What’s the deal with gutters? Why do I need them on my house really? Can they do anything for my foundation? If I have gutters, is there anything I should do to them for maintenance? Some homes have gutters and others don’t, why is that? Should I get gutters installed if I don’t have them?
Good golly, you’ve got a lot of questions about gutters!
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been serving the community for over 35 years and we get questions about gutters from the homeowners we work with too since gutter drainage and foundations are somewhat related. I’ve had homes with gutters and homes without gutters, neither is wrong but you probably want more info than that if you’re checking out this article.
We will explain what gutters do for your home and whether you need them or not. We also put together the top 4 tips for homeowners on handling gutters around the home:
1. Install Gutter Guards
2. Regular Cleaning
3. Downspout Extensions
4. Maintain Downspouts
Let’s go with the flow and answer all your questions about gutters so that you can get back to more meaningful stuff like, “What’s for dinner?”
The Purpose of a Home Gutter System
What is the life’s purpose of a gutter? Well, it’s easier than figuring out your own life’s purpose, that’s for sure. Gutters are not the ultimate *end all, be all* home drainage solution, they are more like a specific tool to solve some particular (but not all) drainage issues around your home.
Gutters have 4 basic purposes for you and your home:
1. To Serve as a Basic Water Management System
2. To Capture Rain/Roof Water and Move It Away from Your Foundation
3. To Prevent Erosion Around the Perimeter of Your Home
4. To Direct Water Away from Outdoor Living and Entry Areas
Gutters help to move water coming off your roof and guiding it to where you want it to go and preventing it from going where you don’t want it to go. I’d call that *the most basic explanation* of a “basic water management system,” amiright?
Just to give you an example, I’ve got this place on my roof that channels a lot of water into one concentrated area. When it rains, a major waterfall pours off my roof and hits the paved patio next to an exterior wall. This water splashes up and gets the brick wall wet near that spot and the interior wall can actually get damp inside the house. Not cool . . .
I have another waterfall spot that falls onto a grassy area and it has made a big ankle-twisting hole in the ground where the water now tends to pool up and takes a while to drain away. Don’t like it.
Have you ever walked up to a doorway when it’s raining, only to get a concentrated dripping line of water on your head as you are walking in? *Unpleasant*
Or let’s say you have a nice covered back patio that has this place where water flows off the roof and splashes too close for your outdoor enjoyment. It renders your covered patio useless when raining so it’s like, “What’s the point of having a covered back patio?!”
Gosh, if only there were something that could magically solve these issues . . . oh right, it’s gutters . . . does it make sense that gutters can be very useful and serve some nice purposes for the condition and enjoyment of your home?
Why Do Some Homes Have Gutters and Others Not?
There’s no great mystery with the answer to why some homes have gutters and others don’t. It’s as simple as this: homes have gutters because the owner put them on. Homes don’t have gutters because no one put them on. Groundbreaking stuff, huh?
It’s an extra expense and requires maintenance (which we will get to later). Gutters are an option that some homeowners don’t want or just don’t want to pay for. So gutters are a choice and not always a necessity.
People choose gutters because they might make some things nicer for their homes. Some people just choose houses and those houses either come with gutters or don’t. Most homeowners don’t think anything about gutters until a situation presents itself where it might be nice to have them or they become needed.
People often add gutters because they are having a drainage problem and this is one way to try and handle it. So then the choice becomes a need.
Do I Need a Gutter System for Foundation Health?
The short answer to whether you have to have gutters for foundation health is, not necessarily. Like I said, I have lived in homes with and without gutters and it’s fine either way for your foundation, as long as no drainage issues are created by the gutters or lack of gutters.
Some types of homes will benefit more than others from having gutters, like homes with pier and beam or other crawl space foundations, or homes that are built on a lot that slopes towards the home.
Gutters are a key component in controlling drainage and keeping water out from under crawl space foundations, or keeping water from flowing towards a house on a downhill. Will this help your foundation? Maybe, but not directly.
Gutters are a direct solution for avoiding a swamp under your house, keeping water from flowing into your home, or making sure water doesn’t go places you don’t want it to go. Gutters are not a direct solution for foundation problems. They only help drain water away. And while they contribute to foundation health and solutions, gutters are not absolutely required to create a positive environment for your foundation.
4 Tips for Maintaining a Good Gutter System
So it doesn’t definitively matter if you have gutters or not for your foundation. BUT if you DO have gutters, then there are definitely a few things you can do for easy maintenance and to keep them doing as good of a job as possible for your home and foundation too.
