When you see trees sprouting from your gutters, you know it’s time to clean them out. Bob Scott barely chuckled when I suggested that – because he’s seen lots of random stuff taking root in clogged gutters. “Yes, it happens when you’ve got enough decayed matter (in the gutter), and you need to get that debris out.”
Scott, who operates Diamond Home Inspection Services, explained why clogged gutters aren’t a laughing matter.
Gutters overflow when they’re blocked, of course, so your gutters can’t collect the water and guide it safely away from your foundation.
The weight of the debris and the backed-up water can cause gutters to sag, making the problem worse. Ignore the problem long enough and the weight can pull the gutters right off the house.
Scott said one of the worst problems he sees regularly is water running down behind clogged gutters, between the gutter and the fascia of the house. That happens when the back lip of the gutter is lower than the front lip, or when the clog is so bad that water spills over front and back.
Water behind the gutter can cause the fascia, the board along the edge of the eave, to rot. “Sometimes it will even get into the wall cavity,” Scott said.
Water inside the wall is bad news.
The good news is, there’s a pretty easy short-term fix. You can slide metal flashing up under the drip edge to protect the fascia. Go to www.gutterworks.com for more details.
Another serious but often overlooked problem Scott sees in the Charlotte area is water running down the face of a wall where the gutter on a lower section of roof butts into the wall. Say, where the gutter on a one-story garage wing ends against a two-story section of the house.
“I’ve seen that a couple of times in the past few weeks,” he said. “The water runs down the brick, and is actually penetrating the brick.”
Make sure the lower roof is flashed to push water away from the wall – the pros call that “kick-out flashing” – and make sure the gutter is flowing freely.
At our house, we have a regular clog in an unlikely place. Not in the gutter itself, but in a bend in the downspout just below the gutter. I’ve learned to clean it regularly.
One possible reason for such a clog, Scott suggested, is an oversize screw protruding into the downspout. “It can grab hold of debris, creating the clog.” Sometimes the cause is chipmunk nests, he said.
Speaking of rain: Your yard should slope away from your foundation so that it falls at least 6 inches in the first 10 feet. “You want to get that water away from your foundation, away from your crawlspace or basement,” Scott said.