From Virginia to Maryland and D.C., rain gutters are loved and loathed in equal measure. Yet they still play a crucial role in safeguarding your home against water. They gather rain and melting snow on your roof and direct them away from your home’s siding and the foundation via the downspouts to the ground, where it can cause less harm. Because these systems are essential for your foundation and home’s structural integrity, you need to learn more about them so you can make the right choice.
What Is a Gutter?
A gutter is a half-pipe that directs rainwater from the roof to the ground. It usually runs along the eaves of the roof and is fastened to the fascia. Standard gutter profiles include “K” and “U” styles, and their difference is purely aesthetic. Both styles are available in different materials. The gutter’s position on the eve depends on the roof’s slope and the gutter’s pitch.
Gutter systems consist of two parts. The channel that runs along the roof’s edge and the downspouts that carry water down to the ground. Without these fixtures, rain can dump several gallons of water right next to your foundation and this can lead to a wet basement or crawl space.
Sizing Your Gutters
One of the important but overlooked aspects of guttering is sizing. The gutter’s size will depend on the rainfall intensity and the area of the roof. The roof’s length will also determine the downspout location, expansion joints, and gutter ends. Other factors that come into play during gutter installation include the outlet’s size and space, gutter shape, and the roof’s pitch. The gutter has to be big enough to handle fast-moving water from a steep roof.
Let’s look at some of the common gutter materials and their attributes.
Aluminum gutters: A low-cost drainage system, aluminum gutters are light-weight and rust-resistant. This type also holds up well against the elements, even in cold climates. Aluminum gutters are available in seamless models. Unfortunately, they aren’t as strong as the other guttering materials. That’s not to mention that poorly placed ladders can dent gutters, causing them to lose their shape.
Copper gutters: Soldered at the seams, copper gutters are as durable as steel. Proper care can prolong their lifespan. The only barrier is their hefty price.
Vinyl gutters: Easily the homeowner’s favorite, vinyl gutters are cheap, easy to install, and corrosion-free. Some homeowners prefer them over metal gutters as they’re super light and have sections that snap together easily.
Stainless steel gutters: In addition to being strong, stainless steel gutters are virtually indestructible. They also don’t rust or deform easily like other gutters. Their only drawback is their price tag.
Wood gutters: They can still be found in historical homes. However, homeowners are ditching them for cheaper and durable guttering systems.
Except for wood, all the other gutter materials weather well. Galvanized steel and copper are superior as they can withstand the impact of a roof ladder and tree branches without cracking or denting.
While you can install guttering yourself, it’s best to leave it to professionals. A properly installed gutter will function properly and serve you for many years.
For gutters to drain properly, they must be pitched 1/16″ or greater per foot with the highest side farthest from the downspouts. This allows rain and snow that collects on your roof to drain quickly.
While gutters can run level for aesthetics, additional downspouts will be required. K-style gutters can be screwed directly to the home while U-style or half-round gutters rest in brackets. Straps can also be used to hold the gutters.
Gutter Maintenance and Repairs
Be sure to check hangers for looseness. You can replace them with gutter screws. Don’t let debris linger on the gutters. Remove them as soon as possible. If you’re not sure whether the downspouts have clogs, run a hose through the gutters.
Falling branches or leaning ladders can dent or deform your gutters. Cleaning and resealing the leaking joint area with caulk usually resolves the issue. To avoid future problems, it’s best to replace such gutters as their joints can also leak over time.
Frozen gutters and downspouts can cause water to spill over the roof and pool around your foundation. Flush your system before winter sets in. You can also invest in heating elements that run along the length of your gutters and downspouts.
If you have galvanized steel gutters, you need to keep an eye out for rust. Sometimes, the galvanized coating wears off and exposes the metal to water and air. Clean the rusty areas with a spray finish. Multiple applications are necessary for continued protection.
The idea of climbing the roof and cleaning gutters isn’t something many homeowners would want to do regularly. You can minimize the cleaning by installing gutter guards. Come autumn, you won’t have to deal with leaf-induced blockages.
Gutters are an integral part of your exterior waterproofing and drainage. For more waterproofing solutions, contact JES Foundation Repair. We will perform a free waterproofing inspection and make solid recommendations to keep water out of your home.