What are gutters and why are they important?

Household 3 min read

Properly installed gutters on a house look nice and create an edge around your home’s roof, but their main purpose and the reason why gutters are important is to divert water away from the base of your house. As rain falls, it can erode the soil around your home. Aside from killing any flowerbeds you might have planted, this erosion can expose your foundation and result in basement leaks and structural damage.

A damaged foundation is a costly repair, which is not covered by homeowners insurance if caused by a lack of maintenance. It’s important to maintain your gutters in proper working order. While routine maintenance is usually enough to stop most gutter problems, severe damage like cracks or broken gutter lines might require professional repair.

Ways to maintain gutters on a house

Inspect gutters twice a year

As part of your seasonal home maintenance checklist, it’s best to inspect your gutters twice a year. The best way to do this is to clean them out, either by hand or with a high-powered hose (taking care not to damage the gutter). As dirt builds up in gutters, you can find everything from weeds to trees beginning to sprout. Backed-up gutters can freeze and build up ice if you live in a colder climate.

Remember to check your downspouts (e.g., the part of the gutter that runs down and away from your home). Clogs can form in downspouts that aren’t immediately visible but can back up water flow and even break the downspout, especially if it freezes.

Install a gutter guard

Consider installing a gutter guard to prevent debris from getting into your gutter. These vary in cost but provide a way for water to enter the gutter while blocking debris. Debris can still build on top of gutter guards, though, so make sure to continue routine inspections at least twice a year — possibly more if you have a lot of trees around your home.

When should you replace gutters on a house?

Gutters on a house last an average of 20 to 50 years. If your gutters are older than this, or you buy a home that hasn’t had a gutter replacement in a long time, it can be worth the expense to replace them. Homeowners insurance likely won’t cover replacing your gutters unless a covered peril damaged them. Your home insurance company expects you to take steps to maintain your gutters, such as cleaning them out when they become clogged or blocked or seeking repair services if they are damaged. Learn more about how home insurance covers gutters.

When should you hire a professional to inspect your gutters?

Although most minor fixes can be done on your own (provided you’re comfortable on a ladder), there are times when you should call a professional to handle the situation. If your roof is leaking, this could indicate severe clogs in your gutters that allow water to back up onto your roof. If water is backing up onto the roof, it could also mean your roof needs repaired.

If your home’s foundation shifts either from an earthquake, age, or other problems, your gutters might need to be re-aligned and refitted to your home. It may also be helpful to inspect your home’s foundation for any changes.

If you see mold or mildew growing on your gutters, it’s a good idea to call a professional for a thorough cleaning and inspection of your gutters. Moss and mildew don’t begin to grow unless they have a food supply like rotten plants. It looks unsightly, but it can also damage the gutters on your house and result in foul smells.

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