gutters as necessary.

Preventing Clogs in Gutters and Downspouts

  • Clogging usually occurs in a drainage system at the elbow where the downspout connects to the gutter. Since this elbow is relatively easy to remove, it is a good idea to remove it and inspect for clogging.
  • If the clogging is not in the elbow, check farther down the downspout.
  • You can usually check the downspout from the bottom. However, if the downspout is inserted in an underground tiling system, you may need to use a plumber’s or electrician’s snake to clean the downspout. This type of metal snake can be used to penetrate the downspout for a great distance, removing any obstacles causing clogging and backup problems.
  • If your roof drainage system is exposed to falling leaves and debris, you should install leaf strainers in all downspout outlets. These strainers insert into the downspout outlet. They permit the free passage of water but stop any leaves or other objects that can cause problems in downspout drainage.bullet Leaf strainers are easy to install and are relatively inexpensive.
  • You can solve most drainage problems by installing leaf guards over your entire gutter system. There are various types of leaf guards available.
  • Leaf guards of metal, plastic, etc., are usually mounted in the same way. Lift the lower run of shingles and insert the leaf guard underneath. Some leaf guards clamp over the edge of the gutter.
  • The leaf guards hold the leaves and other falling debris on top of the guard while allowing water to flow freely through the drainage system. The leaves then dry on top of the guard and are quickly blown away.

Repairing Gutters

  • Install new hangers to hold gutters firmly in place. Typically, gutters are attached with straps, hangers or long nails inserted through metal collars — a system called “spikes and ferrules.”
  • Don’t bother replacing straps, re-nailing old spikes or adding new spikes. Because you must pry up roofing materials to replace straps, it’s easier to make repairs using individual gutter hangers with self-tapping screws, available at home improvement centers.
  • Also replace spikes with gutter screws and matching ferrules. “Over time a spike is always going to push out, A gutter screw really has holding power.

Fix Leaks

  • Fix leaks at seams with silicone sealer. Although patch kits are available for repairing rust holes in steel gutters, the patches will prove to be only temporary. If you’ve got rust holes in steel gutters, they’re pretty much finished, it’s better to get new gutters and downspouts at this point.

Replacing Gutters

  • If you need to replace your gutter, steel gutters generally perform better than aluminum or vinyl. Aluminum gutters move too much during weather changes. The expansion and contraction causes nails and screws to loosen up. And vinyl comes in 10-foot lengths, meaning there are lots of seams that need to be sealed.
  • Both steel and aluminum can be installed without intermittent seams, and the best steel gutters feature baked-on enamel finishes with 40-year warranties. It’s always best to hire a a professional to install new gutters and downspouts.
  • Also be aware that there are larger 6 inch gutters and 4 inch downspouts on the market that will allow for a larger volume of water to flow than the standard size gutters and downspouts.

Adjusting The Pitch Of Gutters

  • The gutters on your home should be installed so there is a drop of approximately 1/16″ for each 1′ of length of guttering.
  • You can use a chalk line and a level to take a reading and mark the slope of your gutters. Another way is to pour a bucket of water into the gutter and observe the flow. If it runs off without leaving pools of water in the gutter, the gutter is set properly. If there are low spots, the water will sit in the gutter and locate the trouble spots.
  • Ordinarily, the pitch of a gutter can be set in only one direction. However, gutter runs of more than 35′ should slant in each direction from the center. Again, the drop should be set at a rate of 1/16″ of fall for each 1′ of gutter.
  • High or low spots detected in the gutter run can often be corrected by bending the hanger than supports the gutter. A slight bend up or down can often remove the low or high spot.
  • Some gutters are installed with spikes and sleeves, sometimes called spikes and ferrules. You may need to add an additional spike or sleeve to raise or lower the fall of the gutter at any specific point.
  • When extra spikes or sleeves are added, use a power drill to make a hole through the gutter before inserting the spike and sleeve. Gutters are usually held in place with either spikes and sleeves or hangers.
  • There are two basic types of gutter hangers. One is the strap hanger. This type of hanger supports the gutter with a wraparound strap underneath the gutter. A long strap is then affixed to the top and nailed to the sheathing under the edge of the roof. The roofing material covers the strap, making it totally inconspicuous.
  • The bracket hanger is nailed or screwed to the fascia underneath the eave of the roof. Either of these types of hangers can be added as needed to remove high and low spots in a run of gutter. Add braces that match those already in use.

Maintaining Downspouts

  • Even the best gutter system cannot function properly unless all downspouts are in working order. Take the time to examine your downspout system at the same time you are mending and repairing your gutters.
  • If the downspouts drain into an underground tile system, make a careful check at the point where the downspout enters the underground tiling. Make sure it is cemented firmly into place and there is no backup or overflow.
  • You can use a plumber’s or electrician’s snake to clean any possible obstructions in the downspout system. Most downspouts empty onto a splash block. Be sure these splash blocks are large enough and high enough to carry the water away from the foundation of the house.
  • Check the splash blocks occasionally to make sure they are not broken or deteriorating. Downspouts that pour water around the foundation of the house can cause basement or crawl space water problems. Secure splash blocks remove much of this danger.
  • You may need to add extra downspouts to carry water completely away from the house.
  • You can attach an extra length of downspout at the elbow to continue it as far away from the house as necessary.
  • Special roll-up downspout sheets are available that extend themselves when filled with water and roll up when the water is emptied. These perform the same function as an extended downspout, but they avoid the unsightliness of the downspout extended into the yard.
  • Add downspout simply by crimping the end of the material with a pair of pliers. The new piece of downspout will slip easily into the original piece.

Underground Downspout Drainage Systems

  • Under ground downspouts keep roof water away from your foundation! Proper water management around the foundation of your home can be very effective at keeping the water from reaching your basement. Back fill any low areas, and slope the ground away from the foundation. The most serious problem with seamless gutters is downspouts that discharge the water right next to the foundation. An innovative product in use today is an under ground downspout system. Water free falls into a debris filter and flows underground through 8 feet of P.V.C. pipe. As water fills up in the holding can the lid raises up to let water evenly flow over onto your lawn. Drainage slots in the holding can lets standing water filter down into the ground. The solid drain cover will then drop down and seal out grass clippings and dirt. Install under ground downspouts as an integral part of your site drainage system.

Safety Tip

  • Remember that gutter maintenance often means working on a ladder. As you work, make safety a priority. Make sure your ladder is firmly planted, and don’t stretch to make repairs.
  • If you’re not comfortable on a ladder or are inexperienced on a ladder, be smart and safe and hire a professional to clean your gutters.