Regardless of your gutter system, occasional maintenance and repairs are necessary to ensure your home’s exterior properly stands up to the elements.
A common question among homeowners – is it ever a good idea to tackle gutter repairs yourself? And if so, where should the line be drawn between DIY patch-ups and calling in the experts?
Before giving a thought to carrying out DIY gutter repairs, you must acknowledge basic safety priorities. Repairs require a safety-rated ladder, with stabilizers if the ground is uneven; safety harness and roof anchors; adequate eye-protection and gloves; specialized tools and equipment; someone who knows exactly what to do. The long and short of it being that if you don’t have the appropriate tools and equipment, and know how to use them, you shouldn’t be taking one step off solid ground. This isn’t something that you want to trust to a youtube video.
What follows is a brief roundup of some of the most common gutter repair problems for which we recommend an expert fix.
Ferrules and spikes have traditionally been used to secure gutters, but over time have a habit of becoming loose. Hammering them back in is always an option, but the question to ask is why have they worked loose, and how good is the rafter tail and/or fascia board behind them. Are they loose because of not being cleaned regularly, or are they loose because there is dry rot in the wood? Hammering the spikes back in is a good start. If the spikes continue to be loose, then the next step is to install specialized gutter screws (after checking for dry rot as a cause of the loose spikes).
For loose downspouts, it’s worth checking whether the downspout is connected properly to the outlet, and that all the straps holding the downspout in place are secure.
Rusted Steel Gutter
Signs of rust on steel gutter systems probably signal the beginning of the end, if you’ll forgive the drama. With modern gutters, you generally don’t see rust until the gutters have reached the end of their useful life, and started to deteriorate. Also damage to the gutters which scrapes off the paint can expose metal and begin the rust process. With modern aluminum gutters, rust just isn’t an issue. If you do see rust on steel gutters or downspouts, very often small repairs can prevent an entire system replacement.
Holes in Steel Gutters
If you come across (or accidentally cause) any holes in your steel gutters, they can usually be filled using quality gutter sealant and some flashing. But if you have a hole that is rusted through, that means the structural integrity of the system is very suspect, and even if a patch is effected, you will want to budget for a gutter system replacement in the near future. You can even cut out and replace sections that are rusted, as a temporary fix–but you won’t have continuous gutters any more.
Although rare in a residential setting, scupper boxes (sometimes called “hopper heads”) can clog. This is usually the result of debris, dirt and foreign objects (think toys or tennis balls!) finding their way into the unit. More often than not, you’ll find it’s a buildup of leaves that can simply be scooped out by hand. If this doesn’t clear the blockage, we can open the bottom of the downspout and flush the downspout with a garden hose without flushing debris into your drainage system. If the blockage is located in the downspout below the scupper, we may try a plumber’s snake from the bottom, or drain rods from the top.
Leaks in the joints between your gutters and pipes can be caused by many things, though are often fixed with the application of sealant. For metal gutters, it’s a case of removing all the dirt from the joint (otherwise the sealant won’t seal) and giving it plenty of time to dry, before getting liberal with a good dose of high-end gutter sealant.
For plastic gutters, there may be a problem with the gasket between the two joints, so we are sure to check this before attempting to fix the problem using sealant. In addition, sealant can also be used to temporarily fix very small cracks and holes in metallic and plastic guttering alike, but only in instances where the damage is minimal.
Your home’s gutters can carry 8 pounds per foot of water, if the downspouts are clogged. That’s a lot of weight in water, which can in some instances lead to sagging. When this happens, we follow the same strategy as that for remedying loose guttering (outlined earlier). Sagging guttering can also be the result of too few, or improper installation of spikes and ferrules.
End caps are just that: caps that go on the end of a gutter run, to keep the water from running out the end. They are caulked into place and can become loose over time, or even fall out altogether. Where end-cap leaks are detected, sealant is always an option, though it can be just as easy to pick up a new end cap and ensure it is properly fitted, and caulked.
For more information on gutter repairs and cleaning, click here.