WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE GUTTERS ON MY HOME?
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WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE GUTTERS ON MY HOME?
Most homeowners know they need gutters, because of rain, but they can’t quite tell you why, or why it’s a bad thing when their gutter system is clogged. They just know it is. But that’s not quite enough: Homeowners need to understand that gutters are key to the repair of their home, and letting gutters go now can mean big repair bills later.
What is the purpose of gutters?
The purpose of your gutter system is designed to move rainwater and other precipitation away from your house and towards a safer drainage area. But surely your house can handle a little rain, right?
For one storm, sure. But gutters are designed to limit the damage to your home over time. The flow of water is actually an incredibly powerful force that can, if you give it enough time, cause serious damage to your home. This is especially true in New England, which often sees powerful storms of both rain and snow.
What Water Can Do to Your Home
Water, as it flows through the materials of your home, rusts metal, causes wood to swell and split, and sucks the minerals out of concrete. Water also can create an ideal environment for mold damage, which can not only ruin your home but also your health. In short, the less water sticks around, the better off your home will be, so a healthy gutter system is ideal.
What Gutters Do to Prevent Water Damage
Simply put, gutters take water away from your home. As water falls on your roof, it flows out into an area that can absorb the water without displacing it into your home. If you’ve ever seen a flooded basement, you’ve probably met a homeowner with a gutter problem: It can be that severe.
Why Gutters Need to Be Replaced
Gutters take the full brunt of nature’s fury. All the water damage that was going to strike your home is instead absorbed by your gutters. As a result, over time, gutters sag, rust, and begin to show holes, a process that happens much more quickly if you don’t get out the ladder and clean out the clogs on a regular basis.
The importance of properly installed and maintained gutters can’t be stressed enough. Every house should have gutters, and in recent years building officials across the land have been recognizing this. Many municipalities around the country are now requiring gutters on all new residential construction. Here’s why rain gutters are so important:
- Soil around the house is stabilized
- Foundation problems can be avoided
- Flooding under houses and in basements can be prevented
- Erosion can be prevented and this preserves landscaping and turf
- Water damage to siding can be prevented
- Water staining on brick and stone masonry can be prevented
- Settling and cracking of sidewalks, patios and driveways can be lessened
- Exterior doors and garage overhead doors can be preserved
The one downside to rain gutters is they require work. Homeowners must be vigilant in keeping them clean and in working order. Chances are, if you have gutters you probably don’t clean them out often enough. If you wait until they are full of leaves and if you are scooping soil out of your gutters, you are waiting far too long. If you have weeds and grass growing in your gutters you probably have caused some damage. After all, gutters aren’t intended for gardening. Here are the problems that clogged gutters cause:
- Water damming occurs which can cause damage to eaves
- Water can leak into the house and cause damage to walls and flooring
- Mosquitoes can breed in the standing water
- Leaves in gutters can be a fire hazard, especially in areas prone to wild fires
- Deterioration of gutters occurs which causes leaks and eventual failure
The frequency with which you should clean out gutters depends on your house. Determining factors include proximity of trees to the roof line, the type of trees (deciduous vs. evergreen), and the slope of the roof. Low sloped roofs can require more frequent cleaning.
For houses with trees within ten feet of the roof line, gutters will need to be cleaned out twice a year at a minimum. In some cases gutters may need to be cleaned out a couple times in fall alone. One myth about gutters is that houses with no trees don’t need to be cleaned. Gutter cleaning may still be required, especially on houses with asphalt shingles. Over time these shingles lose their granules and these granules make their way into the gutters.
PROPERLY INSTALLED GUTTERS
The majority of houses with gutters don’t have a system that is complete and installed correctly. A properly installed gutter system will include seamless gutters on every sloped roof edge. The gutters should not hold standing water, should not leak, should be securely fastened to the fascias, and should have downspouts that are securely fastened to the exterior of the house.
Finally, downspouts should not terminate close to the foundation. This is a common mistake that installers and homeowners make. What’s the use of having a complete gutter system that dumps all the water from the roof at the side of the foundation? What’s needed is a minimum of three-foot diversion away from the foundation. In many cases a section of flexible black plastic diversion piping can be used, or a section of downspout can be attached at the end of the elbow. It’s important to note that the concrete diverters that are often seen under downspout elbows are not adequate for water control.
There are many products out there that claim to be maintenance-free leaf guards that keep gutters clean. Some of these products are effective and some actually create problems. The products available are either metal mesh or sheet metal gutter helmets. In some applications these products can tend to dam leaves on the roof which can cause damage to roof decking and eaves. Some of the sheet metal gutter helmets and leaf guards products don’t actually work in a heavy rain. Yes, leaves and debris won’t be in your gutter, but water won’t go into the gutter either. Before buying any of these products do some homework and read reviews of these products online. In some cases good old fashion gutter cleaning may be a better option.
Rain gutters are one of the last items attached to your home before the home is completed. Rain gutters are positioned to extend just beyond the eaves of a roof to collect rain and hail runoff. They are placed on all sides of a home along the roof edge.
The gutters are attached to one or more downspouts that carry water to the ground. Downspouts are usually placed near a corner of a house at the steepest angle to allow runoff. They are designed to keep water away from the side of the house.
The enclosed downspout can connect to a drain pipe that allows the water to flow into your garden or an underground piping system that can be used to recycle the water. The recycled water is usually “gray water” used for washing, not drinking.
Most rain downspouts drain onto a splash pad or block that keeps the water away from the foundation of your house. You do not need rainwater eating away at your foundation and providing a breeding ground for mold, mildew or algae.
Purpose of Gutter Runoff
The major purpose of gutters is to permit continual water runoff to the downspouts during hail storms and heavy rains. You do not want standing water on the roof or under the eaves next to the walls of the house.
Good runoff will help to prevent the build up of moss or mildew on your roof or under the eaves where the roof and house walls meet.
Gutters are made from several materials but aluminum and vinyl are the most common. Square-line or half-rounded gutters provide good runoff. They can be painted or purchased in colors that complement your architecture.
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