Many people don’t fully understand the importance of rain gutters and take them for granted. The fact is that they are an essential component of your house and its structural integrity. Rain gutters are responsible for diverting rain water away from your home. If you don't repair gutters, water damage will become evident in multiple ways such as:
- Basement flooding when water seeps into the basement,
- Discoloration due to water runoff carrying away paint,
- Growth of mold when water is trapped in the foundation and walls,
- Erosion and destruction of your landscape, etc.
However, they are often overlooked because they really aren’t within your field of vision until they have a problem that needs urgent attention. When that happens, you don’t have to call someone to help, as most of a gutter’s problem can be fixed easily. Also as with all things, prevention is better than cure, and you shall learn how to avoid any further problems down the road.
Some of the problems you may begin to notice about your rain gutters after some time may include:
- Leakage at certain points especially around the joints between sections
- Sagging due to improper flow of water
- Overflowing around the corners
- Water runoff remaining pooled around the house
First things first
If left unchecked, any of these seemingly benign problems could lead to extensive damage to your house. The good news for you is that you too can help out in fixing these problems. Even if you are not a DIY tips and tricks enthusiast, you will definitely find this information useful in the long term. But before you can even begin to fix any of the problems, you first need to have access to the gutters to begin with. You will need to ensure your safety and have the proper tools.
- A ladder tall enough to rise above the level of the gutters. The ladder will need to be properly stabilized against the roof. Plus, remember to always have one hand on the ladder to avoid tipping over
- Thick rubber gloves. Aluminium edges of the gutter can cause serious injury to your hands when bare. Make sure they are really thick because you may need to use some force
- Gutter trowel. As you shall see in the next sections, such a simple tool can save you a lot of stress in future. Considering they are cheap and easily available at any home department store, it’s a no-brainer. Furthermore, it could double up as a putty knife for other uses around the house afterwards
- Garden hose. It should be long enough to reach the gutters, obviously. This too will come in handy later on
How to fix leaking gutters
Leaking gutters are usually the result of a loose connection at the joints between sections. Leaks often occur when stagnant water seeps through the seams. With time, the leak becomes bigger and continues to be so until it is fixed. Alternatively, a leak could occur because the stagnant water also leads to rusting. Rusting is seen in galvanized steel gutters, which weakens the metal.
Therefore, to fix these leaks on your gutters, you first need to check for signs of stagnating water. If you just noticed the leak, it’s likely there may still be some water visible. This should help you narrow down the exact problem area. Otherwise, you may have to check for signs of loose connections between the joints.
Sagging gutters are also a sign of damage or loose connections. This can also help you to find where the problems are.
Once you have identified where the leak(s) is coming from, now it’s time to fix the problem.
- Adjust or add gutter hangers as needed. Gutter hangers ensure that the gutter remains properly in place. Whenever there are hanging gutters, these are often the problem. Instead of doing a total overhaul, first begin by adjusting the hangers to make the gutter firm. If that doesn’t seem to cover the problem adequately, then you may have to add some hangers
- Even with the hangers fixed, the damage may already be done around the joints. To fix this, the joints must be resealed. However, the gutters must be dry before applying any sealant. Simply letting the gutters dry for some time will do the trick. But you may first have to dry any stagnant water manually. Only after it’s completely dry should you apply the sealant to the inside and outside of the joint to stop the leak. Silicone should work well enough, but there is also a specific gutter caulking compound. The results should be the same regardless, so whatever floats your boat
Leaks could also come from holes along the gutter. These form due to rust or damage over time. To fix leaks coming from holes, it would depend on the size of the hole.
- For small holes, these can be quickly fixed with roofing cement or weatherproofing tape. While using roofing cement, spread the cement around the hole using the trowel or putty knife. Cement works best in warmer temperature, so it’s best to apply it when the weather outside is warm. If you’re staying in a cooler environment, you may have to warm the cement so as to make it spread easily
- When dealing with wider holes, a patch will become necessary. One can be fashioned from a metal sheet and placed on top of a layer of roofing cement. Afterwards, this is covered with a second layer of roof cement
How to fix sagging rain gutters
When properly installed, rain gutters should slope about one half inch for every ten feet of length. Such a slope ensures efficient drainage of rainwater down the length of the gutter. However, the gutters can begin to sag when the weight of rain water exceeds what they can handle. To determine whether your gutters are sagging, check the slope using a bubble level.
Nevertheless, you can still know that the gutters are sagging just by sight. When there isn’t too much, you will notice that water is stagnating along the length. This usually occurs around the middle of the length. When the sagging continues, water begins to flow over the sides before reaching the downspout. If sagging gutters are not addressed, the stagnating water continues to weigh down the gutter and exacerbates the sagging.
To repair gutters that sag, the process depends on the type of hanger you’re using:
- Spike-and-ferrule hangers can be adjusted by driving the spike deeper into the eave. Simply by hammering, you can make sure the hanger is firmly fixed into the wood. If that doesn’t seem to work, then it may need replacing
- Clip-style hangers just need to be fastened again onto the sheathing. To access the sheath, lift the roofing material and make sure it is properly clipped. While doing so, be careful not to damage the roofing material itself
Fixing overflowing gutters
There are many reasons why gutters may start to overflow, and each problem needs to be solved independently:
- Overflow due to clogging – when the downspout is clogged, water does not flow down as it is supposed to. Thus, water collects along the length and overflows along the sides. To fix this, make sure that the downspout is free of debris and leaves using the hose. Run the hose up the downspout to remove any materials stuck there. Then follow that up by rinsing from the top. To avoid the same problem in future, use gutter guards to prevent material from collecting in the gutters
- Overflow due to volume – in case your home receives heavy rainfall, the amount of water may be too large to flow down the spout smoothly. In this case, a different spout may be called for. Alternately, narrow gutters can also be replaced to handle the volume
Handling loose downspouts
At times, the downspout itself may be the problem when the elbow is not properly connected. This problem is common and can be easily refitted. However, it happens because of problems with downflow. To avoid the same in future, make sure that debris does not hinder the flow of water. When that happens, the weight of stagnating water places excessive stress on the joints.
Addressing problems with water pooling around the house
The downspout is supposed to direct water away from the house. If this is not done effectively, water begins to collect at the base of the exterior walls and form a pool. This can be very dangerous for your home because the water eventually makes its way to the foundation. Besides, it may even lead to molding and other severe problems. That defeats the purpose of having gutters in the first place.
There are two ways to handle the process depending on the severity of the problem:
- If the pooling is caused by the downspout being too close to the wall, use a diverter to redirect water. Typically, the downspout should redirect water 3 to 5 feet away from the wall. A diverter can assist in ensuring there are no pools around the base of the wall
- When the problem is a result of volume, then you may have to use a drainpipe to drive water deeper into the ground level. Just remember that this may still create clogging, so make sure the depth of the drainpipe is sufficient