Rain gutter maintenance is one of the most important house maintenance tasks to perform on the exterior of your property. Neglecting gutter maintenance might result in damage and costly repairs of the soffit, fascia, house wall (exterior and interior), roof decking surfaces, and other structures surrounding your property.
Rain gutters need to be cleaned more often if there are trees surrounding your house or if there are trees in the near neighborhood. During the fall, when all those trees start shedding their leaves, you may need to have the gutters cleaned several times.
Remember to perform your final gutter and downspout maintenance / check-up at the end of the fall, when all tree leaves have disappeared. The safest method to find out how your gutters are performing is to go outside during the rain and check your downspouts.
If there’s very little / no water discharging from them, or water is overflowing the gutter edges, you have a few possible problems:
- The gutter or the downspout itself is clogged – requires cleaning
- The gutter has a negative slope – away from the downspout, and needs to be repositioned to discharge water properly (1/4″ slope per every 10 liner feet of the gutter will do)
- Section of the gutter is sagging – that happens occasionally as a result of loose nails / screws / brackets holding the gutter in place (separating from fascia board), contamination (weight of dirt, leafs and debris accumulated along the rain gutter) – requires cleaning and / or just repositioning
- If you have lots of water discharging from your downspout and still have an overflowing gutter, you might need to replace your gutter system (or at least the downspouts) with a larger one
To clean a lightly contaminated gutter, you can use a garden hose and flush all the deposits towards the downspout, then pick up anything that didn’t make its way down in the downspout attachment area.
It might be possible to clean the gutter from the ground by using a garden hose attachment / extension. In case you have some type of the gutter leaf guards installed, you’ll need to remove them first.
However, this procedure won’t work on years of deposits inside the gutter, and you’ll need to pick up all the decomposed leaves and debris by hand.
Always use utility gloves to protect your hands from gutters sharp edges and joint screws. Safety glasses are also recommended.
For the clogged downspout, try to use your garden hose – just make sure the bottom of the downspout is open and free of debris before you stick the hose into the top opening. Filling a clogged downspout with water will put a lot of stress on all joints and downspout brackets – it might cause your entire downspout assembly to collapse.
Flushing the gutter or downspout with a garden hose while standing on top of the ladder is hazardous. Water filled garden hose is heavy and might pull you down from the ladder – ideally, it should be secured / anchored above the area you’re working on / not to the ladder!
There are various tools available on the market and some of them might speed-up your gutter maintenance process, but the old-fashioned way (100% manual) will give you the most satisfaction. 🙂
- Rain Gutter Seams
All it takes to repair the leaking gutter seam is a few minutes of your time – to clean this leaking area from any contamination, and apply Dap 27062 Butyl-Flex Gutter and Flashing Caulk, or a similar sealant designed for that purpose.
After it stops raining, look at the gutter corners, around the downspout attachment area, and any other seams. Depending on the installation, a leaking seam may or may not cause any problems. Surface beneath the gutter protected by a good quality paint (no matter how good it is, it will not last forever), or aluminum capping will survive that leak.
You have to look for damage in the area directly next and below the leaking seam, there might be a rotten soffit / fascia board, deteriorating brick or mortar, water damaged siding or even moisture / water penetrating the interior of the house.
If you notice any stains underneath the gutter, I’d also recommend to check the roof surface directly above this area – it might be already damaged.
Gutters on taller houses, with roofs above the tree line, might only require cleaning once a year (or every couple of years), usually in the downspout attachment area. However, their seams might break and start leaking periodically as well.
- Corroded Gutters
It all depends on the amount of corrosion – seeing slightly corroded bottom might be a sign of a heavily corroded interior, and in that case the gutter or its section would most likely require replacement. However, if you are creative… roofing cement, aluminum foil, silicon, electrical tape, duct tape, and many other materials can be used. It might not look beautiful but sometimes it works.If the metal gutter material feels solid, remove as much rust as possible with a steel wool, treat the area with a liquid rust remover, apply the rust converter and than mach the gutter color with some corrosion resistant paint.
- Rain Gutter Guards / Screens
Gutter guards and screens help to lower the amount of maintenance the gutters require. There are several different types of gutter guards, so do some research before you spend money. I personally recommend plastic guards, which I installed on my own gutters several years ago.
They have round holes on the surface and a fine screen / micro mash on top of it. This prevents debris falling off the trees from contaminating the gutter. Anything that accumulates on top of the screen will be eventually washed off by the rain or blown off the surface with the wind.
There’s another version of this guard without the screen, it is slightly cheaper but allows smaller leaves and debris to penetrate and eventually clog the gutter.
Another thing to consider is the gutter guard color – this particular type comes in white and brown, at least in my local home improvement stores.
Why is the gutter screen / guard color important – if your roof receives a lot of sun, brown gutter guards made out of plastic will absorb lots of heat and start bending and changing its dimensions over time. This is what happened on my roof and resulted in significant gaps between individual sections… and more maintenance.
So, a white gutter guard (plastic) will perform better, and if you could get a similar product in long sections to avoid seams, your gutters will be almost maintenance free.
- Rain Gutter Strainers Maintenance
Gutter strainers are installed inside or on top of the gutter outlet, in most cases partially inserted into the downspout. They prevent leafs and debris from clogging your downspouts and work fine for as long as you maintain them on regular basis. Leafs and debris that start accumulating around the strainer will eventually block it completely, and cause the gutter to overflow.
I highly recommend using rain gutter strainer if your downspout discharges into an underground drain and if there are any trees in the vicinity of your property – just remember to clean it periodically!
However, if you have no trees at / and / or around your property, the rain gutter strainer is not necessary. Small debris carried by wind will simply flow down the downspout without accumulating around the strainer, and saving you some rain gutter maintenance time.