Maintaining Your Gutters for Optimal Performance

Greg Keefer

Gutters are an important and often overlooked part of your home. A good gutter system is an efficient way to move water away from your structure and protect your house from water damage. A gutter that hasn't been maintained will eventually fail and allow water to drain back under your roof or down into the soil next to the foundation. Water damage inevitably follows. With a little effort, this damage can been avoided.

Gutter Materials

Gutters are made from a variety of aluminum, steel, and vinyl products. Old houses may have original-style gutter systems made of wood and galvanized downspouts, or perhaps even an old integral gutter system in which the water flow is controlled by roofing material built on the fascia and rafters. They all require maintenance.

Maintaining Your Gutters Is Simple

The first step is to keep gutters clean of debris such as leaves, sticks, and pine cones. You should clean a gutter anytime debris could have collected in it--like after a storm or the fall months. Downspouts need to be checked for clogs, as well. A leaf guard over the gutter eliminates most of these problems but it's still a good idea to check periodically. If practical, a hose can be put into the gutter to wash out loose debris and the water flow checked at the bottom of the downspouts to make sure the water isn't backing up. You can use extenders on the downspouts to direct water further away from the house, if desired.

Check to make sure the gutter is tight against the house. Screws pull away from the wood and occasionally will necessitate roof repair when rotted wood is damaged. Keep screws tightened and make sure the hangers are secure.

The gutter material itself may need some upkeep. Vinyl and plastic gutters can deteriorate after exposure to the elements in a few years' time, and may need to be replaced. Old wood gutters might need to be painted. Holes should be patched with the proper patching material, and downspouts should stay well supported.

Keep Your Gutters Flowing

Maintaining your gutter system is one of the ways you can protect your house from damage. The best way to handle rotted wood, deteriorating foundations, and the problems associated with inside humidity is to avoid them in the first place by periodically checking your gutters and fixing minor problems before they become major (and potentially expensive) ones.

The Old House Web • Gutters and Downspouts • http://www.oldhouseweb.com/how-to-advice/gutters-and-downspouts.shtml

About the Author

Greg Keefer has been a police officer since 1981. He's also been a do-it-yourselfer remodeler with lots of experience in how to do things right and how to do them wrong. He enjoys shar

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