If rainfall is dripping along the edge of your house it's time to get out the ladder — even the cleanest gutters and drains sometimes need repairs, and some problems require that gutters be replaced.
Leaking gutters can present serious problems for the rest of the house. Leaks can allow water to get into the fascia and plywood and destroy an overhang. Water running down the side of your house can get in cracks and around windows. And if the water is not draining away properly it can cause problems for the foundation.
Problems often begin with a "leaking corner," says Britt Parsons, owner of Britt Gutters in Medford. He begins his inspections by looking for improperly installed gutters that are too short to allow for expansion and contraction.
Rust is also a culprit. Rusted gutters and all but the smallest leaks or cracks often call for replacement of the gutters. Attempts to seal them are often short-lived. And homeowners who go to the local hardware store and buy 10-foot sections of plastic pipe to replace their gutters are likely to be disappointed. Seams are "almost guaranteed to leak," Parsons says. He recommends continuous or seamless aluminum gutters, which will not rust.
From the gutter, water flows into a downspout and to a drainline that should be taking it away from your house. If you have water under your house or a soggy area in your yard, check your downspouts and drain lines to make sure they are not clogged. Parsons says even after using a plumber's snake, he usually must disassemble the downspout, unclog it, and put it back together.
If you need to replace the drains, make sure to use the right type. Hard plastic pipe is easier to clean out with a rotor-rooter or plumber's snake. It's also easy to cut and repair with PVC fittings and the correct glue. Before replacing the drain line check your local municipal codes. Some locations require particular types and strengths of pipe.
A common mistake DIY homeowners make is choosing the wrong material for the drain line away from the house. "Don't use a French drain," says Todd Munroe, owner of A-1 Quality Gutter Service in Medford. He's seen homeowners use them and put the holes on the top. A French drain is for dispersing water into the landscape and a solid pipe is used to take the water away from your house, he says.
Corrugated flexible black plastic drain line is another no-no. "It's very cheap and very thin," says Jon Hagel, owner of Rogue Valley Gutters. Tree roots can easily penetrate it and it's not strong enough to withstand the weight of a car. Once crushed or penetrated by tree roots, it must be dug up and completely replaced. If the drain is installed under a driveway, Hagel uses schedule 40 ABS pipe.
If you hire a professional to replace your gutters, downspouts or drains, make sure they are licensed, bonded, and carry worker's compensation insurance for all of their workers if someone should get hurt. "This is hugely overlooked," says Munroe and "cannot be stressed enough," notes Parsons. It's potentially dangerous work and homeowners can be liable for thousands of dollars if someone falls or gets hurt. Attempting to save money by using a friend or helping out the neighbor's son may backfire and cost you much more in the long run.
Easily overlooked, gutters are one of your home's important systems. In this case, prevention is easily the best alternative.