The Gutter System on your Home - Repair - Inspect - Clean

Author: Pacific Northwest Inspections Group, LLC   Date: 22-Apr-2014.   Category: House Inspection, Roofing   Add to Favorites 

Gutters are a very important part of your roofing system and will require regular maintenance to keep your home/building operating properly. By directing rainwater away from the perimeter of your home, gutters are the first line of defense against water seeping into your homes siding, foundation and soffits. Water damaged building material often lead to interior mold, wood decay and wood destroying insects. So if your gutters are clogged with debris or not in a operating condition, they will not function properly, potentially resulting in water damage to your home/building among other thing.
Gutter Debris - This is the easy step, keep your gutter clean! It takes very little debris to back up a gutter drainage system. While inspecting your gutters ANY debris near the scupper needs removed no matter how small the amount. Gutter Seams - Seams will need service every few years for failed caulking. These areas are easily inspected during a pie rod of rain. Walk the property and look for excessive dripping along gutter ends, especially outside corners and inside corners. Any troubled areas will need old caulking cleaned/removed and sealed with a 50 year gutter sealant. Loose Gutters - Older gutter systems were installed with gutter nail spikes. These fasteners over time loose holding power and often need replaced with new style screw hangers. Screw hangers are easier to install and are unlikely to slip rafter tail like the nail spikes are know to do. Hanger should be installed every 2-3 feet. Remember not to interfere with the pitch of the gutter when installing new hangers.


Leaks from behind the Gutter
There’s a small kickout at the bottom of the vertical fascia leg of the drip-edge. Ideally, any water that makes its way along the drip-edge will hit that little kickout and be diverted safely into the gutter. Water that does find its way behind the gutter and drip down the fascia can cause problems if the fascia is not properly weather sealed. 

Having the shingles nearly flush with the drip-edge should not be a problem. The amount that shingles overhang the drip-edge should comply with the shingle manufacturer’s recommendations. The Residential Asphalt Roofing Manual from ARMA (Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association) says that asphalt shingles may be cut flush with the drip-edge or extend 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch beyond the edge of the roof. Another factor in determining the overhang is whether strong winds are a problem in your area. If the house is in a high-wind zone, I would not let the shingles overhang more than 1/4 inch, to minimize the chance of them lifting up during a storm.

 

Check first to see if the kickout portion of the drip-edge extends over the back edge of the gutter. If the gutter is mounted too far below the drip-edge, or if the kickout doesn’t extend far enough over the gutter, a retrofit solution would be to slip a strip of metal or rigid plastic flashing under the vertical fascia leg of the drip-edge and let the bottom edge of the strip overlap the back edge of the gutter. The success of this strategy depends on the shape of the gutter and the type of hangers. If the hangers are in the way, I’d insert the strips between the hangers.

Then, when the time comes to replace the shingles, a new drip-edge should be installed—one that has a fascia leg with a big enough kickout along the bottom edge to channel water directly into the gutter

Where Does The Water Go?

 

It’s a well-accepted fact that excess rain water near the foundation of a home is an invitation to water in the crawlspace. For example, homes have rain gutter systems to collect and channel rain water off the roof into a downspout instead of simply allowing it to pour over the edge where it will saturate the soil in the 12-foot zone around the home and ultimately end up seeping through the foundation. Most homeowners get this and keep their gutters clean and flowing. But wait!!! there’s the downspout. The downspout is the pipe that takes the water from the gutters and conveys it to the ground. If, however, the downspout is nothing but a straight pipe, with perhaps a short elbow attached, that ends at or above ground level, the whole thing is useless because the water is still being dumped around the foundation, this time in concentrated spots, and the basement is destined to leak. Again, most homeowners get the concept but, regrettably, many of them seem to think that, as long as their downspout disappears into a pipe or the ground, all is well. Too many times, however, what appears to be a functioning downspout extension turns out to be the “pipe to nowhere.”

 

 

The pipe to nowhere comes in several disguises but they all have one thing in common – they create a concentration of storm water on or in the ground around the foundation of a home and cause the basement to seep water through any one (or more) of a variety of openings.

There’s the “looks good above the ground” pipe to nowhere that gives the appearance of an underground downspout extension but is nothing more than a piece of pipe sticking out of the ground.

One local Seattle owner with a solid poured concrete foundation, for example, had downspouts running into professionally-installed PVC pipes that led into the ground. When these “extensions” were dug up, they turned out to be straight lengths of pipe that extended 2 feet into the soil and stopped. They went literally nowhere but caused the soil to be oversaturated and standing water in the crawlspace.

Then there’s the “looks good on paper” pipe to nowhere that is an underground extension but is so poorly planned and designed that it does more harm than good.

Another local Bellevue homeowner had underground extensions installed using the kind of corrugated plastic pipe (which is not the best system, Use Schedule 40 PVC drainage pipe!) that is normally used for interior drain tile. This pipe is perforated and the idea behind the design was that water would flow through the perforations and be absorbed by the soil. This might have worked for a short time when only a trickle entered the pipe but it was completely buried, causing it to clog up with soil and the first heavy rain backed up the extensions and overflowed back under the house.

Finally, there’s the “it’s connected to what?” version of the pipe to nowhere that is often found on older homes. Chances are, when downspouts empty into a corragated piping that extends out of the ground, this pipe is connected to the home’s exterior drain tile system. This may work OK but it can create other maintenance problems.

When the water from the downspout flows into the drain tile system, it multiplies several times over the volume of water the drain tile was designed to handle. This greater volume of water creates a huge load on the sump pump, which will run almost continuously in heavy rains, shortening its life and increasing the risk of failure. There are much easier and less costly ways of extending a downspout and preserving the sump pump.

So how does a homeowner avoid the dreaded “pipe to nowhere?”  By having a qualified drainage specialist design and install an underground downspout extension system that goes to the right place – a bubbler pot, dry well or storm sewer – and that will keep rainwater away from the foundation and out of the crawlspace.