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Selecting and maintaining your gutter system is vital for roof water management.

While gutters aren’t necessarily a part of the roofing system, they are a very important roofing accessory.  The purpose of gutters is to get water off of your roof and divert it away from the house to protect your home’s foundation, siding and landscaping.  It’s important to keep gutters clean and free from debris to ensure optimal performance and protect your home’s structural well-being.  

Gutters come in a variety of shapes, materials and colors and now have features that can prevent debris buildup.  Depending on the material selected and how well your gutters are installed and maintained, they can last a few years or a lifetime.

Choosing the right gutter

When choosing gutters for your home, it’s important to know your options and to take into account the climate in which you live to select the best option for your home.  

  • Rainfall rates -  Knowing your average rainfall rate will ensure you select the proper gutter size to accommodate the precipitation and prevent serious damage.
  • Seamless or sectional - Seamless gutters have fewer potential fail points than sectional gutters do.
  • Material - Gutters are made from plastic, aluminum, galvanized steel, zinc and copper.  Aluminum is the popular choice due to its life expectancy and mid-range price, but there are options for all budgets and taste preferences.
  • Profile - K-style, the most popular gutter choice, has a shape similar to decorative crown molding and can carry more water, making it suitable for rainy climates.  Fascia gutters have a smooth face that effectively hides the edges of rafter tails from view.  Half-round gutters can carry water effectively but easily clog and overflow, making them a less popular option.
  • Additional options - Some gutters have specially designed features that keep debris out.  Leaf guards/debris filters feature a hood that covers the gutter, leaving a narrow slot that blocks debris but allows water to escape.  Raindrop gutter guards/gutter gloves have a grate that helps leaves and needles slide off but lets water in to flush away small debris.

Once your gutter system is installed, it’s vital to clean and maintain your gutters to protect your investment and your home.   

Maintaining gutters

Whether you’re experiencing a downpour or a light sprinkle, rainwater accumulates and creates a powerful surge of water that needs to be directed somewhere, which is what your gutters are for.  However, if your gutters are clogged, this water will flow over the rim of the gutter and hit the ground next to the foundation of your home.  This pounding water will erode the soil along the foundation line and seep into the foundation, which can result in basement leaks and weaken the stability of your home.  

Properly cared for gutters not only protect your home, but also help to preserve your yard and neighborhood.  If your gutters aren’t functioning properly and the downspouts aren’t controlling the runoff, rainwater can kill your lawn and other vegetation on your property, pool in low-lying areas, cut pathways through your yard and create ditches.

It’s crucial to clean your gutter system at least twice, if not four times a year depending on where you live.  Having clean gutters heading into winter is especially important.  If there are leaves, twigs, animal nests and other debris trapped in the gutters during the winter months, snowmelt can pool and then refreeze in the gutters.  When this happens it can weigh down the gutters so much that they separate from the house.  Failing to clean out your gutter system will also increase the risk of ice dam formation at the edge of the roof.

Learn more about gutters and how to properly maintain them. 

Have a question? AskARoofer.

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