It is almost impossible to find a house with gutters and downspouts because they serve a very critical function of a house.
And that is to direct water away from the house, and away from ponding in areas around the house.
Water damage from the rain or any funny weather has a direct impact on the exterior walls. An especially prone area is where the walls meet the ground which in extreme situations can even cause erosion.
But what’s even more important in this redirection of water traffic is to keep it away from basements and crawlspace.
At least with water damage on exterior walls, repairs and the remedy of defects can be simple to undertake.
But when the basement has been penetrated by water, it’s pretty much game over and a homeowner would have to spend thousands of dollars to get it fix… with the high likelihood that the problem would return again in future.
Yet no matter how well the foundation has been constructed, there would always be a risk of water penetrating the basement.
This is why houses need to minimize that possibility with the installation of gutters to direct water and downspouts to discharge water to proper drainage areas that does not put the foundation under unnecessary risks.
Gutters are most commonly fabricated in 4-inch and 5-inch widths. They are also usually fixed on the fascia board on the edge of the eaves.
Sometimes, they can even be incorporated into the designs of the eaves itself. This means that the gutters are not attached but part of the structure.
Common materials of gutters downspouts
In this modern day and age, we can find gutters and downspouts manufactured with all types of materials.
I’ve even seen some made with silicon… which much be some clowns trying to be funny.
However, the most common materials are:
- Galvanized steel
They have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Most DIY kits we find in the hardware store are made of plastic. This is because people who go DIY are often price-sensitive. Plastic helps manufacturer keep the price down and attracts more suppliers.
What’s puzzling is that when factories work with plastic, they can easily make them in a variety of colors.
But we almost exclusively find them in just 2 colors in the stores. 3 if it’s your lucky day.
Plastic gutters are usually found in smaller sizes. Probably they all come from the same factory, and that factory has been using the same mold for decades.
They are prone to cracks in cold weather. So it’s not ideal for houses located in areas with harsh winters.
The lifespan of plastic downspouts and gutters really depend on the quality of plastic, and to a certain extent, the workmanship during installation.
Because contractors usually fabricate aluminum gutters onsite with aluminum rolls, they usually have very few joints.
However, rivets hold them together and joining areas are caulked for good measure.
If caulking is not regularly renewed or touched-up, then leaks can occur… if that matter to you.
Even though aluminum gutters are pre-finished and don’t rust, they can dent easily. You could very well cause a dent just by setting up ladders to get to the roof.
A good aluminum gutter and downspout set can last up to 25 years.
Galvanized steel are one of the favorite materials for piping. So it’s no surprise that many homeowners trust it to do the job of carrying and channeling water.
Take note galvanized steel don’t rust because they are coated.
This means that should they be scratched, there is every chance that they would rust within a day. And before you know it, that scratch becomes a hole.
This is why galvanized steel gutters are recommended to be regularly painted for maintenance.
This type of gutters can also last up to 25 years before replacement is necessary.
Copper is what people go for when they want premium fixtures.
They can last for a long time with some manufacturers claiming a lifespan of up to 100 years.
Common problems with gutters and downspouts
If only there is a way to make do without gutters and downspouts.
Well, there is.
Live in an apartment.
If you choose to live in a house, then we need to face this challenge head-on.
Here are some of the most common problems and defects.
It should take a genius to discover physical damages to the downspout and gutters.
Not only does this often occur due to trees and ladders, it can also cause by contraction and expansion.
A particular point of interest is where the gutters meet the wall. Inspect the seams to ensure that splits do not exists.
And when rusting is uncovered, don’t wait for the whole fixture to fall apart before taking action. That might be too late.
No one probably needs to be reminded that the most obvious sign that there is a problem with the gutter is leakage.
No matter what material a homeowner uses and no matter how good the workmanship is, mother nature has already decided that there would always be the potential of leaks.
The source of leaks are commonly found on seams and joints. Not just because they were not tightened in the first place. But because they have come loose due to the forces of nature.
Poor connections or end caps that come off can also piled up your misery.
Holes can also appear, especially with galvanized gutters as previously stated.
The paint we use to our internal walls can last a long time because they are not exposed to the elements.
Depending on the quality of paint used for gutters, they can peel right off in a single storm.
Galvanized steel downspouts and gutters need to be repainted regularly to avoid a corrosion problem caused by rust defects.
When that become severe (which can happen quickly), only a replacement would solve the problem.
While we would definitely secure the fixtures tightly against the building structure from the first installation, the power of the wind and water can cause them to come loose.
That’s without mentioning the chaos of ice and snow which the winter months bring.
And if this problem is not identified quickly and resolved just as fast, the next storm can potentially tear the whole system right off the roof.
Badly aligned slope
This is a very common problem even when a proper slope was planned and installed initially.
This is because the holding points could collapse from it’s own defects, causing a badly aligned slope. Some might even reverse the water flow direction.
This should be clearly apparent when observing the gutters when raining.
While the clearing of clogged downspouts can be disgusting, leaving such problems as they are can leave it vulnerable to the energy accumulated by such bottlenecks.
Prevention is better then cure.
Remember to use screens on the top of downspouts.
They are cheap and relatively easy to install. And they can help prevent major problems as well.
Just be careful when using a ladder as you don’t want this task to damage the gutters.
The primary objective of gutters and downspouts is to transfer water away from the house.
So an adequate number of downspouts should be built.
On top of that, the discharge of water should go right into drains that carries the water away.
If the discharge area is too close for comfort, add an extension or redirect it to a safer and further area.