Blog post #1
All too many times, I inspect a home that’s had a bunch of damage that was easy to avoid. The problem that caused the damage in the first place was something they could’ve fixed themselves, most likely. If they didn’t do tend to it themselves, I’ll bet they could’ve gotten a handyman for the task and paid less than $100.
The problem I’m talking about is a clogged gutter. Or maybe several clogged gutters all the way around the home. The quickest, most frequent gutter clogger is a tree right next to the home. Think about it for a minute…a 60 foot cotton wood with a trunk about 5 feet around. You know how much cottony stuff that thing’s going to shed every spring? Then again in the fall – maybe a hundred pounds or more of leaves will fall on a wide area surrounding it. Another notoriously trashy tree is the Maple with gum balls. Those little spiky gumballs that apparently have no use other than to fill lawn & leaf bags and clog innocent gutters. And the Maples with the helicopter seed pods. Good Lord, they go everywhere.
So whether the gutters are clogged because of trees in the yard or sand that falls off the shingles, once they get clogged, they pose problems for the home. When a gutter gets full of water, it becomes very heavy. They’re typically aluminum and I can tell you from experience, they’re not making them any thicker as time goes on. The weight of water in a gutter can bend it. A gutter that’s bent doesn’t allow water to flow properly toward the downspout for proper drainage. When the gutter is full, water spills over the top of it. Some goes out on the house side, against the fascia board. Over time, this will rot the fascia board. The fascia is what the gutter attaches to. Even more of the water typically spills out on the yard side, right next to the foundation. Rotted fascia is mole hill problem compared to the mountain of problems a cracked foundation can present. I once bought a home where the gutters were clogged for years and the seller had the foundation piered to the tune of $30k in order to sell it. There was also a sump and French drain system in the basement that cost $7k. It happened to be a Tudor style home where there is no soffit. The gutters were very close to the stone foundation. And the gutters spilled and spilled over until the basement flooded. It must’ve flooded many times. The water stains on the paneling we ripped out of the basement extended about 18” up from the floor.
Now for some useful information. Let’s talk about how you clean gutters. Most of the time , the clog is near the downspout. To get up to the gutter, you’ll need an extension style ladder that extends at least 2 feet above your gutter line. If you’ve never used a ladder before, I recommend you read up on how to do so. Injuries can happen when falling from ladders. Once up on the ladder, I strap the ladder to the gutter with a bungee cord. Starting near the downspout will put you near the business end of the gutter system. I often bring a small bucket up the ladder and hook it on one of the rungs with a coat hanger. Then, with some latex gloves on, I shovel the muck out of my gutters with a garden shovel. If there isn’t much muck, I may be able to get them clean just by hosing them out with a garden hose. Once you’ve cleared out the area of the gutter leading to a given downspout, it’s a good idea to hose it down. This will get the gutter good & clean. When you can see right down to the metal, the gutter will allow water to drain more freely.
Once you’ve cleaned your gutters out, it’s a good idea to add gutter screens to help keep them clean longer. I prefer the snap in kind. They’re typically black and cost about $3 for a 3 foot section. Particularly when you have trees in your yard, gutter screens are good way to avoid having to clean gutters out so frequently. If your home has a gutter cover system in place, that’s wonderful. It’s still a good idea to check & make sure your gutters drain effectively. You can do so by getting out the ol’ umbrella during a nice downpour and simply walking around your home to see if the gutters spill over anywhere. I’ve seen gutters that have aluminum covers over them that are still full of debris.
Well I hope what you’ve read here is useful. I’ve seen way too many basements with sump pumps installed that never really need one in the first place. The problem started with leaky gutters. That eventually became a leaky basement. When the wet basement salesman was invited in, the solution was a sump system. And afterward, the homeowner somehow became aware of the gutters as well. Now you know why it always gives me a little chuckle when I look into a sump pit that’s dry, even though it’s the rainy part of the year.