Inspect and clean rain gutters two times a year: before the beginning of winter and again after spring. Homes in a heavily wooded area, or surrounded by overhanging trees, will need more frequent cleaning. Rain gutter repair isn’t difficult, but it’s important to inspect them regularly to avoid damage during rainy seasons.
Leaves, twigs, and seedpods are the most common culprits to clogged gutters and downspouts. If leaves and organic matter are allowed to build up, rainwater has nowhere to go during storms and showers. Rainwater cascades over the top of clogged gutters, washing away top soil and damaging plants below. Standing water in the gutters causes frequent wetting and drying of the fascia boards. In time, this will rot the fascia behind the gutters.
1. How to get started.
A ladder will be needed to reach the rain gutters. Set the ladder in a safe position and, with a putty knife or scraper, clean out the gutter as far as possible; about two feet left and right. Push the leaves away from the downspouts. Don’t attempt to lean out further than your normal reach. Descend and move the ladder—it’s much quicker to reposition the ladder than a trip to the emergency room.
Clogged downspouts will need a plumbers snake to clear the blockage. Flush them out with a garden hose. Adding leaf strainers over the downspout openings will reduce the chances of clogs next season.
2. Sagging gutters and leaks
Gutters that sag present a dripping problem. Gutters should be pitched or slanted toward the downspouts. A common pitch angle will be 1/16” for every running foot of the rain gutter. Frequently a long gutter of 35 feet or more will be slanted toward two downspouts (one downspout at each end, with a high spot in the middle). It is easy to check the slant with a three-foot or longer carpenter’s level or use a small torpedo level taped to a longer board. Or, pour a bucket of water into the rain gutter and watch the water flow to check the pitch angle. Small adjustments to the gutter pitch can sometimes be corrected by bending the hanger support straps.
Examine the gutter hangers to make certain they are secure. Add additional hangers as needed. Determine which style hanger you have before going to the hardware store. Typically, there are three styles of gutter hangers:
• Sleeve and spike hangers; fits within the gutter with a spike driven into the roof board
• Bracket hangers; bracket is nailed or screwed to the fascia board just below the roof
• Strap hangers; strap is nailed to the roof under the shingles.
Loose joints can be sealed with any good exterior calk or black asphalt roof cement.
Most modern rain gutters are aluminum or vinyl. If the gutters are old and there is rust, it should be removed by sanding with emery cloth, or a drill motor fitted with a wire wheel. Thoroughly clean the rusted areas and prime with a good outdoor primer. Allow the primer to completely dry. Then cover with weather resistant paint.
Replace any loose or missing rivets on downspouts. Loose rivets should be drilled out and replaced. Check to see the downspouts are still firmly attached to the exterior wall and tighten as needed.
Downspouts should empty onto a splash block large enough and high enough to move the water away from the foundation of the house. Inspect the splash blocks to make certain they are not cracked or broken. Splash blocks will protect your house from water damage around the foundation, basement and crawl space.
3. Quick repair tips
• Wear gloves, metal gutter ends are sharp
• Using several widths of putty knives will make the chore go faster
• If using calk, buy the style tube that fits a calk gun
• A carpenter’s apron will give you enough pockets to carry all your tools
• Downspout leaf strainers and leaf gutter guards will reduce the debris in the future
Powered drill motor
Steel brush or wire wheel
Carpenter’s level; 3 foot
Silicone calk or roof cement
Exterior primer, paint and paintbrush, if needed