Rain gutters can be invaluable for protecting your house, because they direct potentially damaging moisture away from your foundation. A properly installed set can last decades. However, gutters need regular upkeep to function properly. If you’re not sure whether or not your gutters are still in good shape, some signs can make it clear if your gutter system is in need of repair. Knowing what to look for can help you address small problems before they become large ones.
#1: Cracks, holes, and leaking joints are all problems that should be addressed quickly. Holes and cracks tend to enlarge over time, and of course any leak in the system will allow water to flow where you don’t want it. However, if you have a large number of cracks or holes, your gutters may need more extensive repairs or replacement of the affected sections.
#2: Gutters that sag or that pull away from the house are also a red flag that repair is necessary. Sagging is caused over time by water standing in the gutters rather than flowing as it’s intended to, most often because clogs have obstructed one or more downspouts. The weight of the backed-up water makes the gutters sag, creating low spots where water will pool. Similarly, gutters that are full of water can weaken the hangers that attach the gutter to your home, making them pull away from the fascia. This type of problem will get worse over time if it’s ignored.
#3: Overflowing gutters can be a symptom of a few possible problems. The most obvious cause is a clog in a downspout. However, overflow can also occur in sagging sections of gutter, where the gutter no longer slopes correctly to direct water to the downspout, or it can be an indicator that the existing gutter doesn’t have a large enough capacity to handle the volume of rain coming off of your roof.
#4: Peeling paint on your gutters (or depending on the material your gutters are made of, spots of rust) can be a sign that water is standing in your gutters for long periods of time, another problem that arises when gutters are not properly sloped toward the downspouts. Peeling paint on your exterior walls, by contrast, more likely indicates that water is seeping between the gutters and your house, which can cause damage to the walls, the roof, and the fascia boards.
#5: Water pooling around your house is another sign that your gutter system is not working as intended. This problem can be caused by downspouts that do not effectively route water away from your foundation, as well as by water overflowing the gutters or seeping between the gutters and the house. Over time, excess moisture around your home can lead to leaks or flooding in your crawl space or basement, or can cause mold growth.
Make sure you clean your gutters or have them cleaned at least once a year—more often if they tend to accumulate a lot of leaves and debris. The best time to evaluate your rain gutters is before it starts raining, so pick a nice sunny day to look your system over. By knowing what to look for, you can keep your gutters working well and your foundation nice and dry for years to come.