Leaking Rain Gutters
If your gutters are leaking, the prime suspects are the joints between sections. Standing water in gutters eventually will rust galvanized steel seams or seep through the seams in aluminum gutters.
First check for signs of standing water and sagging. Adjust or add gutter hangers as needed. Allow the insides of the gutters to dry out, brush leaking seams clean, and then apply silicone-rubber caulking compound along the seams on the inside and outside to seal the leaks, as shown at right.
Patch small holes with roofing cement. Use a putty knife to spread the cement generously around the hole. Try to do this on a warm day, but, if the weather is cool, warm the cement to room temperature so it spreads easily.
Repair larger holes in gutters by covering them with patches. Take a sheet-metal patch, embed it in roofing cement, and then apply another coat of cement over the patch, as shown at left.
If your region delivers abundant rainfall, you may want to have your downspout run into a dry well. The well should be a hole 2 to 4 feet wide and 3 feet deep, or a 55-gallon drum—with both ends removed and filled with rocks—that you’ve buried and punctured with holes. Underground drainage pipes should slope to the dry well, which will keep water away from the house’s foundation. Check your local building codes before installing.
Overflowing Rain Gutters
Gutters that overflow can present serious problems to your home’s walls and foundation. If your gutters overflow during a heavy rain, either the gutters and/or downspouts are clogged, the gutters are sagging and thereby preventing water from reaching the downspouts, or the gutters and downspouts are not large enough to handle the volume of rain runoff.
In most cases, gutters overflow because leaves and debris are clogging them, essentially creating dams that prevent water from flowing to the outlets above the downspouts. In fact, these clogs often occur right at the outlets. When this is the case, it’s time to clean out the gutters. (For more about this, see Rain Gutter Cleaning & Maintenance.)
Gutters that sag are a different issue—and the more they fill up with water, the more likely they are to sag because they become so heavy when full. If the gutters overflow but are not sagging or clogged, you will probably need to install new, larger downspouts and gutters.
Sagging Rain Gutters
When full of water, rain gutters can become extremely heavy. As a result, the types made of flexible materials such as aluminum, vinyl, and galvanized steel can begin to bend and sag and their hangers to loosen. As this happens, they cease to do a good job of draining rainwater efficiently, allowing water to pool along their lengths. This, of course, just exacerbates the problem, making them heavier and causing them to sag even more.
©Don Vandervort, HomeTips
To determine if your rain gutters sag, check for signs of standing water or water marks along the inner sides of the gutters. With a level, check the slope—gutters should drop about 1/4 inch for every 10 feet of run toward the downspouts.
To fix them, you may need to replace the hangers or, at the very least, re-seat them. If the gutters are held by spike-and-ferrule hangers, use a hammer to drive the long spike, making sure it goes into solid wood. If it does not grab securely, you may need to replace it with an even longer galvanized nail or, better yet, a long screw.
Downspouts may break loose from the gutter outlet or between sections. This often happens when elbows in the sections become clogged with debris.
Take the sections apart and clean out the debris. Then, to refasten them, push the downspout sections and/or elbows together, drill pilot holes if necessary, and fasten them with two 3/8-inch #8 galvanized sheet metal screws. (Don’t use longer screws because debris will hang on them.) Be sure the anchor straps that hold the downspouts to the wall are secure.
Fasten the top downspout to the S-curve outlet with one or two screws at each joint for easy removal for regular cleaning.
1. Clogs. Your gutters themselves could be perfect — but if there are too many leaves and twigs inside them, water will still leak over the sides. Debris from trees, wind, and animals can block the flow of runoff water to the downspouts.
Cleaning out your gutters is a simple (although time-consuming) fix. But if you truly loathe gutter cleaning, hire a professional, or invest in a gutter protection system.
2. Loose fasteners. Whether your gutter is fastened to your roof with hangers, screws, or nails, these can sometimes work themselves loose. As a result, the runoff water can flow over the rear edge of your gutters, and damage your fascia boards in the process.
Therefore, you must get up on a ladder and re-fasten the gutters to the roofline, preferably with a stronger fastener (or two). But if your fascia boards are already rotted, you’ll need to replace those, because the gutters won’t stay attached to deteriorating wood.
3. Holes. These often form after several years of use. Tiny amounts of water can pool in a certain part of a gutter section and cause corrosion over time. Sometimes, it’s enough to create a hole in the gutters themselves.
In most cases, holes can be filled with a caulk or waterproof sealant (though be sure to clean the area around the hole before sealing it). If the hole is large, you should probably just replace the entire gutter section.
4. Cracks. The same process which leads to holes causes cracks, but these tend to occur at places in which fasteners pass through the metal or where gutter sections are joined together. These locations are especially vulnerable to water or debris accumulation, and they can sometimes separate from each other completely.
Small cracks can be fixed with sealant or caulk, but larger separations may require more work. In these latter cases, it’s a good idea to reattach the gutter parts at the separated seam and re-fasten them to prevent future separations.
5. Improper slope. Over time, the changes in temperatures and the weight of water and debris could cause gutters to sag at certain spots. When this happens, the natural slope which channels the runoff water toward the downspouts disappears — and the water simply overflows the sides of the guttering.
Unfortunately, this issue usually requires re-hanging some or all of the gutter sections to achieve the proper slope (between 1/4 and 1/2 of an inch per 10 feet of guttering). You may need to snap a chalk line on the fascia boards in order to outline the appropriate slope before the gutters are hung up again.
6. Joint separations. One of the weakest points of a gutter system is the joints where water must bend around a corner before continuing toward a downspout. These joints are prone to collecting water and debris, which can lead to any of the above mentioned leaks.