Gutters and downspouts protect the walls of an investment property from water, which would ordinarily run off the roof. This water can damage the wall surfaces and cause localized erosion at ground level and allow water to go back into the foundation, house, or basement.
The most important function of gutters and downspouts, however, is to help ensure a dry basement or foundation. Regardless of the type of foundation wall, there is always the possibility for water penetration. Therefore, the less water there is in the soil near the foundation, the less likelihood of water penetration into the basement. Gutters should collect all water runoff, and downspouts should discharge the water into proper drains or onto the ground a good distance away from the foundation walls.
Most investment properties have gutters attached to the fascia board at the edge of the eaves. In some of these investment properties, gutters are integral to the design of the eaves. The two most common sizes of gutters are four-inch and five-inch widths. Four-inch gutters are acceptable for controlling the run-off from relatively small roof areas. However, five-inch gutters are preferred because of their additional capacity. Five-inch gutters are also less likely to allow water to overshoot the gutters when the water is draining off a steeply pitched roof. The design and slope of the gutter system is crucial to adequate run off and prevention of water running back into the investment property.
Common Problems With Gutters
- The most common problem with most gutters is that they leak. Leakage will occur with galvanized gutters as they rust through. Eventually, holes can develop in copper gutters as well. All types of gutters are prone to leakage at the joints. Missing end caps are another common source of leakage. Leakage can cause considerable damage to fascias, soffits and walls below. Seamless gutters have become more common to limit the amount of leakage that can occur over time on any investment property.
- Gutters often become loose and require resecuring. This is normally due to improper fastening during original installation or damage caused by ice during winter months.
- Gutters and downspouts suffer from mechanical damage due to ladders, tree limbs and the like. Gutters should slope towards downspouts so as not to hold water.
- Gutters often clog with debris. Sometimes, screens are installed to prevent leaves and twigs from getting into the troughs. These can become loose and fall out, and they also make proper cleaning difficult.
Common Problems with Downspouts
- Downspouts are sometimes not secured correctly to the fascia. They also tend to split open at the seams (from freezing). The seam is usually on the same side as the wall.
- Downspouts along driveways or sidewalks are sometimes crimped and cause blockages.
- Galvanized steel downspouts often rust near grade level or where blockages have occurred
- On many houses, the number of downspouts is inadequate. As a general rule, a downspout should be provided for every 40 feet of gutters.
- Downspouts become disconnected from gutters, or get plugged with debris. Special screens are available for the top of downspouts to keep debris out. These screens must be cleaned regularly.