What if gutters were installed on every single-family home that was ever built? Well, I suggest that things would be different in many ways…at least insofar as homes, the owners of those homes, and the owners wallets are concerned.
Most people don’t give much though to gutters. As a Raleigh Home Inspector and the owner of a Raleigh Home Inspection firm in North Carolina, I give thought to them most every day. Either there are gutters installed on a home or there aren’t…It’s one of the very first observations I make when I arrive at a property to perform a Home Inspection. And here’s the thing…in the vast majority of instances where there are no gutters installed to control all that roof run-off water, the home exhibits some deficiency or deterioration as a direct result. Why is that?
When no gutters are installed, then all of that wonderful, beautiful, life-giving substance that we know to be water falls onto the roof, runs off of the roof, and is deposited immediately onto the ground next to the foundation…or onto other surfaces such as patios or driveways. This is where the troubles begin.
Too much water adjacent to a foundation can have potentially disastrous results. Uncontrolled grade and roof run-off water can make its way into crawl spaces and that excessive moisture can lead directly to decay of wood structural components like floor joists and support beams. It can also lead directly to conditions that are conducive to the growth of fungal growth…mold and mildew and other such nasty undesirables that can, and often are, associated with health issues.
And the adverse effect of water on buildings isn’t limited to those home constructed on crawl space foundations. Homes constructed on basements are especially vulnerable…in the first place, who wants a wet basement? But excess water on the exterior side of a basement foundation wall can be more than simply annoying or uncomfortable…it can lead to serious structural issues as well. When the soil is constantly wet immediately next to the foundation, that wet soil can exert tremendous inward force against the structure as a result of a phenomenon called hydrostatic pressure where the wet soil presses against the exterior of the foundation and dramatically increases the associated lateral loads, or force, applied to the wall. Resulting structural failure can be very technically challenging, and very expensive, to repair. Roof run-off water that splashes onto walkways, driveways, and porches is yet another common problem. That water often splashes up onto the building and causes the decay of wood doors, door trim, siding, and other such components.
Homes constructed using the concrete slab-on-grade methodology aren’t immune either…although the effects of all that water around a slab foundation might not be readily apparent and may not become obvious for some time to come.
One very simple, and relatively inexpensive way to prevent the possibility of these types of issues is to install a gutter system to control the roof run-off water and discharge that water well away from the foundation. I have found that seamless aluminum gutters are the most effective because…(drum roll, please)…they don’t have any seams that can leak. Properly sized seamless gutters, combined with properly sized and extended downspouts, or splash blocks placed on the soil with a positive drainage slope (so the water runs away from the building rather than toward it), will allow for adequate control of the roof run-off water and preclude that water from damaging a home.
Of course, as with most things, there are other related considerations. First, those wonderful gutters that are doing such a magnificent job of protecting your home…they’re going to have to be routinely maintained and kept clear of debris such as leaves and the like. Because in my professional experience, having evaluated many, many thousands of homes, the only thing worse that a home with no gutters installed…is a home with a clogged or failing gutter system installed. Gutters and downspouts that are allowed to become clogged are just as potentially damaging as having none at all. Most gutters are going to overflow during periods of very heavy rainfall…but gutters and downspouts that are allowed to become clogged will overflow during even minimal or moderate rainfall. And that water can damage other wood components like fascia and soffit at the eaves around the home…and that’s while it’s on the way to the ground where it can be detrimental in the ways previously mentioned.
So simple and inexpensive is the installation of gutters and downspouts that I suggest they should be required components for every home ever built. I have often heard home builders say “We don’t use gutters because they look ugly!”. Personally, I’ve never seen a gutter or a downspout that is more ugly than a wet, nasty crawl space…or a rotten piece of wood…or an expensive door that is so rotten it needs to be replaced. And I should point out that most conscientious builders of quality homes do, indeed, install gutter systems on their homes because…(another drum roll, please)…it makes good common sense!
If there aren’t any gutters installed on your valuable home….then I urge you to have them installed by an appropriate professional. If gutters are installed, then go out and give em’ a good look and make sure they are clear of debris and in good working order.
In summary, an effective gutter system, consisting of seamless gutters and extended downspouts that discharge roof run-off water well away from the foundation, is such a positive aspect of a “healthy” home, that it just simply should not be over-looked. It is exceptionally valuable insurance against expensive repairs as a result of water damage. And they’re relatively inexpensive, too. Who doesn’t like that?