What can You do about Rusty Gutters?

Cleaning the gutters regularly and making any necessary repairs is vital to a home maintenance plan designed to protect your house from water damage. So, this fall as you were cleaning the gutters, you noticed a small smattering of red dots on the inside of the gutters. But I have aluminum gutters! Actually a gutter system made of aluminum, steel, zinc, or any aluminum or steel alloys are prone to corrosion and deterioration over time as a result of general wear and tear. Once it has been spotted, is there anything you can do about rusty gutters?

Causes of Rusting Gutters

Most types of metal gutter systems have a protective coating or finish to help make the troughs stronger and more resilient. Manufacturers of aluminum gutters, for example, might maintain their products last 20 years. However, the projected lifespan depends on several factors such as microclimate, annual rainfall, and proximity to water particularly an ocean. Environmental conditions combined with dirt and grime can compromise a gutter’s protecting finish, Causes of rusty gutters include:

  • Pollen
  • Dust and dirt
  • Leaves, twigs and other kinds of debris left to decompose
  • Temperature changes, especially extreme fluctuations
  • Not doing regular home maintenance

Prevent Rusty Gutters

Schedule Regular Gutter Cleaning

One of the best ways to prevent rust damage is to clean the gutters. Gutter installation professionals recommend gutter cleaning twice a year – once in the fall when most of the leaves are off the trees, and once in the spring after trees have blossomed. However, if you have a lot of trees growing on your property, live in or near an agricultural community, or reside next to a busy highway, you might have to clean the gutters three or even four times a year. If you usually DIY gutter cleaning but for the past year or two just haven’t gotten around to it plan to hire someone – all it takes is some wet debris and a bit of sludge to encourage rust to form.

Periodically Inspect the Gutter System

Rust might appear as a few spots here and there, but it is insidious and can spread quickly. Obvious red splotches don’t just affect your curb appeal – advanced rusting creates holes from which water can leak. Inspecting the gutters, periodically for rust, both inside and out, could mean the difference between sanding and sealing one gutter trough or a total gutter replacement.

When inspecting the gutter system, pay close attention to the corner miters, downspouts, end caps, and the immediate area around the seams that join two gutter troughs together.

Repair Rust Damage

Before you make any repairs to your gutters assess the extent of the damage. A handful of rust spots can be sanded and holes caulked, but if two or more sections are rusted, plan on removing the affected troughs and replacing them with new ones. Keep in mind that repairs will stop gutter rust only if it’s caught in the early stages and correctly treated. However, repairs, if not too advanced, can slow down gutter rust, but a total gutter replacement will most likely be required sooner rather than later.

To use Sandpaper

To repair rust damage in the early stages with sandpaper use a lower grit number, anywhere from 40 to 80. If using a power sander, select one that is not aggressive and will only remove the top layer, leaving the rest of the gutter intact. Once the rust has been removed, seal the sanded area with a metal primer to prevent further rusting.

To use a brush

Clean the rusted trough with a solution of water and mild dish detergent. After it has dried, gently scrub with a wire brush. Because the gutter material is now exposed, use a metal primer or sealant to prevent the rust from returning.

Caulking holes

Fill holes with a waterproof sealant or caulk. In order for the repair to be successful, it should be allowed to dry for at least 24 hours. Pick a two-day stretch where there will most likely be no rain in the forecast.

Patching holes

When holes are significantly bigger that pin-size or small, you might have to patch rather than fill them. Form a patch from metal flashing. Brush away the rust from around the hole with a stiff wire brush. Let the area dry out before applying roofing cement to the edges of the hole. Once the patch is in place, cover it with more roofing cement.

Remove Rusted Section

Removing the rusted section is a repair solution for when the rust has spread across the trough, either outside, inside, or both out and in. It can also be a stop-gap measure if the rust damage is extensive but you can’t do a full gutter replacement at this time. A professional gutter installation company can remove the rusted section and replace it with a new one – it is recommended not to do this as a DIY project.