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Don't Overlook the Importance of Proper Gutter Function!

By Mike Auger

I've inspected hundreds of Rhode Island Homes and often I see improper gutter systems. I always write them up as a defect but most people think it isn't that big of a deal. I decided to write up a small educational piece on why well-maintained gutters are important:

First, gutters are not just there to stop rain water from dripping on you as you enter or exit, they are there for a much more important reason: the purpose of the gutter is to displace the water that your roof sheds in a manner such that the water does not ruin your foundation, enter your home or erode the soil around your foundation.

In my estimation, over 80% of all water entering basements (at least in Rhode Island) could be avoided with proper guttering and drainage. When you see downspout just go straight down and end, you are simply dumping the water right up against your foundation. That water will find any crack and get into it, then freeze in the winter eventually finding its way into your basement. By directing the water away, you can greatly reduce the saturation of soil in the immediate areas of your foundation and your foundation will remain watertight.

It isn't only about downspouts though. The upper part of the gutter tray being clogged can be just as bad. Having the gutter be clogged is worse than having no gutters at all. In a normal situation the rain drips off the roof into the gutter and flows down the spot and away from the dwelling. If the downspout is clogged, the water will fill in the gutter and spill out. Many times the water will spill out against your fascia (wood piece behind the gutter); this will quickly rot your fascia and soffit as well. Water can then enter your home from the top and ruin walls, ceilings etc... the softened wood will allow pests to easily enter as well. Lastly, the soft wood will not be able to handle the weight of the gutters (especially full of water) and may break apart.

This is not an exaggeration; I have seen these things happen, a lot more than you'd think. Clean your gutters and save your home!

FYI, there are products you can buy to help your gutters from getting clogged, but still check on them periodically, as many products are not 100% effective in stopping gutter clogging.

If you have further questions on maintaining gutter function or other questions about home inspections, visit my website at www.homeinspectorri.com.

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My pre-RI home inspection career prepared me well for my current profession. I grew...

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