Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
Several years after installation, your gutters might appear like they’re leaking. While the problem might not seem significant at first, it can easily escalate to costly repairs if left unaddressed. Leaking gutters can signify various underlying issues, and the first step in diagnosing the problem is familiarizing yourself with what might be causing it.
Gutters commonly leak due to the following reasons:
- Clogs in the gutter system.
- Holes and cracks on the gutters.
- Loose gutter fasteners.
- Improperly sealed gutter joints.
- Improper slope.
- Old age.
Read on to find out how the above problems may cause leaking on gutters and how to address each.
1. Clogs in the Gutter System
Clogs are arguably the most common cause of leaky gutters. If you don’t make a habit of cleaning your gutters regularly, they’ll fill up fast with debris, causing water to drip off them.
Fortunately, you can spot clogged gutters quickly and take action.
When your gutters are clogged, you’ll notice water pouring out on the sides and edges instead of the usual downspout. If that’s the case, all you need to do is get rid of the debris using your hands.
Sometimes, clogs will form in the downspout, so be sure to check that part of your gutter system, too. If it’s clogged, disconnect it from the gutter to clean it properly. Involve a professional if you don’t know how to disconnect the downspout or simply don’t want to get your hands dirty.
2. Holes and Cracks on the Gutters
Regardless of the material you’ve used, your gutters might end up getting cracks and holes due to harsh weather. If these develop, the first thing you’ll notice is leaking on your gutters.
You need to act fast on cracks and holes because all it takes is a few months for them to become more prominent, requiring more expensive repairs. As a general rule, you should inspect your gutters for these problems twice or thrice a year. If you notice small leaks in your gutters, try pouring water so that you can identify the exact location of the hole.
Fixing small holes and cracks on gutters isn’t difficult. You only need to apply a suitable waterproof sealant to the holes. However, the sealant might not work when the holes and cracks are big. In such a case, you’ll have to replace the entire affected gutter section.
3. Loose Gutter Fasteners
Loose gutter fasteners can cause all kinds of roof problems, and among these are making your gutters leak and sag.
Gutters are usually fixed to the roof fascia board using nails, screws, and or hangers. These nails are driven straight from one side of the gutter into the board. When the screws or nails become loose, they cause small drips (AKA, leaking) around the fasteners.
More often than not, the only way to deal with loose fasteners is to replace them. But if your fasteners are still in good condition, you can get away with only tightening them and applying a sealant.
If the gutter leaking has something to do with the fasteners, you need to act fast. If you don’t, the fascia boards will soon start to rot, potentially forcing you to replace them and re-hung your gutters.
4. Improperly Sealed Gutter Joints
The joints connecting your gutters start to separate after several years, potentially causing leaks on your gutters. So if your gutters keep leaking and none of the above causes seem to be the culprit, you might want to inspect the joints.
In most cases, you’ll easily see the separation. But in some instances, you might need to pour some water into the gutter to identify the separated joints. Do whatever it takes to find the separation.
The only way to address the separation is to remove the old sealant and replace it. If replacing the sealant doesn’t cut it, you’ll have to get a new joint.
5. Improper Slope
Typically, roofing technicians ensure that gutters slope downwards during the installation process to allow water from the roof to flow to the downspouts. If this slope gets compromised, you may notice leaking in your gutter.
One of the factors that can compromise gutters’ slope is sagging. Sagging often occurs due to the weight of the water and the loosening of fasteners with continued use.
Fixing a faulty slope isn’t always easy, so you might want to involve a roofing technician. They’ll inspect the affected gutters to ensure that they have an adequate slope to handle heavy downpours without sagging, as well as the fasteners to determine if they need to be replaced. Depending on their findings, the technician might recommend re-hanging the entire gutter.
6. Old Age
According to the National Association of Homebuilders, an ordinary gutter system should last 30 years. So if your leaking gutters are older than or close to that limit, it might be a sign that they’ve come to the end of their service life.
As you might have guessed, the only way to handle leaking caused by old age is to replace the affected gutter system. As you shop for new gutters, be sure to strike a balance between affordability and quality. Although it’s essential to consider your budget, the material you choose should offer your property high-quality protection and long-term results.
Aluminum is the standard choice for both seamless and seamed gutters. It’s weather-resistant, holds paint well, and doesn’t corrode easily. However, it doesn’t have the same structural strength as the likes of steel. Speaking of steel gutters, these have better structural integrity than aluminum, but rust remains their Achilles heel.
Vinyl is the best option for tight budgets, but keep in mind that it’s more prone to warping. It also doesn’t hold paint well and tends to get brittle and eventually crack in extreme cold. In short, vinyl is cheap, and you get what you pay for in terms of durability.
Zinc is, in my opinion, better than both vinyl and aluminum, but also the most expensive of the three. Steel is a strong runner-up in terms of affordability, durability, and structural integrity, but only the stainless kind. Your choice!
- Slavin: 5 Key Reasons You Need Rain Gutters
- Bob Villa: How to Clean Gutters: 5 Effective Ways to Get the Job Done
- Loctite: How To Fix Gutters With Sealants
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