In the Gutter: Gauging The Options

Gutters play an important part in protecting homes from water damage, but they cannot do it alone. From time to time, they need a little help from homeowners, too.
Gutters play an important part in protecting homes from water damage, but they cannot do it alone.

From time to time, they need a little help from homeowners, too.

When clean and in good repair, gutters direct rainwater away from a home's foundation. However, gutters that are clogged with leaves or other debris can allow rainwater to damage the home's siding, flood basements and cause foundation problems among other things. Here are some important points to keep in mind when thinking about gutters:

A Clean Sweep
Gutters should be cleaned at the beginning of fall and again during spring. Homes that are in wooded areas may need more frequent cleanings. While gutter cleaning can be a DIY project, it's best to hire a pro. They will get the job done faster and have more experience working on ladders.

On Guard!
Keeping gutters clean can be a major hassle, but gutter guards can help. These additions fit over the gutter and prevent it from becoming filled with debris. Gutter guards will not totally eliminate the need for future cleanings so choose a system that will allow easy access when cleanings are necessary.

To Repair or to Replace? That is the Question.
Although some gutter systems can last for more than 20 years, no gutter will last forever. Gutters that are damaged, rusting or pulling away from the house may need to be replaced. Minor repairs such as leaky seams can often be repaired with caulk or other materials. So, don't be too quick to replace an entire section. This can be costly.

Sectional vs. Seamless
If replacing gutters, there are two options: sectional and seamless. Sectional gutters come in pieces that are joined together by connectors. Sectional gutters are prone to leaks around the seams of the connectors which is a major drawback. Seamless gutters are continuous and only have seams at end caps, downspouts and corners. This greatly reduces the likelihood of leaks. Seamless gutters must be made to size and require a professional with special equipment.

Steel, Vinyl and Aluminum, Oh My!The most common gutter materials are steel, aluminum and vinyl. Steel gutters were once very popular but have fallen out of favor because of their tendency to rust. Vinyl is cheaper but can warp in warmer climates and is prone to leaks around the gutter's seams. Aluminum gutters are the most popular because they can be seamless, are easy to install and are extremely durable.

Through Thick and Thin
Gutters are sized based on the gauge, or thickness, of the material and are typically available in gauges of .019 to .032. The ideal gauge will vary by home and by region. For instance, gutters that are subjected to harsh conditions such as ice and snow may need to be a thicker gauge than most. Although the thinnest material is cheaper, be careful because it isn't as durable and may lose its shape over time.

Down and Out
Downspouts play a crucial role in directing water away from the home's foundation. If they are too small or become clogged, water can back up in the gutter, causing a variety of problems. Ensure downspouts channel water at least two feet away from the home, and install downspout extenders if water needs to be directed even further away.

Price Tag
The cost of new gutters can vary widely and will depend on the size of the house, the type of materials used and the thickness of the gutters. Vinyl gutters can cost as little as $3 per foot, while aluminum could cost as much as $9 a foot. Owners could spend between $1,000 and $2,000 to install gutters on an average-sized home.

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