Maintaining gutters is the most important thing you can do to prevent water damage to your home.
Gutters are designed to do one thing — channel water away from the foundation — and they’re critical to protecting the structural integrity of your house. But in order for gutters to do their job properly, they have to be kept in shape and free of clogs, holes, and sags.
Luckily, most common gutter problems are easy for homeowners to fix themselves. And it’s worth the effort. “Gutters are one of those things where routine maintenance and inspecting them can really prevent bigger problems down the road,” says Jason Stutzman, director of home maintenance and repair for Brothers Redevelopment in Denver.
Here are the gutter problems that the pros see most often, and the recommended solutions.
This is the most common problem of all. Left untended, gutters and downspouts get so clogged with debris that they’re rendered useless. The excess weight of leaves, twigs, and standing water can also make them sag and pull away from the fascia.
Clean them at least once a year, and twice a year if you have a lot of trees nearby. Gary Mindlin, managing partner of New York City-based Top Hat Home Services, schedules gutter maintenance four times a year, with additional checks after big storms.
You can clean your own gutters if you’re comfortable on a ladder, don’t mind getting wet and dirty, and don’t have an extremely tall house. After you’ve cleared the muck, flush them with a garden hose to make sure they’re flowing properly. If you’d prefer, you can hire someone to do the job for you for between $50 and $250, depending on the size of your house.
Another option for dealing with chronically clogged gutters is to outfit them with gutter covers. These include mesh screens, clip-on grates, and porous foam. They still need regular maintenance, though, and the cost can be more than the gutters themselves.
Sagging Gutters and Gutters Pulling Away from the House
This is usually a problem with the hangers, the hardware that secures the gutters to the fascia. They might have deteriorated over time, the fasteners may have backed out of the wood, or they’re spaced too far apart to support the weight of full gutters. The cost to fix it yourself is cheap; hangers generally cost $10 or less apiece, and the fasteners run about $1 each.
Leaks and Holes
Leaky gutter joints can be sealed by caulking the joint from the inside with gutter sealant, says John Eggenberger, vice president of training and corporate development for the Mr. Handyman franchise of home repair companies. A tube costs about $5. Very small holes can be filled with gutter sealant. Larger holes will require a patch. If you can’t find a gutter patching kit at the hardware store, you can make a patch from metal flashing.