When you think about investing in your home’s value, your gutters are probably not the first thing that comes to mind. After all, they are made to blend into the look of your home and not be too noticeable. We do our best to NOT think about gutters!
But they provide an incredibly important role in protecting your home. The number one job of your gutters is to move water away from your home. Because it’s pretty easy to agree that water leaking into your home is not a good thing.
The job of your gutters is simple, but there are also a lot of factors that can get in the way. Not only must they catch water flowing off your roof, they must also hold the water, direct the flow to the downspouts, and also remain clear of blockages like pieces of shingle and asphalt, twigs, leaves, seeds, and even bird nests. Your roof might be more susceptible to some of these issues than others, depending on the climate in your area, as well as what trees are in your yard, the pitch of your roof, and the material your roof is made of. That means there is no “one size fits all” gutter system that is best. The best option for your home will depend on your unique situation.
What’s Wrong with the Gutters at the Hardware Store?
You can pick up some very affordable vinyl gutters at the hardware store. But you may end up paying for them several times over. These gutters are just not very high quality and tend to leak, sag, and even fail under pressure. A heavy rain or snow event is when your home needs maximum protection. Seeing your gutter collapse in the middle of a heavy spring rain is a very scary feeling. It’s important that you can place confidence in your gutters so you know the rest of your home - especially the expensive parts like your roof or your foundation - is safe.
What Kind of Gutters do I Need?
Seamless vs. Regular Gutters
Seamless gutters come in single pieces that are custom fitted to the correct length for every side of your home. Traditional or regular gutters on the other hand, come in sections that are pre-cut in 10 or 20 foot segments. Then when mounted on your home, the segments are joined with couplings and sealed at the joint.
Seamless gutters do tend to cost more, but there are many advantages to seamless gutters. Seamless gutters are stronger than regular gutters. The only seams are at the corners of your home which means that there are fewer places where leaks can develop. Because there are no seams, it is also less likely that your gutters will become clogged from leaves or debris becoming caught on the seam.
Whether you choose seamless or traditional gutters, you’ll have several options for material. Traditional gutters come in vinyl, steel, copper, and aluminum materials.
Vinyl is the lowest cost option and is popular due to its ease to install and since it isn’t metal - it won’t rust. Durability is the biggest problem with vinyl gutters (really, with vinyl anything). Vinyl is very susceptible to cracking and changing shape when exposed to the heat or cold or any intense weather - as gutters are on a daily basis in Kansas.
The strongest material for your gutters is steel. This keeps your home most protected from snow and heavy rain. Steel does have the potential to rust, but opting for stainless steel options removes this potential and makes your gutters pretty much indestructible.. Gutters made of aluminum or copper won’t rust, but are not as strong as steel.
Potential Problems to Watch for on your Gutters
The most likely cause of this is either weak attachment to your home or a blockage in your gutter causing excess water weight to be held in the gutter. Weak attachment can occur if brackets come loose or begin to rust and detach. Blockages in your gutters can be caused by leaves, dirt, asphalt grit, or seeds becoming trapped in your gutter. This can happen when animals build nests in your gutters or if too much debris catches on a seam.
Regardless of the cause, sagging gutters should be given high priority in your home maintenance as they can cause many other problems such as water damaging your siding or foundation. If the sagging is caused from weight, at some point the gutter will likely break and can damage your roof, siding, and potentially windows when it falls.
Clogged gutters may occur for a number of reasons. You may have a lot of trees in your yard that drop leaves and seeds into the gutters in spring and fall, causing blockage. Or perhaps your seams allow debris to get caught. Bird and rodent nests could be a culprit as well. Cleaning your gutters regularly is an easy solution, though definitely time consuming.
For those who are looking for maintenance free options, gutter guards paired with seamless gutters can significantly decrease and even eliminate the need for gutter maintenance.
Gutter guards can help you save time by not needing to exert effort in cleaning your gutters - a task that can be especially tedious in the fall, or if you have a multi-story home. They also bring a great level of protection to your home. Even if you have been meaning to clean the gutters, an unexpected rain or storm can cause great damage to your home if your gutters were not prepared properly. A scenario like this could cause water damage to your roof, walls, siding, foundation, or your lawn and landscape. Another, less thought of protection gutter guards provide is protection to your health. Climbing tall ladders is a risk, and may be a greater risk depending on a person’s physical ability. Gutter protection systems can keep you from spending time on a ladder unnecessarily.
Broken Seams or Downspouts
These may be the easiest to notice, especially when we get a lot of moisture. You’ll be able to find them because there will often be water leaking from the area, straight down, instead of being directed to a downspout and away from your home. If a seam breaks it will need to be repaired and re-sealed. These areas will become places to continue to watch as they may then cause blockages where there is more resistance to water around the repair.
Incomplete or Poorly Installed Gutter Systems
Though these are becoming less common, it is easy to miss when you purchase a home. Some homes only have gutters on the front half of the home or may be pitched incorrectly, causing rain collecting from the roof to overshoot (or undershoot) the guttering entirely. Another problem we see is gutters that aren’t adequate to handle increased water in specific areas, such as near a dormer. Downspouts that aren’t well positioned or aren’t in a good spot can also cause issues with moving water away from your home.
Home Damage from Gutter Failure
Any of these issues can cause gutter overflow or even failure which will be very damaging to siding and foundations. Water pouring or dripping from your gutters down the siding will cause discolorations. Water from overflowing can create pockets of water that slowly erode your home’s foundation, create cracking, and can cause mold, or worse, flooding.
Without proper gutter protection, water can seep under soffits and eaves creating rot in the wood which can lead to water damage in all sorts of places - like interior walls, ceilings, a cracked foundation, and exterior siding and paint. Add in temperature fluctuation as we have in Kansas to this and the situation can become dire before you ever notice anything than a dripping gutter. The freezing weather worsens moisture problems through additional selling which can affect any aspect of your home including joists and wall frames.
Investing in Seamless Gutters for your Home
When it comes down to it, you don’t need seamless gutters. But they do make life much easier. Seamless gutters, especially when paired with gutter guards, remove the need to clean your gutters and closely inspect them on a frequent basis. They are much less likely to clog, overflow, sag, or fail, especially when put to the test in extreme weather conditions like we are exposed to in Kansas.
If you live in the Midwest or are up against those harsh winter months, the last thing you want to think about is going outside to work on home repairs. Just like for any major weather events, it’s better to be prepared. Preparing your home with the tools it needs the same way you would prepare your car or wardrobe for a snowstorm is just smart home ownership.
Learn more about gutter maintenance: