Gutter cleaning! That yearly task that is just a pain in your neck! You have to drag out the ladder, bucket, gutter scoop, water hose, and don’t forget those gloves. One of my featured services is cleaning gutters. Although usually a simple task, many of my customers call me because they feel unsafe standing on a ladder 8’ off the ground. That’s a long way down! What’s the point of having gutters anyways and do they really matter?
As you drive around town you will notice that there are a tremendous amount of homes that do not have gutters installed. It is one of those items many home owners do not deem worthy of their dollars. In my experience with homeowners it is always hard to justify spending money on the exterior items of their homes like gutters, fences, landscaping, and sprinkler systems to name a few. It’s always easier to spend money on interior upgrades where you will get to enjoy them almost daily. However, gutters have an important role to play.
The main purpose of installing gutters is to divert water away from the home. Without proper water control there can be expensive repairs required long term. One of the biggest problems encountered on homes without gutters is dry rot on wood siding. If the home is built with stucco, brick, or vinyl siding this does not affect is as much. When the water runs off the roof in a sheet and hits concrete or soil near the home it splashes on the siding. Over many years of water intrusion the siding begins to deteriorate, which we call dry rot. A home I once purchased had an entire corner rotted out because a valley in the roof line dumped water near the home and all the splashing destroyed the siding. It was not a cheap repair to say the least.
A second benefit to installing gutters is to prevent flooding around the home. Many homes including mine have flower beds along the foundation. This is a great way to change the looks of your property but also a great way to build a lake! Without gutters many homes pour water from the roof into the flower beds. The ground itself can only take on so much water before it begins to pool and flood. Long term flooding in these areas can lead to foundation issues on the home. It is important to get the water away from the home foundation as fast as possible. Correct placement of downspouts is important for this reason. They should be located in areas that are graded to the street or dump into a drainage line leading out to the street.
There are basically two main types of materials used for gutters in our area, steel and vinyl.
Vinyl gutters are a great option if you want to save money. These typically come in ten foot sections and can be pieced together. They are easy to work with and many home owners can do the installation themselves. Unfortunately vinyl gutters are subject to the heat and cold cycles through the seasons which cause them to move around and possibly fail. They are also not intended to last forever. They are a shorter term solution for your gutter needs.
Steel gutters have been around forever. Steel gutters are more expensive up front but they have a longer life span. These are typically galvanized steel to increase longevity. Like vinyl, steel gutters can be purchased at your local home department store and put together. However, putting these together is much more complicated than the vinyl gutters for a DIY project. Some require soldering or adhesive caulking to put together. The gutters can also be dangerous to work with and I highly recommend wearing gloves. The solution to these problems is hiring a gutter company that installs seamless steel gutters. They are the most expensive but look the best. These gutters are made on the jobsite to match the dimensions of your home. You can choose the style and depth of the gutter to match the fascia board height. If adding gutters to your home is on the checklist, this is the route I would recommend, it will be money well spent.
Everyone has opinions about gutter guards. Should you use them? Should you not? Are they really worth it and do they make a difference? To me it all comes down to where your home is located and what is planted around your house. These will determine if guards are necessary. The point of gutter guards is to prevent debris like sticks and leaves from falling in your gutter and clogging up your downspout. Once this happens, water dams up in the gutter eventually pouring over the edge which leads back to water damage issues discussed above. When the gutters fill up they also get extremely heavy and will pull away from the home. This causes the rafter tails or fascia board to rot after many years. Cleaning out gutters once or twice a year is important to curtail these issues.
Choosing guards should be determined by the leaf type of the trees in your yard. If trees have very broad leaves I recommend installing gutter guards. Usually these will blow over and not plug up the guard. They are also easy to blow off with a leaf blower from the roof. On the other hand I typically do not recommend guards for customers who have pine trees around with needles continually falling. In my experience the needles work their way through the holes in the guards and still plug up the gutter. In order to clean the gutter all the guards have to be removed which can be a real pain. I think it is better to have an open gutter and just clean it more often.
Folks often forget about the amount of dust we have here in the valley due to farming operations. Thank God for farmers! All that dust settles on roof tops and washes into gutters when the rain comes. Usually when I am called to clean gutters there is at least an inch of muck at the bottom of the gutter. This is caused by dirt as well as the shingle material breaking down over time. If you live in an area that sees a lot of dirt I recommend not installing guards either. In order to scoop out the mud all the guards must be removed. This makes it a hassle for your cleaning job every time.
In closing, gutters can add a nice touch to the appearance of your home and they serve a larger purpose of protecting your home from water damage in the future.