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How Do Gutters Work and Why Are They Necessary?

The vast majority of houses have rain gutters, but many people don’t think too much about them. Because of this lack of attention, it’s easy to mistakenly ignore them if they become clogged or damaged. Some even think it’s a fine idea to just pull them down and be done with them. Is this really a good way to deal with gutters? Read on to learn how rain gutters work and why they are necessary.

Why Are Rain Gutters Necessary?

When it rains, every 100 square feet of your roof accumulates and drains 60 gallons of water per inch of precipitation. Many roofs are about 2,300 square feet. That means they will be shunting off 1,380 gallons of water for every inch that falls on them.

Without gutters, those 1,380 gallons of water drop straight off of the leading edges of the roof and go into the ground at or very close to your house’s foundation. This interferes with the ground’s ability to support the foundation, and in turn, that can lead to shifting, cracking of the foundation, and foundation undermining. It can also cause cracks in basement walls and damage to your house.

Foundation damage is extremely expensive to repair. It typically requires lifting the house on jacks, doing the work necessary to fix the problem, and then carefully setting the house back down. This lifting can cause other latent structural problems to appear, especially in the walls of the house. Unfortunately, ignoring foundation damage only lets it get worse, so if the house is to be kept indefinitely, repair must be done when damage occurs.

Damage to basement walls not only weakens the structure of the house, but allows leaks. When a basement leaks, mold soon finds the wet materials perfect for incubation. Then, you end up with a mold problem as well as a water issue. Even worse, water that leaks in typically does not go away nearly as fast as it came. This allows the mold to keep growing even when it is dry outside.

How Do Gutters Work?

Gutters are placed at the leading edges of the roof. There, they collect the torrents of water that come from the roof during rainstorms, and direct them to a safe area for discharge via downspouts. In many cases, this area is simply far enough away from the house to avoid foundation damage. However, many people now have their downspouts aimed into rain barrels or into hoses for distribution to their gardens. Rain barrels allow the water to be saved for drier days.

As you can see, how gutters work is simple. Even so, they are very important for protecting your house from damage.

The Importance of Maintaining Your Rain Gutter

Maintaining your rain gutter is essential for preventing a wide variety of problems, not all of which are at ground level. A cracked or rusted rain gutter will drip down from any gaps, and if it is close enough to your wall, this will leave ugly stains all down the side of the house. If its fasteners are in a similar state, it can fall down suddenly as well, potentially injuring anyone or anything that is beneath it.

Clogged gutters pose even more problems. The rainwater can’t get out properly, so these gutters fill up with water. Some will spill over the side, but there’ll still be a full gutter below the water line. That puts weight into the system that the gutter’s fasteners were never meant to hold, so they may fail and let the gutter fall down without warning. Alternatively, one or two fasteners will fail, leaving the damaged gutter hanging askew.

If gutters are left clogged long enough, the fallen leaves causing the blockage will rot and turn to humus. This doesn’t clear the clog, but it does provide the perfect environment to germinate the seeds and fern spores that have landed in there. Wild plants growing from the gutters may not look all that bad, but they gain a huge amount of weight as they grow. A full-grown tree weighs many tons, so you can see that a sapling will quickly end up weighing enough to tear a gutter off of a house. If there are multiple plants growing up there, it will take even less time for their growth to add up to a catastrophic amount of weight.

The Right Time to Get a New Gutter System

Like any man-made thing that is constantly exposed to the weather, gutters eventually wear out to the point that replacement is in order. Look for large numbers of leaks, widespread corrosion (including in the fasteners), and similar problems. Also check to be sure that your downspouts go at least 10 feet from your house.

If your gutters are in an overall poor condition due these problems, it’s time to go ahead and replace your gutter system. The exception is the downspouts, which can be replaced separately from the rest of the system.

When Are Gutters Not Necessary?

While some say that every house needs gutters, there is one situation where many say that they’re not absolutely necessary. That is when the house is built on piers. A “pier foundation,” as it is sometimes called, elevates the house off of the ground and uses relatively thin, deep posts to give it stability. This foundation system is often found in mobile and manufactured homes as well as old site-built ones. Houses in flood zones may also use piers, regardless of whether they are manufactured or site-built.

Even with a pier foundation, you may find that it’s a good idea to have gutters. This is because some soils are prone to shifting if they get too wet, and this can cause the piers to move. If you have this type of soil, the answer to “are gutters necessary” is yes.

To get an estimate for gutter maintenance, repair, or replacement, contact us here at Weatherguard Gutters. We’ll be glad to help you keep your house safe.

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