9 Gutter Fails that are Slowly Killing Your House

Missing Gutters on a House
Missing Gutters on a House

These FAILS are all from my home inspection reports,  Many of these situations look harmless from the outside but in at least one example in every Fail the related damages in the finished walls, basements and crawl spaces caused the buyers to back out, In most cases the sellers lowered the asking price, sometimes by tens of thousands of dollars.  All of these issues could have been prevented for cents on the dollar.   If you are buying, selling or maintaining please read on and if your home is within 40 miles of Asheville consider calling us for an inspection.

FAIL #9: Splash blocks, perforated drain pipes and other fails:  
Run-off should be directed at least 6 feet away from the house and splash blocks are inadequate for this purpose.  An exception might be at a concrete or asphalt patios/driveways that are well-sloped away from the house.  Downspout drain pipes should slope downhill and away from the house.  The downspout drain pipes should not have any holes in it.  The perforated types are for French drains only.

FAIL #8: Leaking gutter corners and seams: 
Drip, drip, drip- it’s water torture for your trim, siding and house foundation.  All the seams, corners and end caps should be re-caulked or re-sprayed every 3 years.

FAIL # 7: Leaking downspout elbows and connections:
This subtle leak caused major framing damage in the crawl space- water entered between the siding and brick and down the wall. The lower section of the downspout should always be larger than the upper section.  There may be leaks at the fasteners and seams. Check for corroded sections- especially with older copper downspouts.  Clogged gutters and downspouts make these leaks worse.

FAIL # 6: Clogged sub-surface drains:
Sometimes all that can be seen is some erosion near the downspout.  When the sub-surface drains clog the run-off typically overflows at the foundation areas.  Because this can be difficult to see, the damages can be catastrophic over the years.  Homeowners can test their downspouts drains by slipping a garden hose into them at full pressure for up to 5 minutes- try to find where the drain exits.  The water should not overflow.  Clogged black corrugated drains usually cannot be fixed or snaked- I’m seeing they have an 8 to 15 year life expectancy which is not good.  I recommend upgrading with PVC pipes that do not easily break, clog or compress and they can be snaked– these are lifetime products and well worth the minimal extra material and labor cost.

FAIL # 5: Missing splashguards at roof valleys
A lot of water collects a the roof valleys and heads toward the gutters at high volume and high speed.  Splashguards help to prevent overflow and directs the water back into the gutters.  The photo above was taken of a house with an expensive roof and gutter system.  Overflow at the valley caused major structural damages to the main level and finished basement.

FAIL # 4: Missing, damaged, mis-aligned, and disconnected downspout drains
Any one of these is bad bad BAD for your foundation!  I find these at almost every house I inspect.  A little prevention goes a long way with roof drainage.  Sometimes these fails can be very subtle or hidden by shrubs– inspect these connections carefully.

FAIL # 3: Gutters, gutters, gutters!!
Trees over or near a house often create maintenance issues for the gutter system.  Arborists should be hired for regularly trimming at houses with trees in close proximity.  Old asphalt roofs shed granules which can also clog gutters.  Clogged gutters overflow and damage the siding, trim, and foundation areas.   Gutters should be cleaned in the Spring and Fall, sometimes more than once a season depending on the conditions.  Check out this excellent article on gutter guards by Tim Carter:  https://www.askthebuilder.com/gutter-protection-vs-gutter-cleaning-cost-analysis/
In most cases gutter installation is an art best left to the professionals.  Gutters should slope adequately toward the downspouts but not too much or they will overflow.  Special flashing is required where gutters terminate at walls and the gutter should always be spaced 1″ from the siding.  Loose gutters will allow water to damage the trim and framing behind the gutters.

FAIL # 2: Defective rain catchment systems
There are a lot of DIY and amateurish rain barrel systems out there.  I am seeing that over 90% of them are creating big issues for the homeowners.  Usually they don’t have a very good overflow system (what happens to the water when the barrel fills?).  In the example in the photo the finished room at the other side of this barrel needed to be fully gutted.

FAIL # 1: Missing gutters and downspouts
Even small sections of roofs without gutters can cause oversized damage to the home. Gutters and downspouts are really inexpensive compared to the damages that improperly managed roof drainage can create.

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