Common Gutter Problems and How to Fix Them

Whether you’ve already cleaned the gutters this fall or you have scheduled your gutter cleaning for later in the season, they should be inspected for damage. After the damaged areas have been identified, make repairs as soon as possible to prevent the problem from becoming a real problem. Being able to recognize common gutter problems and know how to fix them is a homeowner’s best line of defense against expensive repairs.

Gutters that are Clogged

Clogged gutters are probably the most common gutter problem. Gutters filled with twigs, leaves, dirt, pine cones and other types of organic matter interfere with how efficiently rainwater flows through the gutter system and out of the downpipes. Blockages can cause rainwater to overflow from the back or the front of the gutter section. When clogs block the gutter outlets, standing water forms. Water that hangs around compromises the gutter’s protective finish, adds weight to the gutter system and offers a breeding place for insects. Clogged gutters also reduce the effectiveness of the downpipes when debris enters the downspouts and forms clogs inside the downpipes.

Solution A: Regular maintenance will help control the rate of debris buildup. Clean the gutters at least twice a year and inspect them for damage after major storms.

Solution B: If there are a lot of leaf-shedding trees near your house and/or on the property, consider adding a leaf guard system to your current gutter system or when it’s time to upgrade, invest in seamless aluminum gutters with gutter guards.

Gutters that are Cracked

A gutter system can develop cracks over time. Cracks form for a number of reasons including aging, added weight in the gutter channel from moss growth or debris buildup, and standing water. If cracks are left unrepaired eventually they will become large enough to let in water and moisture, resulting in leaks and stains to both interior and exterior walls.

Solution: Small cracks can be repaired with sealant. However, if the cracks are too large, the gutter section should be replaced. The gutter system should be completely replaced as soon as possible if the damage is extensive.

Gutters that Leak

The most common reason for leaking gutters is when seams separate. Gutter sections are joined together typically with sealant or a combination of fasteners and sealant. When it wears away, seams can separate, allowing the gutters to leak.

Solution: If it’s a question of worn sealant, remove as much of the old application as possible, and then reapply the appropriate sealant or caulking.

Gutters that are Warping or Sagging

As gutters age, they become more susceptible to exposure to the elements because of the wear and tear on the protective finish of the gutter system, and the expansion and contraction of aluminum gutters. Once weather damage occurs, the gutter section can become bent or twisted. Warping means water doesn’t flow in a straight line, creating additional places debris can become snagged and form clogs.

Sagging happens when the gutter system becomes heavy because of debris buildup or standing water or a combination of both. Overburdened gutters cause stress on the hardware holding the gutters in place. If the brackets or nails pull away from the fascia, the gutters will sag.

Solution A: To “cure” warping, remove the warped gutter sections. Replace with new gutter sections and new hardware. If you have to replace five or more gutter sections ask a gutter installation company for a free estimate – it might be more cost-effective to install a new gutter system.

Solution B: To fix sagging gutters check the hardware first. It might be as simple as tightening loose fasteners or replacing broken brackets, etc. However, if the fascia has been damaged or is rotted, it will have to be replaced before reattaching the gutters.

Gutters aren’t Pitched Correctly

While looking at your home’s exterior, the gutters appear to form a straight line across the front of the house. In actuality, they slope slightly toward the downspouts. When gutters aren’t pitched correctly, water doesn’t drain properly out of the gutter system, often resulting in standing water.

Solution: The gutters need to be pitched toward the downpipes. If you are an accomplished DIYer, you can adjust the pitch so that it slopes downward about ¼ of an inch per 10 linear feet. Hire a licensed gutter contractor if necessary.