In the Gutter

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In the Gutter

In the GutterThe result of gutterspikes pulling loosefrom fascia board.The gutters on your home are designed to collectand disperse the water that runs off yourroof. Without the gutters, rainwater simplyfalls directly off the eaves and ends up way tooclose to your house’s foundation. This can leadto serious problems, like flooded basementsand crawl spaces, cracked concrete or cinderblockfoundation walls. And don’t forget thatnasty, moldy, mildewy smell that gets embarrassingwhen company comes over!Keeping your gutters and downspouts ingood shape is a wise investment, both financiallyand in terms of your hard-earned sparetime. In most cases, you should be able to getyour system in tip-top shape for less than acouple hundred bucks. That pales in comparisonto foundation repair — or replacement,as I once had to do. That bill was a measly$46,000. I’ll let you do the math.Gutters and downspouts (the black dots) collect water from the roof anddisperse it away from your home’s foundationPieces and PartsThe gutters themselves will eitherbe of the seamless variety (generallyinstalled by professionals) orinstalled as sections (anywhere from10 to 16 ft. in length). Both typesuse some type of fastening system tokeep them in place. The most commonis the gutter spike.Over time, these spikes tend towork themselves loose from thefascia board that they’re fastened to(left). This is most likely becausethey split the wood when they wereinstalled and weren’t sealed properlyto prevent moisture from seepinginto the fascia and swelling thewood. As we say in the South, theholes got wallered out.The best fix for this problemis called a gutter screw. It’s like aspike, but better — instead of beingpounded in like a nail, it screws inusing a drill/driver. In most cases,gutter screws are designed to beused in the same holes that thespikes came loose from, making theswap pretty simple. Just rememberto use the sleeve provided with thenew screw or the one that came offthe old spike, if it fits. This preventsyou from over-driving the screw andcrushing your gutter...leading toanother repair expense!This one simple fix can save literallythousands of dollars in repairsdue to gutter failure and the resultingwater damage to your eaves andfoundation!(Middle right) A gutter screw with includedsleeve. (Right) Install gutter screws with adrill/driver and be sure to use the sleeveto avoid damaging the gutter!20 C h a p t e r O n e s ta r t i n g o u t s i d e 21


Plastic MeshSecond in line is the plastic-mesh style. It installs by sliding overthe entire front lip of your home’s gutters. The challenge can begetting it to fit snugly over areas where the gutter may be bent.It is less prone to bending than the wire-mesh and has the addedadvantage of possibly matching your gutter’s color — as long as it’swhite, off-white or brown (in most cases).Dispersing the WaterEvery gutter system should have several downspouts. Their job is to carrythe water collected by the gutter and channel it away from the foundationof the house. Sounds simple enough, but problems can arise quicklywhen they become clogged or simply drain too close to the exterior wall.The first problem is often alleviated when gutter toppers are installed,but before that time, leaves and debris collected by the gutter can causea virtual logjam at the downspout’s entry point inside the gutter. For thisreason, it’s important to clear any debris from the gutter before it gets tothat point.If the gutter gunk finds its way into the downspout, it can cause a clogyou can’t even see. This can force water out through unsealed joints orworse, back into the gutter itself, adding to that weight issue we discussedearlier. See how this is all connected?So, let’s stop the problem before it starts.This plastic-mesh style has a lower profile and tendsto be more “invisible” than other styles.Solid PlasticLast, and holding the distinction of being myfavorite method of gutter protection, are thesolid plastic sections that use friction to directwater into the gutter. These allow leaves andother debris to roll off the leading edge andfall to the ground, where you’re forced to rakethem up or mow them into mulch, which inturn fertilizes your lawn!“Solid” plastic guards also snap along the front edgeof the gutters and slide underneath the first layer ofshingles.All you need is a garden hose toclear most clogs from a downspout.Just insert it at the top and turn it on.The water pressure should dislodgeany stubborn debris from inside,which will then come rushing out thebottom; this is a good reason to standback a bit to avoid getting any of thatsmelly decomposing stuff on you.Once the downspouts are cleared,take a look at where they empty out.Traditional wisdom says they shouldsend the water anywhere from 2to 4 feet away from your home’sfoundation. That’s a pretty good ruleof thumb.24 C h a p t e r O n e s ta r t i n g o u t s i d e 25


Splash blocks are a good way toensure that the water heads off intothe yard and not back up againstthe house. They should be installedso that the open end is toward youryard. Otherwise, water can roll backup the sloped form and back upagainst your house. You know howthat story can end.One reason some people turn theirsplash blocks around is because theycan cause some erosion to occur aswater rushes down and into the soil,particularly during heavy rains. A bettersolution to this problem is usingan inexpensive device (around $10)called a downspout drain. You simplyattach it to to the end of the downspoutwith the included bracket.During dry periods, the disperserstays neatly coiled and out of the way.When it rains, though, it uncoilsand disperses the water over a widerarea, with less chance of erosion. Itcan actually be a source of entertainmentif you get really bored.Brad’s TipTo move water even farther into youryard, simply install a short section ofdownspout (anywhere from two to fourfeet in length), to the end of your existingdownspout, then add the downspoutdrain. I used this method tocarry water out past a client’s shrubsand into her yard, where it drainedharmlessly away from her alreadycracked foundation.Sloping the EarthThis step requires a little heavy lifting, as youcan imagine. Actually, we’re just talking aboutsloping the earth (small “e”) around yourhome’s foundation so that any water that happensto hit it will have a tendency to roll awayfrom your house as opposed to slamming intothe exterior wall.Remember I said that water will find a way?It’s true. Water that lands next to the foundationcan soak down through the soil, under the con-crete slab or through the foundation wall, andcause a whole lot of damage. That’s why youneed to check all areas around your home andparticularly around downspouts and flower beds.Be sure the dirt is sloped at least 1 ∕8 inch forevery linear foot it travels from the house. Ifyou have to buy dirt to fill in low spots, just doan online search for “fill dirt” in your area orcheck with a landscaper or contractor nearbyand ask them where to find the best deal.Improperly Sloped LandProperly Sloped Land26 C h a p t e r O n e s ta r t i n g o u t s i d e 27

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