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Gutters & Downspouts

new guttersThe Basics:

We all know that the basic function of gutters is to carry rainwater from the roof to the ground and away from the foundation.  It isn’t a lot more complicated than that – as long as everything is in good order. When problems do arise and gutters need attention many homeowners don’t know where to start.  When water overflows and/or backs up in the gutters, start by diagnosing the problems.  Most gutter issues will have to do with slope, seams, downspouts, and debris.


Gutters are not attached to the house perfectly level – they need a slope in order to direct rainwater into downspouts.  Too much slope, and the water can move too quickly for the drains to keep up.  That sort of volume can overwhelm the downspout causing an overflow.  Too little slope, however,  and water could pool in the gutters and not drain effectively.  Think mosquito breeding ground!  It is recommended that gutters fall about 1/2 inch for every 15 feet.  If a gutter run is over 30 feet, gutters should have a downspout on each end and peak in the center.


Seamless gutters obviously have fewer areas where water can come through – but older or DIY gutter installations often have seams.  It is important to keep seams and interior miters tightly sealed.  Nothing can eat away the sealant as quickly as constant debris and water contact – it is especially important to keep the gutters clear and free flowing to maintain seams.


This is essentially a matter of size and quantity.  For 5′ gutters, downspouts should be 2″ x 3″.  For 6″ gutters, downspouts should be 3″ x 4 “.  There should be one downspout for roughly every 20 feet of running gutter., if possible.  This is more of an art than a science, however.  There are times when the roof slope is very steep and water is travelling very fast when it enters the gutter.  In those cases there should be more downspouts to carry the water.  If roof slopes are not steep or there are several planes to the roof that each carry water to a separate gutter run then fewer downspouts may be required.


The dreaded gunk!  It accumulates constantly and is a maintenance nightmare in some homes.  No matter what system or product you use –  allowing debris to accumulate in gutters has to be avoided.  As the organic matter breaks down, it becomes a very dense heavy compacted mass in the bottom of your gutters.  The weight can cause gutters to pull away from the house and fail to function altogether.  Using a guard or filter system is a good idea, but regularly cleaning out the gutters is a must!

Your gutters work hard for you, and are the unsung heroes of your exterior.

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