An important aspect to your home’s exterior that is often overlooked is the gutter system. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Well that shouldn’t be the case since gutters are an important part in your home’s first line of defense against Mother Nature. So what does a gutter actually do? It collects the rainwater shed by your roof and distributes it away from your home. Why is this so important? It’s important because water is a natural enemy of a home, so sending it away from your house helps avoid foundation problems (such as cracking and basement flooding), keeps the soil around your foundation stable, prevents water damage on siding, and helps protect your exterior doors too!
In the past, gutters were typically made from wood and carved into various shapes, much like molding. This style can still be seen on colonial and Victorian era homes through the country. Wooden gutters are very beautiful and add a distinct charm to a home’s style, but they are expensive to replace and require diligent maintenance. Modern metal gutters began showing up in the early 20th century with the advent of metal roll forming machines. Metal gutters typically fall into one of two construction categories, seamless, which don’t leak, and segmented, which are more DIY friendly. Seamless gutters, which are typically made of aluminum, galvanized steel, or copper, are produced on-site to custom lengths using a portable gutter machine. Sectional gutters on the other hand, which are often made from the same metals as seamless, are typically found in 10 foot lengths and snap together with connectors. In addition to these two main construction styles, metal gutters come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes/profiles, and colors.
Remember, all of the great things that gutters do for your home are null and void if they aren’t properly cared for. If you don’t have your gutters cleaned regularly, they will become clogged and create water damming, leaks into your home, create fire hazards from dried leaves, and even deteriorate the gutters to the point of failure. The required frequency of cleaning will depend on several factors from the home’s proximity to trees, the type of the nearby trees (deciduous or coniferous), and the roof’s slope. A good rule of thumb for homes near deciduous trees is to clean your gutters at least twice a year, once in spring and once in fall, however more cleanings in fall may be required. What if your home doesn’t have any nearby trees? This doesn’t mean that you can get out of cleaning, especially if you have an asphalt shingle roof. Over time the shingles shed some of their granules, which build up in the gutters and can lead to clogs. Lastly, don’t neglect your downspout! The water being brought down needs to be dispersed down a grade at least 3 feet away from the foundation, so that dinky elbow on the end of your downspout isn’t cutting it. Try using a diversion pipe to extend your range.
With all of this in mind, you now have a better understanding of your often forgotten gutter and the crucial role in keeping your home its best.