Solutions to Four Common Gutter Problems

When the gutters are cleaned regularly, a gutter system that isn’t working the way it should can be a bit of a mystery. This can be frustrating for homeowners who take home maintenance seriously and pride themselves on their home’s exterior (and how good it looks). There are four common gutter problems that might cause long-term issues – anything from standing water in the gutter trough to basement flooding or cracks in the foundation. The good news is there are solutions to the typical gutter problems homeowners might encounter.

Gutters become obstructed.

Over time, debris that has not been removed from the gutter system builds up, obstructing the flow of water from heading toward the downpipes. When leaves, bits of twigs, pine needles, blossoms, and roofing shingle granules form clogs, standing water weighs the gutter system down and puts unnecessary pressure on the fascia. Results of standing water in the gutters can range from one gutter section becoming warped to a sagging gutter system to gutter sections falling on the ground or being blown loose in a windstorm.

To prevent issues caused by standing water due to clogs and blockages, clean the gutters twice a year; three or four times a year if you live in a leafy neighbourhood or have a lot of trees on your property.

It’s not just organic materials that form clogs in the gutters. An active wind, kids playing in the backyard, or the odd prankster might deposit toys, balls, and other objects that can stop runoff from draining out of the gutter system. In between regular gutter cleanings, check the gutter outlets – the place where a gutter run is connected to the downspouts. Ensure they are free of debris and any  obstructions.

Gutters leak at the seams.

Leaking gutters are generally a result of aging joints or seams where the sealant that connects two gutter troughs has worn away. Regular places gutters leak are in the corners where gutter runs join together; around gutter caps; and at the seams joining gutter sections.

The solution is fairly simple. Match the appropriate gutter sealant to the gutter material your gutters are made of; apply the sealant directly on the joint or seam that needs repairing. Plan to make the repair on a dry and windless day.

Once the worn seams have been resealed, to prevent more leaks from appearing, periodically inspect the gutter system for gaps where seams have become separated or worn away by the elements.

Water spills over the sides of the gutters.

When the gutters and downspouts aren’t draining properly, water can collect in the gutter trough until it spills over the top. Depending on the tilt of the gutters (the angle the gutter section was installed), the runoff can either overflow at the back of the gutter, depositing water between the aluminum gutters and the fascia, or at the front of the gutters where it can run down siding or splash up into the soffit and fascia.

If there are no apparent blockages in the gutters, check to see if the downpipes are free of any clogs – runoff in blocked downspouts can “flow” back into the gutters, spilling over the sides of the gutter sections.

In either scenario, overflowing gutters and/or clogged downspouts can cause a variety of issues such as structural damage, wood rot, moss/fungal growth, and basement flooding. Prevent gutters from overflowing through regular home maintenance inspections and scheduled gutter cleanings.

Gutters are improperly pitched.

In order to function properly, gutters need to be pitched or sloped (not to be confused with tilt) so that water is directed toward the downspouts. On occasion, gutters can be installed incorrectly. However, even if gutters were installed with the correct pitch, the ground on which the house is built can shift over time.

One of the signs that gutters have shifted or are no longer effectively sloped is the appearance of standing water. If the gutter system isn’t draining properly, consult with a gutter contractor and get a free estimate on how much it will cost to correct the gutter pitch. If you’re a confident do-it-yourselfer, you can calculate how much pitch or slope is needed to guide runoff into the downspouts.