Gutters have been used on buildings in the American colonies since the 1700s. Today, the vast majority of homes have some kind of gutter system to help protect them from water damage.
Without gutters, rainwater and melting snow would run down the side of your house and could cause foundation issues, rot, mold growth, or flooding in basements. With properly installed gutters and downspouts, this water is collected and directed away from the house which helps to minimize these types of problems. Additionally, gutters can also help to prevent soil erosion around the perimeter of your home due to runoff from rainfall.
What Are Gutters?
Modern gutter systems come in a variety of materials, shapes, and sizes, but all work in the same way: they catch rainwater and direct it away from your home.
Gutters are typically made of aluminum or vinyl and have a sloped shape that allows water to flow through them. The gutter is then connected to downspouts which carry the water away from the house.
In areas that get cold temperatures, gutters also play an important role in preventing ice dams during winter months. Ice dams form when snow melts on the roof and runs down into the gutter where it refreezes due to cold temperatures. This causes a buildup of ice which can cause damage to shingles and other parts of the roof structure.
Gutters and downspouts are designed to last for many years with proper care and maintenance. One of the most important tasks homeowners should complete regularly is checking to be sure that their gutters are not clogged with leaves or other debris.
Problems Caused by Clogged Gutters
Gutters full of leaves cannot adequately direct the water where it is intended to go. Clogged gutters can cause several different problems, including:
If your gutters are clogged, water can pool up onto your roof which can lead to leaks, rotted wood, and ice dams in cold climates. This can lead to damage to roof tiles or shingles and flashing in addition to the gutters themselves. This damage can be repaired by removing debris from gutters, replacing rotted wood, and adding insulation or a waterproof membrane to the roof.
Ceiling or Wall Damage
Gutters full of leaves can cause ceiling leaks or water damage to walls. This can be especially problematic because the issue does not become apparent until well after the damage has begun. Interior damage of this type can require extensive repairs like drywall or plaster replacement – or even a new ceiling.
Clogged gutters can lead to rainwater seeping into the foundation of your home, as the gutters fail to direct the water away from that area. To repair this, it may be necessary to replace or patch the foundation in addition to unclogging and cleaning the gutters.
For homes with basements, a clogged gutter system can also cause water to back up and enter through the basement walls or windows, resulting in flooding. This can be especially problematic if the basement area is “finished” and used as living space. Flooding not only makes a mess, but it can encourage the growth of mold that might require remediation services to correct. At a minimum, it will require drying out and dehumidifying the basement.
Clogged gutters can cause water runoff around the perimeter of your home which can erode soil and flood gardens or yards with excess water. If left unattended for too long, this can lead to dead plants from oversaturation and damaged landscaping beds around the home.
What Causes Clogged Gutters?
Clogged gutters are a common problem that can cause significant damage to homes over time. To avoid having problems, homeowners should watch for some of the common signs of gutter problems:
- Overflowing gutters
- Water pooling around the base of your home
- Discoloration on exterior walls or fascia boards
- Rotting wood near the gutters
- Erosion of soil around the foundation
- Leaky joints in the roof where water has infiltrated the roof structure
The main culprits of clogged gutters are leaves, twigs, and other debris that fall into the gutter and build up, blocking the flow of water.
In addition, clogged gutters can be caused by improper installation or materials that are not compatible with the environment. For example, if you have a metal gutter system installed in an area with high humidity, it may corrode faster than expected, leading to blockages from rust and other debris that accumulates in the gutter.
In areas with lots of trees, it is not uncommon for tree sap to fall into gutters as well. This sticky residue can quickly build up and cause blockages that cannot be removed easily. In some cases, the only way to remove this type of buildup is with a pressure washer or special solvents designed specifically for cleaning tree sap out of gutters.
Lastly, animals such as birds or squirrels may also be attracted to your home’s gutters due to their warm temperatures or food sources provided by other debris. These animals can create nests inside which further blocks water flow as well as create additional messes from droppings or feathers. If you notice any signs of animals in your gutter system it is best to contact a professional for removal so you don’t run the risk of causing more damage trying to do it yourself.
Cleaning Your Gutters
Cleaning your gutters is an important part of home maintenance that should not be overlooked. It is best to clean your gutters at least twice a year – or more if you live in an area with lots of trees or other sources of debris that can clog them up.
To begin cleaning your gutters, you will need a ladder and a few basic tools such as pliers, gloves, and a trowel. Start by using the pliers to remove any large debris such as leaves and twigs that are visible from the ground. Make sure to use caution with the ladder and wear gloves while doing this, as some debris may contain sharp edges or other hazardous materials. Once you have removed all the large debris, use the trowel to scoop out any smaller pieces that may still be stuck inside.
After removing all the visible debris from the gutter, it is time to flush it out with water. Use a hose or pressure washer to spray water through the entire length of each section of gutter until it runs clear. Once everything is fully flushed out, check for any signs of damage or leaks along the seams and repair them if necessary.
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