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Home Maintenance and DIY: Inspecting Your NC Home’s Gutter System

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Spring is a great time to get outside and take stock of any maintenance that needs to be done around your home. With all those spring showers, it’s a great idea to inspect your gutter system and make sure it’s performing properly.

Why Are Gutters and Downspouts Important?

During rainfall, a roof catches a great amount of water, which slides down the roof toward the ground. Gutters catch this water and channel it to downspouts on the corners of your home, ensuring that the water is directed away from the foundation walls. A properly installed and maintained gutter system will keep the ground against your foundation free from puddles and excess water. Why does this matter?

If water is allowed to pool against the foundation walls, it may find its way through the walls into your basement or crawl space through the porous masonry. It can also saturate the ground near your foundation, leading to a phenomenon known as hydrostatic pressure, which can put pressure on your foundation walls and, if left unchecked, cause them to crack or bow inward.

What Does a Properly Functioning Gutter System Look Like?

In order for the gutter system to function correctly, there are a few things that it needs:

1. Proper size gutters for the roofline – If you have a large roof with a deep slope, it will catch a lot of rainwater and produce a large amount of runoff. In order to channel that water properly, you will need gutters that can handle a large amount of water. Generally, residential gutters are either 5” or 6”. If a home is small and the roof has a low or moderate pitch, then 5” gutters should suffice. However, if the roof is large or steeply pitched, 6” gutters will be needed to handle more water flow.

2. Downspout extenders – Downspouts channel the water from the gutters to your yard. In order for the water to exit far enough away from your home, downspout extenders are needed. These extensions for your downspouts can run on top of the ground, or you can choose to bury them. The most important thing for them to work correctly, however, is ensuring that they empty far enough away from your home, at least 6 but preferably 8 feet.

You also need to consider the slope of your yard when deciding where to direct the extenders. If your yard slopes upward around the six-foot mark, you will need to extend the piping to an area that slopes downward so that it can drain properly.

3. A clear path for the water – The largest gutters and best downspouts only work when they are free of debris so the water can flow properly. Cleaning gutters is not the most fun job for homeowners, but it is a critical piece of home maintenance that should not be ignored. In the Charlotte area, depending on how many trees you have near your home, gutters should be cleaned at least twice per year. It’s especially important to check gutters in the fall and early winter after the trees have shed their leaves. Keep an eye out for water overflowing the gutter, which is a clear sign the gutter system is clogged. Gutter guards are a good idea to keep debris out of the gutters and cut down on the amount of cleaning. There are a number of different DIY guards available, or you can hire a company to install a guard system for you.

Gutter inspection should be on a homeowner’s regular list of maintenance projects. Performing a regular walk around your home, particularly on rainy days, can tell you a lot about the health of your gutter system. Catching a gutter clog early allows for a relatively simple repair. Damage to your home’s foundation from water can be significant and costly, so prevention is the way to go.

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