Good drainage is very important to the structural well-being of your home. Gutters and downspouts, which are connected to the roof, are the main components of a home’s outdoor drainage system. They must be kept clear to prevent storm water from overflowing or backing up. Blocked gutters can cause erosion around the house, damage to the exterior walls, basement leaks, and — eventually — uneven settling of the foundation. Furthermore, when the clogged water freezes, as it will in our climate, the ice can back up under your roofing material and cause very costly damage, very quickly- to your home.
To prevent these drainage problems, regularly maintain your gutters and downspouts, and repair them at the first sign of trouble. At the minimum, clean your gutters twice a year, in late spring and late fall.
A plastic scoop is a good gutter-cleaning tool. To clean the gutters, shovel out leaves and other debris with the plastic scoop. Work from a ladder that’s tall enough to let you reach the gutters comfortably.
After cleaning out all the loose debris, flush the gutters with a garden hose. Check the downspouts by flushing them with the hose. If a downspout is clogged, you can break up the clog with a plumbers’ snake fed down through the opening in the gutter. To keep the downspouts clear, use a wire leaf strainer at each one. Insert a leaf strainer into each downspout opening along the gutters, then push it in just far enough to hold it steady.
After cleaning out the gutters, let them dry thoroughly, and inspect them for signs of damage. If your gutters have any cracks or holes, the seepage could cause structural damage to your house. Rust spots and holes can be mended with scrap wire screening and asphalt roof cement. You can apply a relatively cheap and quick fix of repairing the gutters before any real damage is done. First, use a wire-brush to the damaged area to remove any dirt and loosen rust. Clean the area well with a rag soaked in mineral spirits. If the hole is small, or if the metal isn’t rusted all the way through, a screening patch isn’t needed; just spread roof cement over the damaged area.
To repair an open hole in a gutter:
Cut piece of scrap wire screening, 1/2 to 1 inch bigger all around than hole.
Using trowel, spread roof cement around hole, and press wire screening patch down into hole. Spread thin layer of cement over screening. Let dry. You may need to apply a second coat.
If the gutter is extensively damaged or has large holes in it, you will have to consider replacement.
Besides patching obvious damage, inspect the gutters for sags, loose sections, and loose hangers. Gutters are supported by sleeve-and-spike supports, fascia brackets nailed to the face of the wall, or strap hangers nailed to the roof. Loose hangers can be adjusted or re-nailed; use 6d galvanized roofing nails to reset them. Cover the nail heads with roof cement to prevent leaks. If you can’t get at a fascia bracket to re-nail it or if the gutter sags even though all its supports are solid, still add supports. There should be a support about every 2 1/2 feet along the gutter.
Next inspect the downspouts and elbows. If a section is loose, reattach it with pop rivets using an inexpensive pop rivet tool.
If you follow this plan of maintenance for your home’s water drainage system you will avoid costly damage to your home and you’ll get a long life out of your gutter system.