The futile business of cleaning gutters.

As long as people insist on not installing gutter-guard systems on their homes, the gutters will insist on regular maintenance—and even then will still require some maintenance.

So what does “regular maintenance” look like?  Certainly not like the following picture.

The amount of maintenance necessary will depend on lots of factors.  The types of vegetation present that will fill the gutters, how long it takes for this to happen and seasonal loading for some kinds of vegetation around the home—and of course kids and dogs.

Kids and Dogs?

It is amazing the kinds of stuff I find on roofs and in gutters related to either being tossed by kids or from things being tossed for dogs to chase.  Hopefully nobody really expected the dog to get up on the roof.  I was actually surprised in the picture above that the ball apparently did not float out of the way.

While some dams might be constructed of bricks they should not be used to dam up gutters.

In some cases cleaning might be required every month—for some homes once a year might be enough.  I know that if I had to clean mine every month I would be thinking really hard about installing a gutter guard system.

As you can see in the following pictures it does not take very much debris to completely dam up a gutter.

Overflowing gutters defeats the purpose of the gutters—which is to collect it, send it down the downspouts where it can be directed away from the foundation (either above ground or below ground).

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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The latest in urban gardens?

Probably not.

gutter-garden

It is also not a picture of the one cloudless day in Seattle this past summer either. This is a gutter on a building with a very steep roof and very high gutters. These are rather dangerous gutters to maintain clean and free of debris–and probably nothing the average homeowner should attempt to clean.

To give you an idea of just how high these gutters are, here is a picture of the adjacent, identical building I inspected just the roof on (the original inspector didn’t have a ladder long enough–and I am still crazy enough to have such a ladder. The ladder is not quite fully extended here–but pretty close.

gutter-garden2

I think one could make a good case for gutter guards on difficult to maintain gutters like these. I have never seen issues with either Gutter Helmet or LeafGuard type systems–unlike those micro-filter, sponge, or grate type covers that typically clog and allow water to just run right on by and over the gutter. For me if I can walk around a home with these types of systems and not see impact trenches around the home where the water is running over the gutters, I take that to be a sign that they are working as designed.

Of course any type of gutter maintenance system can have problems–including falling off ladders and/or roofs while cleaning the dang things.  One fall off a ladder can easily pay for an expensive gutter guard system.

Every year, thousands of people are injured and some are even killed while cleaning gutters.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Gutter talk

gutter_talk1While having one’s mind in the gutter can be entertaining and exciting, when it is about the gutters on one’s home it is usually anything but entertaining or exciting.  Of course if that is your particular “thing” I will do my best to understand.

There are those that would say that gutters on homes are part of the problem–as opposed to a solution to anything.  In climates with lots of snow, people claim that the weight of heavy snow and ice will just rip them off the home.  There are ways to deal with that problem, but I will let that be fodder for another post.

Gutters can be a maintenance nightmare.  Annually thousands of people are injured or killed falling off ladders and roofs trying to keep the gutters free of debris.  There are some more-or-less successful ways to deal with that problem too but that also is perhaps best left to another post.  For now, suffice it to say that every leaf-guard system on the market will tell you why their system is the best.  As an inspector I can tell you that some are clearly better than others–and all have their issues.  Most work better than nothing.

The reality is that water pounding on the ground around homes can result in damage to siding and result in erosion of the ground around the home and even affect foundation stability in some types of soils.

In Washington State “missing” gutters are even considered a condition conducive to wood destroying organisms, and something that Licensed Structural Pest Inspectors will include in a any report regarding wood destroying organisms and conditions conducive to wood destroying organisms noted around the home.  I placed the word “missing” in quotes because there are in fact no codes “requiring” the installation of gutters. As we know, the codes are a minimum standard and the Washington State Department of Agriculture (that regulates Structural Pest Inspectors) recognizes missing gutters as a conducive condition.  This is what gives  Washington State Home Inspectors the mandate to call them “missing” when they are not present.

I personally agree with the State of Washington as I often find problems in homes with improper gutters, missing gutters and improperly terminated downspouts.

On a recent inspection I found this gutter that was poorly attached to the eave of the roof.  This creates a low spot in the gutter which then fills with water.  This causes the gutter to sag even more.  It fills with more water until the weight of the water spills over the edge like a side-dump truck creating a torrent of water on the ground below.
gutter_talk2
The impact marks on the ground are obvious and the eroding soils in this case flow around the end of the building where all the siding close to the ground is buried by the river of dirt.
gutter_talk3
Installing gutters is important but maintaining them in good working condition is perhaps just as important.  Otherwise it may be worse than none at all.

Now we can all get our minds out of the gutter.

 

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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