1. Install Gutter Guards
Gutter guards are a bit like a screen placed on top of the gutter. The purpose of gutter guards is to keep larger debris from clogging the gutters. Leaves, twigs, sticks, seed pods, and all kinds of stuff fall from trees and can gunk up your gutters and get stuck.
Anything stuck in your gutters impedes the water flow and other objects accumulate behind the clog. Not good. Gutter guards prevent larger stuff from even entering the gutter pathway and makes it much easier to keep them clean and easy maintenance.
I guess the only time you don’t need gutter guards is if you live in the middle of a treeless area. So if you live in the desert with no actual trees or the nearest tree is 2 miles away or something like that, then you can skip the gutter guards.
2. Do Regular Cleaning
Even if you have leaf guards and especially if you don’t, regularly cleaning gutters is essential. Smaller debris can still get through leaf guards so it is important to check them regularly. Once or twice a year is good, more if you have trees that drop a lot of stuff or a heavy storm event.
Since the main falling objects come from trees, it makes sense to do a fall cleaning after all the leaves do their falling thing. In the spring, give them another check after you’ve had a few good rain showers to see if anything has gotten stuck or accumulated since the last cleaning.
How to Clean Your Gutters
This is probably a subject for a whole other article really, so this is the mega short version. The most important part of cleaning your gutters is to do it safely. Make sure your ladder is on secure ground and placed solidly. There are special hose attachments that allow you to stay on the ground for some of the work as well.
First, remove larger debris by hand or using a small curved shovel. Some people even use leaf blowers or wet/dry vacuums to blow out or suck up the unwanted material. Then, rinse away finer debris using a power washer or your usual hose with a pressurized nozzle.
Again, this is something you need to be safe about or hire a professional for the job if you don’t have the time, energy, or right equipment to do it.
3. Get Downspout Extensions
Many guttering systems just let out at the base of your home. Probably 95% *completely unscientific number* of homes have downspouts like this. It’s frankly not optimal, especially for keeping water away from your foundation.
For some reason, this seems to be rather common and I’m not sure anyone knows why. I mean, I haven’t looked for the answer yet but let’s just go with that for now . . .
Some people have cement splash blocks that are like a fun little slide for the water coming out of your downspouts. Splash blocks can help but they don’t move the water quite far enough away. We recommend that water coming from downspouts release 8 to 10 feet away from the home.
Nowadays, they make these handy-dandy extendable plastic tubes that you can attach to the bottom of your downspouts to allow water to let out farther away from the base of your home. If you have gutters already, you can get some of these and easily pop them on anywhere that downspouts release too close to your home. Try for that 8 to 10 feet if you can.
Another option is a buried downspout extension, which is nice because they are hidden from view. But not nice because they are harder to install, harder to know if they are blocked up, and harder to clear out if they do get clogged.
It’s your classic form vs. function dilemma, but at least you have options. Have it look good, or have it easier to maintain, choose the one that’s best for you. The point here is that having any kind of downspout extension is better than having nothing.
4. Maintain Downspouts
Just like your gutters, downspouts AND downspout extensions can get clogged and should be checked, cleaned, and flushed out regularly. You also want to watch for holes, especially in the vertical part that is attached to your house.
If downspouts get clogged up or have holes, they can cause other problems and damage to your home so just avoid all that with some regular maintenance. Basically, keep your downspouts and extensions clean and make sure that they are in good condition. Seal or repair holes and call in a gutter professional for help if it’s not easy for you to do yourself.
If you have buried downspout extensions, you for sure need to check those and know where they let out. If you don’t see or know where they let out, that might mean they are clogged up and not working so that’s *kind of a big deal* and something to address with high priority.
You have no idea where backed-up underground water is going or collecting so it’s really important to fix it asap.
Who Do I Call for Help Handling Gutters?
Dealing with gutters can be a little dangerous with ladders involved and whatnot. So if you need help or don’t want to mess with it, call in a gutter company instead to do your maintenance and repairs.
Anchor Foundation Repair has been repairing foundations in the BCS community since 1985. We have run across a few gutter contractors during our time that share a common interest with us in serving homeowners with honesty and integrity.
Since we get asked who we recommend for help with gutters all the time, we went ahead and wrote an article about it. Check out, “The 2 Best Gutter Contractors in Bryan-College Station” next.